Ricky Burns determined not to let plaudits dilute his power

TO ADD to the many admirable qualities we already knew he possessed, Ricky Burns revealed another valuable trait as he sat in his dressing-room and reflected on the successful first defence of his WBO super-featherweight title on Saturday night.

After a comprehensive 12 round points victory over tenacious but limited challenger Andreas Evensen at the Braehead Arena, Burns would have been excused for indulging in an unchecked bout of self-congratulation as he brought the finest year of his boxing career to a triumphant end.

Instead, the 27-year-old chose to publicly dissect his performance with a degree of critical self-analysis which hardened an already powerful impression that he is someone who will not allow his status as a world champion to blind him to reality.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"I felt a wee bit flat in there tonight," said Burns. "There was a wee spark missing. I wasn't 100 per cent and I think it was quite a poor performance."

Burns was actually unduly harsh on himself on an evening when he was always going to find it difficult to live up to the extraordinary level of the display he produced when wrenching the title from Roman Martinez at the Kelvin Hall three months earlier.

But in a sport where egos are so easily inflated and self-delusion too often pandered to by those surrounding a boxer, it was encouraging to hear the Coatbridge man talk of room for improvement and a determination to achieve even higher standards.

The evidence of Burns' career so far suggests he is a fighter whose performance levels are dictated by the standard of his opponent. Having risen to the occasion and boxed so brilliantly against the highly regarded and previously unbeaten Martinez in September, the Scot was never required to find top gear against Evensen.

Bigger, stronger and technically more proficient than the 24-year-old Norwegian, Burns controlled the tempo and momentum of the contest throughout. An early night looked likely when Evensen was floored by a short right hand to the temple from the champion in the opening seconds of round one, but he rose for the eight count and saw out the session with a degree of dogged resilience which he maintained throughout.

Burns resisted the temptation to go in search of a knockout, wisely remaining wary of Evensen's clubbing right hand which was clearly the only serious threat the visitor possessed.

He landed it cleanly on a couple of occasions, most notably in the ninth round when Burns very briefly appeared to be hurt, but his work lacked any craft or guile.

By contrast, Burns was composed and smooth, scoring regularly with accurate shots to both head and body. Evensen's attempts to turn the contest into a brawl were comfortably resisted by the champion whose superior footwork and ring generalship were never in question. Whether working in close or keeping Evensen at range, Burns was always in command, even if his timing was off on occasion.While almost inevitably lacking the drama and excitement of his victory over Martinez, the action was absorbing enough to satisfy a crowd of around 4,000 who have clearly taken Burns to their hearts.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Evensen, commendably gutsy until the end, knew he had been outclassed. At the final bell, he shook his head ruefully and applauded Burns in anticipation of the verdict to come from the three judges. It was wide and unanimous. Zoltan Enyedi of Hungary and Noel Monnet of France both scored it 119-108, while American Tom Miller had it slightly closer at 118-109.

"I felt I won every round, even though I wasn't at my best," added Burns. "So if you can win a world title fight that way, I suppose that's no bad thing. When I put him down in the first round, I didn't rush in looking for the stoppage because that is when you can get caught yourself.

"I've got a lot of respect for Andreas. He was aggressive and tried to come forward all the time.

"There were times when I thought I was getting on top of him, especially with body shots, but I did feel I looked ragged at times. I apologised to my trainer Billy Nelson at the end of one of the rounds and he just told me to stop feeling sorry for myself. I got the job done and defended my title, which is the main thing, but I know there's more to come from me." Burns was insistent that making the 9st 4lbs super-featherweight limit was not a factor in his failure to shine as he would have wished. He had to strip naked at Friday's weigh-in, prompting speculation he may be forced into a move up to lightweight sooner rather than later.

"Listen, I make the weight easily," said Burns. "I was only one ounce over the limit when we checked just before the weigh-in. I could have walked it off but decided just to whip my boxers off instead. I wish I hadn't now, because my Mum wasn't happy at seeing the picture of me in the buff in one of the papers.

"But I was still eating four meals a day in the week leading up to the fight and I will be staying at super-featherweight for at least a couple more fights. I'd like to fight Mzonke Fana, the IBF and Ring Magazine No 1, next if my management team can arrange it. The only way I'd move up to lightweight at the moment is if I was offered a huge fight against someone like Juan Manuel Marquez."

"He needs a good solid four weeks off," observed trainer Nelson."Ricky has had a stop-start year, especially with all the hassle which surrounded the date of the Martinez fight, and I think that's why he wasn't at his best against Evensen."

Less than his best was still more than good enough for Burns, however, which can only augur well for the more demanding and enticing challenges which await Scotland's self-effacing world champion in 2011.