Ricky Burns called on all his survival instincts in last night’s WBO world lightweight title victory over Jose Gonzalez at Glasgow’s Emirates Arena.
The 29-year-old unbeaten mandatory challenger from Puerto Rico showed why he arrived in Scotland unbeaten in 22 fights - 17 of them won inside the distance - as his long reach had the Scot in all sorts of trouble, especially in the seventh round.
Burns, 30, wobbled and winced after stepping into a punishing right hand but clung on to get back to his corner.
He was three rounds down on all three judges’ scorecards and facing an uphill battle to get back on terms when Gonzalez dramatically quit on his stool before the start of the 10th round with a wrist injury.
As he sat at the press conference after midnight, Burns’ bruised face confirmed his belief that he had come through the toughest fight of his career.
But the Coatbridge fighter said: “I know that feeling when you are hurt and tired and you want to give up but it’s something that is not in me at all and I showed it again.
“He did hurt me in the seventh round. He caught me with a good few shots and I had a quick look up and I could see the ref and he was having a good look.
“I think he was thinking about stopping it but I just fired straight back with my own punches.
“We knew it was going to be a difficult fight, we just didn’t know just how difficult or how awkward he was going to be.
“It is hard when you try to fight somebody who doesn’t want to commit.
“They make you miss and they make you pay and that’s what he was doing, stealing the rounds.
“I was getting caught with stupid shots on the counter, shots that I shouldn’t have been caught with. I think I learned my lesson from that.”
Asked if he was relieved at the outcome, Burns said: “Not at all. I felt that he was starting to tire,
“The volume of punches he was throwing was less, he was on the back foot a lot more.
“I knew it was tight but I always go for a strong finish. I train for a hard 12 rounds and it’s the championship rounds where you get found out.
“I didn’t think I had to stop him but I knew I had to win those (later) rounds convincingly.
“Even though I was missing with 50 per cent of the punches I was throwing he was still under pressure and he didn’t like it.”
Burns’ promoter, Eddie Hearn, was quick to rule out a re-match but claimed the Coatbridge fighter broke Gonzalez’s heart.
“I think we came before a very good fighter in Gonzalez,” he said. “You never know how good they are going to be but he was very good and under the circumstances the only way Ricky was going to beat him was breaking his heart.
“I don’t know if he broke his hand but he broke his heart.
“I looked at Gonzalez two rounds before it (was stopped) and he was getting very very tired.
“You have three rounds to win the world title and you pull out of it with a bad hand? I think there is more to it than that.
“I think Ricky broke his heart.
“But Ricky showed unbelievable heart, especially in the seventh round.”