By Frank Warren
Expect the Fight of the Year this evening when Scotland’s Ricky Burns and England’s Kevin Mitchell, Britain’s two best lightweights, collide at Glasgow’s SECC for the WBO title.
A recent poll of 40 leading fight faces resulted in a 55-45 percent split in favour of home fighter Burns. It promises to be that tight. Huge props to both for accepting the challenge. Proper fighting men.
Champion Burns is one of the sports real gentlemen; shy, clean living and always obscenely fit. Despite his status, he continues to work as an assistant in a sportswear store every Saturday.
The Scot is hugely underrated and arguably Britain’s most improved fighter. After losing his first two domestic level title fights to Alex Arthur and Carl Johanneson, he re-grouped and now parades as a two-division WBO world champion.
He is certainly the best Scottish fighter to emerge since Scott Harrison, who continues his comeback on the undercard, following a period in a Spanish prison.
Burns first emerged as a force at world level in September 2010, showing incredible recuperative powers and a fantastic engine to rise from a first round knockdown and overwhelm Puerto Rican puncher Rocky Martinez for the super-feather title.
He has since consolidated with impressive wins up at lightweight against top graders Michael Katsidis and Paulus Moses. The 29 year old from Coatbridge enters a marginal favourite, performing before 9,000 Scots who’ll make the din of 90,000. Despite rising in weight, he is probably the naturally bigger man, certainly more consistent, and is commonly acknowledged to have dominated a gym spar against Mitchell 15 months ago. But at your peril dismiss the Cockney challenger.
Mitchell was born to fight, winning six national junior titles and the English senior ABA crown before signing pro forms with me, amidst much fanfare, at age 18.
His nine year pro career has been blighted by hand injuries, personal problems and ill-discipline but despite that he has only lost just once in 34 starts. That was when Australia’s Katsidis halted him in three at Upton Park in May 2010. ‘The Dagenham Destroyer’s’ mind wasn’t right that night. It definitely is now.
For a couple of months he’s been in ‘lock down’, preparing at an Essex farm where top trainer Jimmy Tibbs and his son Mark have licked him into tremendous shape.
Now 27, he’s famished for success, driven to secure a bright future for his two sons. A spiteful little sod, the Eastender has put 27 victims to rest before the final bell and carries the significantly heavier dig. He might also have the greater innate talent and versatility.
'Mighty’ Mitchell carries the ‘pop’ to take out anyone if he lands clean with his left hook but can he thread it through Burns’ airtight defence? We’ll know tonight – don’t miss it. Catch it live and exclusive on BoxNation.
Mitchell’s stablemate Billy Joe Saunders smashed his way up the middleweight ratings last Friday with a hugely impressive two round slaughter of Jarrod Fletcher at the York Hall.
His Australian opponent, who beat James DeGale en route to Commonwealth Games gold in Melbourne in 2006, arrived in town with a 12 fight unbeaten record and a formidable rep. Several were picking him to conquer the Hatfield traveller and it’s safe to say I’d not have accepted the fight if it hadn’t been mandated by the Commonwealth Council.
However, Saunders, a Beijing Olympian in his teens, blew the Aussie to bits with a blizzard of explosive southpaw combinations. Still only 23, Billy Joe is now undefeated in 15 gigs and I wouldn’t hesitate to match him for either the British or European title immediately.
To validate the global significance of Mitchell-Burns, America’s Hall of Fame ring announcer Michael Buffer docks in Glasgow today, to summon the fighters to arms.
An ex Vietnam war veteran, 67 year old Michael is extremely professional and his debonair style plus effortless class and charisma always add hugely to a promotion.
In 1992, he had the brains and foresight to trademark his legendary ‘Lets Get Ready to Rumble’ signature line.
It’s been a week to forget for Julio Cesar Chavez Jnr. Last Saturday, the son of the Mexican legend of the same name, was beaten for the first time in 48 fights by Argentina’s Sergio Martinez at the Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas. Then, on Wednesday, news broke that he’d tested positive for marijuana.
Though unanimously outpointed, Chavez Jnr rallied strongly and forced a final round knockdown but ran out of time. However, the clamour for a rematch must now be put on hold. A hefty fine and suspension are probable. In 2009, Junior flunked a prior drugs test, after taking a diuretic (commonly used to drop weight). Last February he was arrested for driving under the influence. JCCJ packs plenty of beef into his 160lbs but clearly not many brain cells.
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