GLASGOW, Scotland - Ricky Burns earned a unanimous decision against the unbeaten Kiryl Relikh in his first defense of the WBA super-lightweight belt on Friday.
Burns, a three-weight world champion, was backed up by the Belarusian in the first three rounds, and couldn't counter with any effect until the end of the fourth.
It took two big rights in the eighth to take the sting out of Relikh, but Burns still needed to draw on his greater experience to stay on top. The judges rewarded his resilience with scores of 118-110, 116-112, and 116-112.
Burns, who won the vacant belt in May by knocking out Michele Di Rocco in the same Hydro Arena, improved his record to 41-5-1.
Relikh dropped to 21-1 (19 KO).
Ricky Hatton, who promotes Relikh and worked his corner, thought his fighter had done enough to win the contest. Before the scores were read, Hatton spoke to the Sky Sports broadcast team at ringside, both Johnny Nelson and Paul Smith had scored it a draw. Hatton was shocked at the wide scores that were announced in favor of Burns - especially the score of 118-110, where the judge only gave Relikh two rounds.
"I thought we might have done enough to pinch it," Hatton told Sky Sports' Andy Scott.
"I looked down at my pals, Johnny Nelson and Paul Smith (ringside for Sky Sports) and they both said they had it level and that was maybe about right.
"The 118-110 and even the 116-112 I couldn't get my head round at all. The last round could've gone either way, the first four were no question [in Relikh's favour] and 10 and 11 were no question either and that's a draw.
"You can see how disappointed I am. I can't say it was a bad result but the scoring was shocking."