By Jake Donovan
Ricky Burns once again has an opponent for his December 15 lightweight title defense in London.
The streaking two-division titlist will now face Jose Ocampo of the Philippines, who replaces an injured Liam Walsh.
"I’d say that this is going to be the hardest fight of my career so far against a young hungry challenger who will be looking to take my title,” said Burns (35-2, 10KO), who makes the third defense of the lightweight belt he won over a year ago.
“Filipino fighters are as tough as they come, just look at (Manny) Pacquiao and Nonito Donaire. [T]hey come to have a fight and Ocampo will do just that. If he fights like those two, as people say he does, then I’ll be in for a tough night.”
Walsh was forced to withdraw from the bout in mid-November when a car accident left him injured.
“It’s unfortunate that Walsh had an accident and had to pull out of our fight,” Burns admits, as he was looking forward to facing the unbeaten Brit. “[B]ut I’m a world champion and I have to deal with these changes and I’m confident I’ll deal with Ocampo.”
The announcement of Ocampo (17-5-1, 12KO) is a step back from the level of competition Burns has faced in recent years, though to be expected considering it comes on short notice.
Ocampo enters on the heels of a three-fight win streak, though largely against nondescript competition. His most notable win as of late came earlier this year against Weng Heya, best known for having Orlando Salido down twice and in trouble before suffering an 8th round knockout loss.
Despite a resume that reads like an unqualified title challenger, Burns and his handlers view the upcoming bout as a different kind of challenge.
“It’s going to be hard for Ricky, he’s been training to face Walsh and in an ideal world he would have had more time to prepare for the different style that Ocampo will bring,” promoter Frank Warren states. “He can’t afford to slip up, though. We are virtually there with the fight against (Adrien) Broner for next year and that will only happen if he comes through against Ocampo.”
Preliminary discussions have taken place of possibly facing Broner next year, though have yet to evolve beyond talks. The two were supposed to square off last November, only for Burns to vacate his 130 lb. belt and move up to the lightweight division.
Burns gave up a chance to appear on HBO with that move, but it paid off with a win over Michael Katsidis to claim a vacant lightweight belt. He has since defended twice, with wins over Paulus Moses and Kevin Mitchell.
Broner went on to win Burns’ vacated 130 lb. title, but outgrew the division. His lightweight presence was announced with authority, slaughtering Antonio DeMarco earlier this month to win a belt and gain instant recognition as the best in the division.
The Burns-Ocampo title fight tops a bill at the ExCel Arena in London. The chief support pits unbeaten super middleweight contender George Groves against former light heavyweight king Glen Johnson. Both bouts air live on Boxnation.
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com. Follow Jake on Twitter: @JakeNDaBox