Ricky Burns has warned his fans to be patient when he faces Michele Di Rocco for the vacant WBA light-welterweight title at Glasgow’s SSE Hydro on Saturday.
Anyone expecting the Coatbridge man, aiming to become the first Scot to win world titles in three different weight divisions, to come out with all guns blazing from the first bell will be disappointed.
The 33-year-old admits that he is wary of Di Rocco’s punching power. Not a great deal is known about the Italian, other than the fact that almost half of his wins (18 out of 40) have come inside the distance.
A year older than Burns, Di Rocco will also be considerably heavier, another reason why the local hero is determined not to do anything rash, although he has done his best to prepare for this challenge by working with bigger men.
“He’s had 40 wins, one loss and one draw,” he said. “He’s had 18 knockouts as well so it shows he can punch. I’ll just need to make sure early on that my hands are up.
“[Whatever he weighs on the night] isn’t a worry for me. I’ve been up against a lot of big punchers throughout my career and I’ve shown I can take a good shot but the answers to all these questions will be given in the ring. I’ve been sparring with heavier guys in the build-up, people like Conor Benn and Ted Cheeseman.
“That’s all gone well but the next time I do it will be for real. The fight week countdown is on and I just can’t wait for that first bell.”
Burns will be going in blind against Di Rocco, who will be competing abroad for only the third time in his 12-year professional career.
While his opponent’s record is impressive, the list of his opponents is a Who’s That of boxing. Burns, though, will give him every respect.
“I try not to look at that,” he said. “At the end of the day, he’s just someone who’s in my way and I need to get him out of there. I don’t know if he’s the kind of person who’ll worry about the fact that I’ve had impressive results against bigger names than he’s ever met.
“Obviously, he’s hardly ever fought outside Italy so I don’t know what frame of mind he’s going to be in.
“How’s he going to feel when he walks out at the Hydro? How’s he going to cope with walking to the ring and being booed by everyone? It’ll be the same once the fight starts, especially when the going gets tough. He’ll have the crowd against him and I’ll be constantly in his face for the 12 rounds. We’ll find out how he deals with all that on Saturday night.
“The fans are great: they always come out and show their support. Once that first bell rings it comes down to me and him.
“When it gets tough, however, that’s when I find the fans help you. Especially in the last couple of rounds, when you are landing and the crowd is going nuts, that spurs you on.
“For me, a ring is a ring, no matter where it is but not everybody is like that. I can block things out once I’m in there and we’ll discover whether he can do that as well.”
Even though he plans to make a tentative start, Burns does not anticipate a dull contest. He added: “When they announced this fight they asked what kind of fight he expected and he said: ‘A toe-to-toe war’ and I’m not one to shy away from that.
“I have a plan going into this fight but, if it comes down to it, I don’t mind getting into a bit of a fight.”