Boxing: Scott Harrison awaits the winner of Ricky Burns v Kevin Mitchell
WHILE Ricky Burns and Kevin Mitchell rightly took centre stage at the SECC yesterday, it was impossible to ignore the brooding presence at their final head-to-head media conference of the man who hopes to fight the winner of tomorrow night’s potentially epic WBO lightweight title showdown.
Scott Harrison continues his quest for redemption and a return to the summit of his sport with an eight-round undercard contest against Miguel Aguilar of Nicaragua and his incentive for victory could not be any greater.
The 35-year-old Glaswegian made his ring comeback in June, after a largely self-inflicted seven-year absence, with a facile but nonetheless eye-catching fourth-round stoppage of Hungarian rookie Gyorgy Mizsei at the Kelvin Hall.
Now former two-times WBO featherweight champion Harrison could be just one more win away from what would be a remarkable world title shot, having received a pledge from promoter Frank Warren yesterday that he is determined to see fulfilled.
“I’ve just spoken to Frank and he has promised me the winner of Burns-Mitchell,” revealed Harrison. “So, hopefully, I can make it happen, maybe in November.
“All I need is the opportunity. Whoever it is I fight for the title, I will smash them to pieces. Simple as that.”
Nothing, of course, has been simple in Harrison’s recent life with his widely publicised troubles outside the ring and time in prison.
“There were a couple of times when I thought it might never happen,” he admitted. “But, to cut a long story short, I’m here now. Life’s a journey, isn’t it? I feel proud I’m still here, still alive, fit and healthy. I’m getting the opportunity to fight for the world title in the near future. I can see the moment in my mind already. It’s going to happen, hopefully before the end of the year.
“When you are suspended and trying to get your licence back, it’s heavy-duty stress. Having to go from one board meeting to another, with dates changed. Then another court case. So it feels much better now. Boxing is much less stressful than the other things I’ve had to deal with, please believe me.
“When you are in the gym, you can feel good when you are moving about and sparring. But it’s not until you actually get into the ring for a fight that you know if you’ve still got it or not. So it was encouraging that there was no real ring rust in my comeback fight in June. I actually feel better this time around, better than I did when I was 25.”
Harrison only received notice of his opponent yesterday and will attempt to find DVDs of Aguilar, a 25-year-old who has won ten of his 15 professional contests, before tomorrow night. “It was the same in my previous fight, with the late change of opponent,” he shrugged. “I went into it not knowing much about who I was fighting. But I thought the comeback fight went well. The boy was previously undefeated, he could move about the ring. He took a few heavy punches, he was tougher than I thought he was. I had him down five times, though, and I was happy with the performance. This is an eight-rounder, but I just have to look at it as a world title fight. I’ve got to get this one out of the road. The last time I did an eight-rounder, I was 21.
I’ve been in 11 world title fights, so I don’t really want to be in eight or ten-round fights now when I’m 35. The clock ticks every day. But I feel good, I feel healthy, I feel fit. I’m in good shape and I’m looking forward to putting on a show on Saturday night. I just need to keep winning. It’s another step closer to being world champion again, that’s the way I look at it.”
Like most of the boxing fraternity, Harrison finds it difficult to pick a winner in the main event which promoter Warren predicts will prove to be Britain’s fight of the year.
“Ricky has done well and is in great condition,” observed Harrison. “He’s tough and throws great body punches. Kevin has prepared really well and throws good combinations. It should be a great fight and a great show all round for the fans.”
The good-natured build-up between champion Burns and challenger Mitchell, friends of long-standing outside the ring, continued yesterday. Shortly before the pair posed for the traditional nose-to-nose photographs, Mitchell happily signed a pair of gloves which Burns is passing on to a charity auction for a children’s hospital. If it all seemed at odds with the anticipated fury both men will unleash on each other on Saturday night, it is clear their relationship will survive any outcome. “It’s only a job,” said former British and Commonwealth super-featherweight champion Mitchell. “This is my biggest test and I’m ready to do a job on Ricky. But afterwards, we’ll have a beer and a cuddle.”
Burns, on a 16-fight winning streak and making his second defence of the WBO lightweight belt, believes his English opponent will bring out the best in him. “I’ve always said that the better the boxer in front of me, the better I box,” said Burns. “I feel I’m getting better and better all the time and I’m 100 per cent ready for whatever Kevin has on Saturday.”
• Burns v Mitchell is live and exclusive on BoxNation (Sky Ch. 437/Virgin Ch. 546). Join at www.boxnation.com
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Friday 24 May 2013
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