By Jake Donovan
A positive vibe was felt throughout Monday’s press conference in London to announce the lightweight tilt between Ricky Burns and Kevin Mitchell. The two will square off on September 22 in Glasgow, Scotland.
“This is a cracking good fight by any standards,” promoter Frank Warren stated to the assembled media on hand. “It doesn’t matter the weight or the circumstances. This fight will bring out the best in both fighters.”
“Ricky is a consummate professional. He has won world titles in two weights now. Kevin, as we all know, on his (best) day is one of the best lightweights in the world. He showed that against John Murray. He’s going into the lion’s den, trying to take Ricky’s title in his backyard.”
Both fighters played down the homecourt advantage for Burns, who makes the second defense of his lightweight belt. Burns won an interim version of the title with a strong showing last November against Michael Katsidis, who knocked out Mitchell in three rounds 18 months prior.
Burns (34-2, 9KO) first entered the title fray with off-the-canvas upset win over then-unbeaten Roman Martinez in Sept. ’10 to claim a 130 lb. belt. The scrappy Scot made three successful defenses – including a stunning 1st round knockout over Nicky Cook last July – before moving up to the lightweight division.
Title success followed, scoring a surprisingly dominant points win over Michael Katsidis last November for an interim title. ‘Full champion’ status was granted to Burns once it was made official that lineal lightweight king Juan Manuel Marquez – hot off the heels of a controversial points loss to longtime rival Manny Pacquiao – planned to campaign full time in the 140 lb. division.
Burns’ first defense of his lightweight belt came with a wide points win over Paulus Moses this past March. The showdown with Mitchell will mark his fifth appearance in Glasgow in the span of seven title fights, though the veteran acknowledges it will take more than raucous applause to get the job done in the ring.
“It’s always good to have support. At the end of the day, they can’t fight for me,” Burns admits. “It’s just the two of us in the ring.”
Mitchell (33-1, 24KO) bounced back nicely from his knockout loss to Katsidis with a career-best showing against John Murray, stopping his countryman in eight rounds last July. The bout took place on the same show as Burns’ aforementioned win over Cook, serving as an unofficial prelude to an eventual head-on collision. The fight had been discussed for months, but is now believed to be the right time for such a showdown.
From the moment it was offered, Mitchell had no reservations about heading into the proverbial lion’s den.
“It doesn’t matter where you are – Ricky has fought everywhere, I’ve fought everywhere – you’re in the ring with two guys. You do your thing and fight your rounds,” Mitchell states.
Promoter Frank Warren revealed that the venue is set up for 8,000, but believes that ticket demand will drive attendance well beyond that number. Also stated during the press conference was the absence of a rematch clause in the contract, though merely in response to a reporter’s question and not at all to suggest that a sequel was never to be considered.
“This one is a great fight,” Warren gleefully stated. “I’m sure the guys would love to do it again. The main thing is to get this one on.”
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com. Follow Jake on Twitter at twitter.com/JakeNDaBox or submit questions/comments to [email protected].