By Jake Donovan
Ricky Burns is officially off of Saturday’s show at the ExCel Arena in London.
The red hot lightweight titlist was set to headline the show, but the late withdrawal of Jose Ocampo left the event handlers short on time to find a suitable replacement. Burns will instead sit out the remainder of 2012, with plans to return to the ring on January 26 in Glasgow.
“It’s a very disappointing time and I feel for Ricky who has put in a lot of hard work to prepare,” promoter Frank Warren said in a statement. “First for (Liam) Walsh, then for Ocampo. [N]ow he won’t be on the show this Saturday, but will be return(ing) in late January.”
Unbeaten super middleweight contender George Groves has been upgraded to the headlining act, as he faces recently unretired former light heavyweight champ Glen Johnson.
Burns (35-2, 10KO) was enjoying a solid 2012 campaign, which began with a points win over Paulus Moses in March and coming off of a high profile 4th round knockout of Kevin Mitchell in September. His placement on the card this weekend was intended as a showcase for big things to come in 2013.
However, problems began a few weeks ago when originally scheduled opponent Liam Walsh – a southpaw - was forced to withdraw due to injuries sustained from a car accident.
Walsh was replaced by Jose Ocampo – a southpaw from the Philippines – which allowed Burns to keep his camp intact without having to find additional sparring partners.
The matchup suffered a mighty blow earlier this week, though, upon the news that Ocampo’s trainer suffered a heart attack and passed away. Ocampo initially declared that he would still go through with the fight, but ultimately withdrew from the card.
“Obviously, Ricky was disappointed but he took it on the chin and he’s taken a philosophical approach to it now,” said Alex Morrison, Burns’ manager. “He knows that these things happen and it’s unfortunate, but he knew that he’ll be out in the New Year. Ricky will take a week’s rest and then he’ll start back in training again.”
The schedule adjustment also affects previously discussed plans for a showdown with Adrien Broner sometime in the first quarter of 2013. Such a fight was once scheduled for Nov. ’11, which would have marked Burns’ first-ever appearance on HBO in conjunction with Broner’s first title shot.
That fight fell through after Burns – then a 130 lb. titlist – declared he could no longer make weight, instead moving up to the 135 lb. division. The Scot won a decision against Michael Katsidis to pick up a vacant 135 lb. belt, while Broner won the 130 lb. title left behind.
Broner has since moved up to lightweight, scoring an emphatic one-sided stoppage win over Antonio DeMarco last month in Atlantic City. Most boxing experts regard Broner and Burns as the top two lightweights in the world, which would leave the winner of such a pairing as the division’s universally recognized champion.
For now, Burns will just have to sit back as the show goes on in London.
“However, the show will go ahead this Saturday and it's a very strong card headlined now by Groves against Johnson,” insists Warren. “[P]lus, (you have) Saunders against Blackwell and O'Meara against Smith, who many are tipping to be the fight of the night. Also, the WBO International Cruiserweight Champion Tony Conquest defends his title against Neil Dawson and Bradley Skeete challenges Chas Symonds for the Southern Area Welterweight title.
“Despite Burns' being off, fans are still in for a great night of boxing."
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com. Follow Jake on Twitter: