by Dereck Bilton
One of the most oft heard criticisms levelled at the noble art these days is that, compared to other combat sports such as UFC, as a rule the best don't fight the best.
It's fair comment too. However every once in a while fights are made pitting the best against the best and the results can be breathtaking. Hopefully this will be the case this weekend when Britain's two best lightweights lock horns in Glasgow as Ricky Burns defends his WBO world title against Kevin Mitchell.
Burns has enjoyed a truly remarkable career to date. Rebounding from early defeats to the likes of Alex Arthur and Carl Johanneson, the Coatbridge man has gone on to establish himself as the best fighter in Scotland and also reign as a two-weight world champion.
As a fighter he is tenacity personified. A strong, courageous and under-rated battler, Burns has risen from relative obscurity to gain respect among both his peers and his bank manager.
Nobody fancied him to beat Roman Martinez for the WBO super-featherweight belt. He did. Nobody fancied him to beat Michael Katsidis in his first major test as a lightweight. He did. In short, you write this man off at your peril and at 29 he is very much in his fighting prime and should be buoyed by fighting in from of 8000 of his countrymen.
Burns has a 32-2 (9) record and while there isn't anything in his arsenal that you would describe as particularly devastating he does most things well and has a heart the size of a dustbin lid.
While Burns is consistent his opponent is famous for blowing hot and cold.
A prodigiously gifted fighter, Mitchell looked to be heading for greatness a while back but out of the ring distractions have hindered his progress to date.
A couple of years ago he went in with Katsidis for the interim WBO title at Upton Park but came apart alarmingly inside three rounds. He has got his head down since, however, and last year was involved in the domestic dust-up of 2011 as he stopped Manchester's John Murray in a thriller.
Inactivity (just two fights in two years) is definitely a worry but when Mitchell brings his 'A-Game' he is almost impossible to resist.
The Londoner has a cultured left hand and genuine KO power in both hands. Doubts persist about how devoted he is to his craft but the world is he has whipped himself into fine shape for this and for this reason he looks a live underdog at 13/8.
When the fight was first announced I thought Burns, with his long levers and correct boxing style, might just edge it on the cards.
However I feel that Mitchell knows that if he loses this then he also loses his dreams of the big-time and a talent such as he, even with his back to the wall, must be respected.
Mitchell is the more spiteful puncher and having heard that Burns' prep for this particular fight has been less than stellar I am leaning towards the East Ender claiming a famous win on 'foreign' soil inside the distance.
Over in Belfast on the same night another fantastic bill is topped by Carl Frampton's Commonwealth super-bantamweight title defence against classy Canadian Steve Molitor.
Frampton, AKA 'The Jackal', is regarded as one of the best prospects on these shores but is taking a real gamble by tangling with Molitor in just his 15th pro fight.
Molitor is a gnarled veteran at 32 who has made a career of winning big fights on the road. A two-time IBF world champion at 8st 10lbs, 'The Canadian Kid' has fond memories of boxing in the UK.
In 2002 he scalped Nicky Booth and two years later he beat John Mackay but he came to worldwide attention in 2006 when he entered the lion's den and stopped Michael Hunter on a crazy night in Hartlepool for the IBF title.
Five defences of that belt followed before he was blitzed by Celestino Caballero in what was regarded as a significant upset at the time.
Since then he has regained and lost his treasured IBF belt and he looked all of his 32 years last time out as he eked out a decision win over the unheralded Sebastien Gauthier.
However Molitor insists he is bang up for this as he aims to maintain his perfect record in the UK.
Standing in his way is Frampton, a well-schooled box-puncher who is being guided by the incomparable Barry McGuigan.
He has a 64 per cent KO ratio and the Belfast boy boxed intelligently last time out as he claimed the IBF Inter-Continental title with a points win over Raul Hirales.
That fight proved he can do the 12 rounds and I have a hunch he will need to call on all of his reserves of stamina as Molitor summons one last effort at the Odyssey Arena.
I can see the Canadian having his moments but the younger, hungrier, fresher Frampton should have enough in his tool box to defend his belt on points.Tags: Ricky Burns , Kevin Mitchell , Burns-Mitchell , Burns vs Mitchell