FORMER world champion Jim Watt “strongly” fancies Ricky Burns to defend his WBO lightweight title against Raymundo Beltran at the SECC in Glasgow this evening – but questioned promoter Eddie Hearn’s claim that victory would make him the best Scottish boxer ever.
The Coatbridge fighter is making the fourth defence of his belt against the 32-year-old Mexican after moving up from super-featherweight, where he made three defences of his WBO crown.
Hearn concluded that Burns’ title record, in addition to the quality of opponents he has fought recently, means a win would put him up there as “the greatest Scottish fighter of all time”.
However, after yesterday’s weigh-in at the St Enoch shopping centre in Glasgow, where Burns tipped the scales at 9st 8lb 4oz, with the challenger nine ounces heavier, Watt, former WBC lightweight champion and now a media pundit, said: “I think it is a silly thing to say and I will tell you why – that’s what backfires on Ricky Burns.
“If Eddie says the most successful fighter then fine, we will go along with that because you can measure title defences and money but don’t say he is the best ever because people remember Benny Lynch, Walter McGowan, Ken Buchanan, Jackie Paterson... and put me on the list if you like – they don’t want people to say Ricky Burns is better than those guys.
“Ricky would be the last man in the world to say that, and putting that out to people is not doing Ricky any good.
“Make him the most successful fighter ever and I will take my hat off to him because nobody deserves it more.”
Watt acknowledged the challenger’s pedigree but tipped Burns to come through the test.
“Beltran is a good little fighter,” he said. “He is going to know a lot of tricks because you don’t last for years as Manny Pacquiao’s sparring partner if you are a face-first fighter taking everything that is coming at you.
“So obviously he is tough, knowledgeable and cute.
“He has fought hard to get his chance and he is going to give it everything and the fact he came over here in plenty of time, that is not someone picking up a pay cheque. There is, I imagine, parts of the fight where Ricky is going to get caught with some punches from close up, but I fancy him strongly because over the piece he is a better fighter than Beltran.”
Burns, 30, claimed he was so comfortable with his preparations that he travelled to the weigh-in with a smile instead of a scowl.
“This is always the worst thing about the whole camp, making the weight, but I made it a lot more comfortably than I did the last time,” he said.
“When I woke up this morning I still was able to have something to eat and a coffee and I arrived here with a smile on my face rather than not wanting to talk to anybody. The whole camp has been great. Roll on Saturday night.”
“For me that’s the hard bit over,” he added. “One day to go. I’m just itching to get out there and put on a good performance for the fans that have turned out today. I’ve heard ticket sales have been going well so, hopefully, it will be a sell-out crowd at the SECC.
“Everything has come together for this fight, I’ve made the weight so much easier this time – the last time I did struggle a wee bit but I made it comfortably this time.”
Burns, as he usually does, was also quick to give respect to his opponent, and he added: “He has not been one of the chief sparring partners of [former seven-weight world champion] Manny Pacquiao for nothing. He likes to get involved in a bit of a war, but that doesn’t bother me.
“First, I need to win and then put on a good performance, better than the last one,” he said. “There will be times when I have to dig deep and stand my ground.”
The Scot’s trainer, Billy Nelson, has also been hugely impressed with his charge and believes he is in peak condition to return to his best against Beltran.
“If the Ricky Burns that has been in the gym the last two weeks turns up on Saturday night, nobody in the world would beat him,” Nelson told BBC Scotland. “If Raymundo wants to get involved in a toe-to-toe, we will happily accommodate that. But the fundamental thing is going to be Ricky’s speed – lightning speed, absolutely lightning. On occasions this week, it has just been a blur that’s been hitting the pad.”