By Jake Donovan
Ricky Burns now has an opponent for what will most likely serve as the final big fight card of 2012 in the United Kingdom. The streaking lightweight titlist will face unbeaten Liam Walsh on December 15 atop a huge card at the ExCel Arena in London.
"Nothing stirs the sports fans like a good English-Scottish showdown just like my fight against (Kevin) Mitchell did," states Burns, who scored a 4th round knockout of Mitchell last month in Scotland. "[T]he fans are in for a real treat before Christmas with this one."
Burns (35-2, 10KO) will be making the third defense of the lightweight belt he won in a vacant title fight against Michael Katsidis last November. The lanky Scot has recorded 20 straight victories, a streak that dates back to February '07.
In facing Walsh, Burns encounters a fighter who doesn't know what it's like to lose. The British southpaw has fought just once this year, though a well-deserved rest after his war with Paul Appleby last September. Walsh climbed off the canvas to drop and eventually stop Appleby in the 10th round of an eventual Fight of the Year contender.
"Walsh is a good strong fighter, he’s unbeaten and this is his big chance to win the world title," Burns acknowledges. "I was ringside when he fought Appleby and he showed tremendous heart and strength to come through when he was deep in trouble. I’ll be in the best shape possible and will leave nothing to chance for this one."
The bout will mark the first title shot for Walsh (13-0, 10KO), a pro for more than four years. The 26-year old hit his stride two years ago, scoring a landslide decision over Maxwell Awuku. The aforementioned knockout win over Appleby serves as his breakthrough performance, though he hopes to change that in December.
"To fight for the world title is my dream and I’m going to cause a big upset on December 15 at the Excel when I take the crown from Burns," states Walsh. "It’s always been on my mind that I would fight him one day and it’s now here. He’s a great champion, I’ve studied and watched him throughout his career and I know I’ve got the tools to beat him.
"He’s looked great in the last few years and he did a stunning job on Mitchell. He’s in the prime of his career now so when I beat him people will know that I’ve beaten the best. I’ll have massive support from my ‘Farmy Army’ fans who will be coming to the Excel creating an electric atmosphere.”
The venue will be treated to a terrific card. The chief support features a super middleweight crossroads bout between unbeaten George Groves (15-0, 12KO) and former light heavyweight king Glen Johnson (51-17-2, 35KO). In preliminary action, '08 Great Britain Olympic boxer Billy Joe Saunders (15-0, 10KO) faces Nick Blackwell (12-1, 6KO)
Assuming the card stays true to form, the lineup gives the staff at Frank Warren Promotions plenty of reason to pound its chest in celebration.
Burns, as I’ve said, is Britain’s most improved fighter and he did a real job on Mitchell last month," points out promoter Frank Warren. "Even before Mitchell, he’d beaten two of the best in Roman Martinez and Michael Katsidis. "Now he’s facing a young, tough and unbeaten challenger in Walsh who’s stepping up to the plate and really fancies the job. You’ve just got to watch his epic fight against Appleby that was named one of the best of the year to see that he loves to fight and he’s got plenty of heart for a battle.
"It’s a cracking fight to top the bill with at the Excel and one that the fans will enjoy along with Groves’ title defense against Johnson plus Saunders is in title action as well."
While cautious to look beyond his present opponent, Burns is anxious of the road that awaits with a big win at year's end. The Scot hopes for 2013 to provide a platform for unfinished business with one of boxing's rising stars.
"The big motivator is a showdown with (Adrien) Broner, who I was accused of avoiding last year," Burns insists, referring to a planned HBO headliner last November.
Broner's first title shot was to come against Burns, who subsequently revealed an inability to any longer make the 130 lb. limit. Broner wound up fighting for - and winning - a vacant title, while Burns posted a huge win over Katsidis.
With both fighters now at lightweight, the hope is to meet up in 2013. Broner still has a tough challenge ahead of him in current lightweight titlist Antonio DeMarco on November 17 in Atlantic City. Burns believes he has the outcome pegged.
"Since moving up to lightweight and winning the world title my stock and profile has increased and now that it’s a unification fight (should Broner beat DeMarco), it’s a much bigger fight than before."
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com. Follow Jake on Twitter: @JakeNDaBox