Ricky Burns says he’ll handle the power of big-hitting mandatory challenger Kiryl Relikh – but questioned whether Relikh has the temperament for the big stage as Burns defends his WBA Wold Super Lightweight title at the SSE Hydro in Glasgow on Friday night, live on Sky Sports.
Burns became Scotland’s first three-weight World champion in May when he stopped Michele Di Rocco in front of a fever-pitch crowd in the same arena.
Unbeaten Relikh boasts 19 KO’s from his 21 wins and Burns is ready to nullify that punching power, questioning whether the Belarussian will be able to handle the pressure of the biggest fight of his career in front of a passionate Glasgow crowd.
“It's going to be interesting to see how he copes and adapts to the atmosphere,” said Burns. “I don't know what sort of person he is. But obviously this is a big step up for him, first time he's headlined an Arena show live on Sky Sports, and he's walking into the lion's den in Glasgow. Hopefully the fans will make it hostile for him and I don't think it will sink in the level he's at until there’s just me, him and the ref in the ring.
“Tony and I have watched a few rounds of Relikh as we knew he was a possibility. He's got a lot of KOs on his record so he can obviously punch a bit, but it's the level of opposition that he’s been knocking out. He can dig a bit but we're not treating this any differently to any other fight I've had. I've had a good long camp for this one so there's no fears for me.
“We're expecting a tough fight. Conor Benn trained alongside him before and did a bit of sparring with him and he said that he can punch, but we're confident of getting the job done.
“There were some big fights offered to me. They fell through for this one but now we've got the mandatory to get out of the way. That’s not to disrespect to Relikh – he’s got our full attention – but there's some massive fights out there. I boxed Di Rocco for the vacant belt so I've had to do this mandatory straight away which is fair enough, he's earnt his shot the right way, so we get this win and it leads to massive fights.
“You have to take notice of the record he brings. They might not be top names that he's been facing, but he's been knocking them out regardless. This is my 48th fight now and I've been in with big punchers before, I always wind Tony up and say that it's a good job I don't mind being hit in the face, but my chin has always coped OK.”
Burns’ clash with Relikh is part of a huge night of action in Glasgow with two mouth-watering British title clashes as Scotty Cardle defends his Lightweight belt against Kevin Hooper and Brixton rivals Dillian Whyte and Ian Lewison battle for the vacant Heavyweight strap, and there’s action for Joe Ham, Lewis Paulin, Stewart Burt, Scott McCormack and Ross Murray.
Tickets are on general sale now with tickets in the £40-£100 bracket available from the SSE Hydro website http://www.thessehydro.com/ and on 0844 395 4000 and 0800 952 0110 (accessible). VIP tickets at £200 are exclusively available at www.matchroomboxing.com
The money from all tickets sold from midnight tonight (Wednesday October 5) to midnight on Thursday will go to the family of Mike Towell, who sadly lost his life boxing in Glasgow last week.