Ricky Burns to walk West Highland Way in fancy dress for charity
Professional boxing is not a sport readily associated with modesty and a desire to help others. But then Ricky Burns has never been your average prize fighter.
The 33-year-old from Coatbridge, the reigning WBA super-lightweight champion of the world, is known as much for his good humour and relaxed personality as he is for his formidable presence in the ring.
Which is why few people were shocked when he announced on social media that he intended to walk the West Highland Way in just three days while dressed as a super hero.
Burns will be joined by five of his oldest friends for the challenge next month. The group hope to raise thousands of pounds for two good causes in the process - the Glasgow Children’s Hospital Charity, formerly known as Yorkhill, and the Royal Marines Charity.
It’s this close bond between friends that prompted the challenge.
“These are guys I’ve known since school,” Burns told The Scotsman. “After my fights, a few of us like to go away camping, but we couldn’t make up our minds what to do this summer. A friend suggested we do the West Highland Way, and it took off from there.
“We took the decision to do it for charity. Yorkhill is one close to a lot of people up here, and I had said I would do something for the Royal Marines.
“We’ve not set ourselves a target, but we’ll be hoping to raise as much as possible.”
Burns has met several Marines veterans at boxing nights over the years. Funds raised will be donated, via the regiment’s charity, to the Arbroath-based 45 Commando Rehabilitation Centre and memorial garden.
Being a keen competitor, Burns has set his friends the challenge of completing the 96-mile-long footpath between Milngavie and Fort William in three days. While no stranger to the kind of punishing long-distance training runs that are part of any boxer’s working life, he admits such a schedule will be a tall order - especially for those in the group who don’t share his love of the gym.
“Some of the guys are always training,” he said. “There are a couple who don’t do too much, but hats off to them, since we announced this they’ve been working hard.
“But I’m sure we’ll be pushing each other on and winding each other up.”
One important part of the group’s preparation is still to be finalised - the costumes.
“I don’t want to say just yet who we’ll be dressed as, as it could change,” said Burns. “We decided to dress up partly for Yorkhill. We’ll get before and after pictures for them.”
Following his West Highland jaunt, Burns will refocus his attentions on his day job. His eighth round stoppage of Michele di Rocco in May made him the first Scottish fighter ever to win three world titles at three different weights.
He will now defend his title in the autumn against an as yet unnamed opponent.
Asked whether he’s been touched by the public reaction to his latest title win, which was earned after a tough couple of years for the fighter, Burns’ characteristic modesty shines through.
“I’ve been trying to keep a low profile,” he said. “I’m not one for being in the limelight. After fights I like things to settle back down. I’ve been trying to keep quiet.
“My trainer, Tony, and I couldn’t believe how easy the fight against di Rocco was. He couldn’t deal with my movement.”
It’s those quick feet Burns will rely on once again when he sets out from Milngavie next month.
You can donate to Ricky’s fundraiser via his Virgin Moneygiving page.