SCOTLAND’S only world boxing champion Ricky Burns will defend his title in the Excel Arena in London next Saturday night against Jose Ocampo of the Philippines.
Should he win, Burns will be one win away from equalling Scott Harrison’s Scottish record of eight victories in world title fights.
The self-effacing Burns is not normally concerned about records and talk of big money but he now knows that he is just a few rounds away from the payday that fighters dream of from the moment they enter the sport.
The WBO lightweight champion is sure that victory will bring him a money-spinning unification fight against Adrian Broner, right, the undefeated American WBC lightweight champion, who is rated on that side of the Pond as the world No.1 at the weight.
So, unusually for him, Burns was prepared to entertain talk of a future opponent rather than the man he next faces.
The Coatbridge fighter said: “I watched Adrian’s last fight against Antonio DeMarco, and he boxed really well, although he got a couple of frights. DeMarco is one of the top fighters in the division and Adrian made it look easy. But, if I don’t win next week, then that big fight is not going to happen.
“It would be a great fight. Nobody knows more than me that he is one of the best in the division and it would be a tough, tough fight. That’s the fight that I want but, again, I need to get by next week in order for it to happen.”
If he does beat Ocampo, 29-year-old Burns will surely get the match that he so badly wants against the 23-year-old from Cincinnati, Ohio, who, like Burns, is a former WBO super-featherweight champion.
The two men had been slated to meet a year ago but Burns took the sensible decision to move up a weight as his maturing body was telling him that he could no longer get down to 9st 4lbs to defend his title. He duly stepped up to lightweight and took the interim WBO belt from tough Australian Michael Katsidis, while Broner kept pace by beating Vicente Martin Rodriguez of Argentina for the vacated WBO super-featherweight title.
In his second defence, Broner failed to make the weight and, although he stopped Vicente Escobedo in the fifth round, he was stripped of his title. Broner then emulated Burns by winning a world title, that of the WBC, in his first fight at lightweight.
The contrast between Broner and Burns could not be more stark. The quiet Scot always says that he lets his fists do the talking, while Broner practically never shuts up and his antics are colourful, to say the least.
Known since childhood as The Problem – his ex-boxer twin brother Andre is The Solution, apparently – Broner was a brilliant amateur who left the sport briefly before returning as a pro.
He is good – very, very good, though perhaps not as good as he thinks.
He is box office, though, and often described as the future of American boxing. Taking on Broner would be a massive earner for Burns, no question.
Burns’ promoter Frank Warren said: “If Ricky comes through this then he has got a chance to face Adrian Broner. I know Ricky has been asking for a big fight, and it don’t get none bigger than that, so he can’t afford to slip up.”
Burns simply must get Ocampo out of the way and as impressively as possible. The WBO Pacific region super-featherweight champion is a late replacement for European champion Liam Walsh, who was injured in a car crash.
Ocampo is thus stepping up a weight and, on all known form and given the Scotsman’s much greater experience – he has fought 37 times, losing only two, while Ocampo has just 17 wins against five losses and a draw – this should be a straightforward task for Burns.
Perhaps crucially, Ocampo has never fought beyond ten rounds and has gone that distance only twice, while Burns has eight 12-rounders under his belt.
Ocampo does have the reputation of being a tough southpaw and the 23-year-old has a puncher’s chance – 12 of his 17 wins have come inside the distance.
“I have been in with big punchers before and I have proved that I can take a good shot,” said Burns, who remarked on his own improved punching power – seen to such devastating fashion in his four-round destruction of Kevin Mitchell in September.
Burns said: “Moving up to lightweight has been a lot better for me, there’s no more dehydrating myself to get down to the weight and I don’t have any weight problems so I feel a lot physically stronger and, hopefully, it will show again in this fight.”
He should do so, and win before the later rounds.
Then it’s all about equalling Harrison’s mark against Broner, lifting the loot and gaining boxing immortality as the man who dealt with “The Problem”.
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