By Jake Donovan
Eddie Hearn and Matchroom Sport promised to hit the ground running upon signing Ricky Burns.
Its first task for the current lightweight titlist was a race against a clock, as a deal was struck for a promised homecoming.
Burns' next fight - and first since signing with Matchroom Sport earlier this month - will come May 11 in his homeland, as he defends against unbeaten mandatory challenger Jose 'Chelo' Gonzalez. The bout will take place at the Emirates Arena in Glasgow, to air live on Sky Sports.
A deal was reached late Monday evening, hours before the midnight deadline imposed by the WBO. Had the two sides failed to come to terms, the fight would have then been sent to a purse bid.
Instead, all parties were able to come to terms for what figures to be a memorable event.
“It’s been a tough few days and we’ve had plenty of obstacles to overcome, but I’m delighted to bring Jose Gonzalez to Glasgow for what I feel will be the beginning of a new era for Scottish boxing,” said Hearn. “Gonzalez is ranked number one in the world, undefeated and comes with a dangerous reputation.
"It’s imperative that we deal with our mandatory challenger to pave the way for big unification clashes but I believe Ricky will face his toughest test yet on May 11. We need the support of all the Scottish people as we begin a new journey and cannot wait to raise the roof of the stunning new Emirates Arena.”
Peter Rivera and Puerto Rico Best Boxing Promotions, who represents Gonzalez,demanded the fight for several reasons. Their guy is the mandatory challenger, plus it gives the company a shot at payback for the fight that first made Burns a champion at 130 lb.
"(We are) happy to reach an agreement with Eddie and Matchroom Sport regarding the World title fight between the champion Ricky Burns and the mandatory challenger Jose ‘Chelo’ Gonzalez," said Rivera. "For us it's like a rematch fight because Burns already beat one of our fighters, Roman Martinez, and now Gonzalez has the chance to avenge that loss.”
Rivera refers to the Sept. '10 super featherweight title fight, in which Martinez traveled to Scotland to defend his belt. The bout proved Burns' mettle, climbing off of the canvas to top the Puerto Rican to begin what is now a 2 1/2-year stay in the championship picture, spanning two weight classes.
Awaiting him now is another tough challenge from La Isla Encanta.
“I'm very glad for this opportunity and it’s a dream come true fighting for the World tittle as the mandatory challenge,” said Gonzalez (22-0, 17KO), who fights outside of his native Puerto Rico for the first time in his career. “I'm not worried about fighting in Burns’ homeland. I'm preparing greatly for this fight and I'm sure I will bring the World title to my country."
Burns (35-2, 10KO) is just glad to be fighting at all. A two-division champ, his lightweight reign has been both a blessing and a curse. The Scot gained respect with his title-winning effort over Michael Katsidis in Nov. '11 and again with his 4th round knockout of Kevin Mitchell last September.
However, his career came to a grinding halt after back-to-back postponements which have left him out of the ring since the Mitchell fight. Among the fights that hit the scrap heap were the twice rescheduled unification bout with Miguel Vazquez.
Displeased with training for two straight fights that never materialized, Burns jumped ship from Frank Warren Promotions, resurfacing to sign with Matchroom Sport.
With the business and politics out of the way, the defending titlist is pleased to get back to boxing.
“I’m really looking forward to May 11,” said Burns, who makes the third defense of his belt. “He’s a big puncher with a great KO record, but I’ve been in with big punchers before and that doesn’t worry me in the slightest. It’s great to have the date and name sorted now so I can just focus on getting myself in great shape for a big night in Glasgow.”
Tickets for Betfair’s ‘Fighting Pride of Scotland’ are on sale on Wednesday March 27 at 9am – tickets are priced £40 upper tier, £60 lower tier and floor seats, £100 ringside and £200 VIP (all tickets subject to booking fee). Tickets are available through the Emirates Arena at www.emiratesarena.co.uk, Matchroom Boxing at www.matchroomboxing.com and by phone on 0141 353 8000
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com, as well as a member of Transnational Boxing Ratings Board, Yahoo Boxing Ratings Panel and the Boxing Writers Association of America. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox