Scotland’s world professional boxing champion Ricky Burns made the third successful defence of his world lightweight title when his opponent Jose “Chelo” Gonzalez of Puerto Rico sensationally quit after the ninth round of a titanic contest in Glasgow last night.
Burns was in trouble several times during the bout with a big-punching opponent who was ahead on all the judges’ scorecard when he pulled out, citing a serious injury, possibly a stave, to his left hand and wrist.
In truth, however, the tide had begun to turn for the man from Coatbridge, and being unable to jab, Gonzalez possibly realised he was going to be hammered late on as he refused to fight on despite his cornerman’s insistence.
“He was very good technically, he caught me with a few good shots, and he did hurt me,” said Burns.
“We knew he was a good boxer, a big puncher with a big heart and he was awkward. But I came through.”
The Emirates Arena was hosting its first professional boxing bill and the crowd of nearly 7,000 gave Burns a rapturous welcome.
The opening round was all about both men testing each other out.
Not having fought since his four-round destruction of Kevin Mitchell in Glasgow last September, Burns showed signs of ring rust early on, but shaded the second.
The third and fourth were pretty even as it became clear that noted puncher Gonzalez – 17 stoppages on his 22-fight unbeaten record – was no one-trick pony. Burns, by contrast, was not his usual accurate self by a long shot.
Gonzalez did not start his professional career until he was 24, by which age Burns had already fought for the British, Commonwealth and European super-featherweight title, losing to Alex Arthur who was ringside last night. Arthur, incidentally, said to expect an announcement on his future next month, and it is odds-on that he will call time on his stellar career inside the ring as he will be 35 by then.
Burns was trying to force the issue, but missed with too many punches to really trouble Gonzalez who scored with punch after punch and midway through the contest the crowd realised their hero was in a very tough fight indeed.
The magnificent seventh round was one of the best ever seen in a world title fight in Glasgow. A left and right from Gonzalez staggered Burns and the champion then showed his experience by hanging on and blunting the challenger’s attacks before responding with stunning shots of his own. Burns’ trainer Billy Nelson could be seen telling his man to use his boxing brain, and he cleverly won the eighth.
Gonzales had never fought beyond ten rounds and the Scot’s championship stuff – determination, stamina, class and skill – was shown to the full in the ninth.
Then came Gonzalez’s sensible decision to quit as Burns would surely have won the last three rounds against a one-handed opponent.
In the main supporting bout, Greenock’s John Simpson won the vacant WBC international super-featherweight championship on points by defeating Choi Tseveenpurev, thankfully always known as Choi, who neither looked nor fought like the 41-year-old that he is.
The Mongolian is the reigning Prizefighter super-featherweight champion and an out-and-out brawler. He hurt Simpson late in the second, but the sixth proved to be the turning point as the Scot’s superior boxing won him the round, as it did the seventh.
We now had a classic contest between the skill of Simpson and the aggression of Choi, and in the eighth it was the veteran Mongolian who was on top. Simpson’s greater accuracy of punching took the ninth and tenth, and even the previously non-stop Choi began to look tired.
The Scot’s quality enabled him to come through to win a tremendous contest by a unanimous decision.
Stephen Simmons at 28 is a man in a hurry and the Edinburgh cruiserweight is now unbeaten in eight contests and rightly looking for a big step up after his destruction of Ireland’s Michael Sweeney in the first title fight of the Matchroom bill at the Emirates Arena.
Simmons lifted the vacant Celtic Cruiserweight Championship in excellent style, the 2010 Commonwealth Games bronze medallist outclassing Sweeney, and showing that he can go very much higher in the professional ranks.
Earlier, Glasgow’s southpaw featherweight Jon Slowey made hard work of beating a determined opponent, Eddie Nesbitt from Belfast. Undefeated English super-middleweight champion Rocky Fielding made a serious pitch for a British or Commonwealth title chance with a stunning first-round knockout of Poland’s Michal Nieroda.
David Brophy of Caldercruix had too much accuracy for the former Southern Area champion, Gary Boulden of Shepperton, the Scot winning a small war by a single round.