Boxers are not renowned for putting principles before profit. It is, after all, the fight business. The participants are professionals and they put themselves through the pain barrier for a living.
They expect to be rewarded. Which is why cash is king for the majority of them as they try to maximise their earnings during what is a relatively short career.
Ricky Burns, though, marches to the beat of his own drum. The 33-year-old WBA light-welterweight champion, who emerged from bankruptcy just seven months ago, could have been fighting for a £1m purse against Adrian £The Problem” Broner next month.
That bout will now take place in Las Vegas just before Christmas – but only if the Scot emerges unscathed from his first defence of his title against the dangerous Kyril Relikh, who has won 19 of his 21 fights by knockout.
Yet that hurdle could have been cleared could have been avoided if promoter Eddie Hearn had been able to persuade Burns to body swerve the Belarussian. However, the 33-year-old has decided to put his biggest pay day at risk in order to help other Scottish boxers, even though he’ll be earning only £200,000 for putting his belt on the line against Relikh.
“The opportunity to fight Broner came in late August/early September, just before this fight was made,” Hearn revealed.
“Unfortunately, at that time Adrian Broner was in prison, which didn’t help. His people assured me that he was just about to come out but, obviously, you can’t plan anything on that say-so.
“So they said they’d like to make the fight in November and I spoke to Kyril Relikh’s team about potentially moving that fight out of the way by paying them step-aside money. He’s the mandatory challenger but it could have been done. However, Ricky is a strange character and he said: ‘No, I’ve got to fight Relikh.’
“I tried to tell him that I could duck and dive and get round it but he insisted that he’d take on Relikh and then fight Broner.
“’Okay,’ I said, ‘but you know this kid can fight – he’s dangerous.’ And his reply was that if he couldn’t beat Relikh then he’d no business getting in the ring with Broner anyway. Which is quite smart, really; not many people think like that.
“So I then had to tell Broner’s people that we couldn’t do November and that we should plan for December.
“As far as we’re concerned, though, the deal is already done. The terms are pretty much agreed anyway so we expect that, once this fight is finished, the next one can be made instantly.”
The purse for the bout against Broner would set Burns up for life but, in spite of the financial problems he endured as a result of a court case against former promoter Frank Warren, the Scot is more concerned with kudos than cash.
“It would be a life-changer but, when you talk about that with Ricky, he doesn’t want to know,” said Hearn, ruefully. “If all he wanted was the money he’d be fighting Broner next.
“He’ll make five times the money for that bout than he will for going in against Relikh but that’s never really been his motivation. Ricky’s had his problems outside the ring but the one thing he loves to do is fight. As long as he’s boxing and he has a date to get ready for, he’s as happy as Larry.
“For me, as a greedy promoter, I look at it differently. That’s lost commission for me there! It did quite surprise me.
“The thing with Ricky is that he loves boxing in Scotland and the Broner fight couldn’t take place here.
“I don’t think that he felt comfortable about beating Michele Di Rocco in Glasgow in May and then just walking away from Scottish boxing. He told me to arrange for his first defence to be in Glasgow and then he’ll fight anyone, anywhere.
“By the way, that doesn’t just mean Broner. Terence Crawford’s manager was on the ‘phone about two weeks after Broner, saying that Crawford wants to unify the titles.
“Unification fights are the ones Ricky wants to be in. But I love the Broner fight and I always have done because I believe that Ricky will beat him.”