Ricky Burns has obviously developed a taste for making history and appears to be in no mood to stop. On Saturday he produced a dominant performance against the mediocre Michele Di Rocco to add the vacant WBA super-lightweight title to the WBO super-featherweight and lightweight belts he had previously won, making him the first Scot to enjoy global success in three different weight divisions.
The 33-year-old may now add to that later this year by becoming the first boxer from this country to star in a world title fight in Las Vegas.
Within seconds of his victory over Di Rocco in Glasgow, representatives of Adrian Broner, a champion in four weight classes, had contacted his promoter, Eddie Hearn.
The controversial 26-year-old had called out the Scot when they were both at the 130lb limit and, after being stripped of the WBA crown Burns has now claimed when he failed to make the weight for a defence against Ashley Theophane on, appropriately enough, April Fool’s Day, he will do so again.
Broner, whose CV includes victories over former world champions Gavin Rees, Paulie Malignaggi, Antonio de Marco and Daniel Ponce de Leon, would represent a significant step up from the unimpressive Di Rocco, while presenting Burns with a lucrative visit to Nevada.
“If you are talking about Adrien Broner, we would travel to the States for that,” said Hearn. “He [Burns] has already boxed Omar Figueroa in Texas – and he would fight him again anywhere.
“But, now that he’s champion, he has options. They’ve already been on to congratulate us, Broner’s guys. They sent congratulations, which means: ‘We’ll be in touch.’ They can make all the offers they want. We’ll listen. If they want to come with a sackload of money for Ricky to defend his title against Broner in Vegas, I’m sure there are a few Scots who would like a trip there.”
“I’d be one of them!” said Burns, making no attempt to disguise his glee at the prospect. “I said to Eddie right after the fight that I want to go after the fun. If I’m going to fight, I want to fight against the top names.” Burns has certainly earned his big pay day. He has struggled since losing his lightweight title to the superb Terence Crawford in March, 2014.
He was declared bankrupt, with debts of over £400,000, after losing a court case to former promoter Frank Warren last year. The defeat by Crawford was part of a sequence of five bouts which saw him win only once.
Now, though, he appears to have regained momentum. Saturday’s victory was not only his third in a row but his third inside the distance.
Di Rocco did not look like he belonged at this level but Burns did a professional job in despatching him. The Scot revealed, however, that he is still star-struck when it comes to the big names in his chosen field. Indeed, he seemed to be almost as pleased that he had been introduced by Michael “Let’s get ready to rumble” Buffer (“It doesn’t get any bigger than that”) as he was with his performance.
Hearn said: “When I got in the ring after, I shouted at Ricky: ‘You’ve done it! You’ve done it!’ He just looked at me and said: ‘Can you get me a picture with Michael Buffer?’
“This is straight after he’s won another world title. So he’s getting his photograph taken with Michael holding his hand up, saying: ‘I can’t believe I’m getting a picture with you.’ And Michael replied: ‘No, I can’t believe I’m getting a picture with you!’”
Burns dictated the tempo of the bout from the first bell, with Di Rocco unable to get inside the taller man’s reach. “I couldn’t believe how easy it was,” Burns admitted. The Italian was on the canvas at the end of the third round but hung on against his dominant opponent in the middle rounds until a left hook in the eighth put him down again. He struggled to his feet but the referee had seen enough and Burns had won by TKO.
Jim Watt, the former WBC lightweight champion, was at ringside to witness history being made. Like almost everyone else in the sport, he is a fan of Burns on a personal as well as a professional level. “To be honest, even a year ago, I didn’t see him becoming world champion again so you have to congratulate Eddie Hearn for a terrific piece of matchmaking,” he said.
“He managed to get the world No 7 to fight for a vacant title when it should be the No 1 and No 2 contenders.
“I think he showed that he’s got his old form back. Everyone knows he’s had a lot of horrendous problems outside the ring in the last couple of years but they all seem to be behind him now. He’s able to concentrate on his boxing and that was vintage Burns: he was as good as I’ve seen him. OK, Di Rocco was a bit of a disappointment but that’s got nothing to do with Ricky, who did everything right from the first bell.
“It was a brilliant performance and he’s now in a red-hot division. Ricky was pretty fortunate to land Di Rocco because there are some beasts at light-welter he could have been fighting instead.
“Now he’s the world champion, though, he can defend against these guys. There are some terrific matches – like Lucas Matthysse or Viktor Postal, although he doesn’t want Crawford again. But all those guys are in the mix and Ricky can start making a few quid again.”
Willie Limond failed to regain the British light-welterweight title in the chief support. He started well against Tyrone Nurse, boxing on the front foot and winning the first four rounds.
However, the champion forced his way back into the fight, smashing Limond’s nose and sapping his will with some punishing body shots.
It was a mercy when referee Victor Loughlin halted the contest in the ninth round, also bringing an end to 37-year-old Limond’s career.