RICKY BURNS takes a gamble, albeit an understandable one, this weekend when he travels to Hidalgo, Texas to fight local Omar Figueroa on Al Haymon’s Premier Boxing Champion television series. Defeat would surely spell the end for Burns, who has held world titles at two weights (130lbs and 135lbs) but who in his last four fights has beaten only unheralded Frenchman Alexandre Lepelley.
But should “Rickster” upset Figueroa, he will put himself back in line for future paydays against big names, both in the UK and abroad. Given the way the Coatbridge man’s form has tailed off over the last couple of years, it’s easy to forget he has already achieved far more than many thought he would – and I include myself in that group.
The boxer who lost domestic title fights to Alex Arthur and Carl Johanneson kept plugging away and when his chance came for the WBO super-feather belt, he survived a first-round knockdown to beat Roman Martinez. (And for those who think Ricky toppled a weak champion, bear in mind that Martinez is once again WBO king at the weight after recently dethroning Orlando Salido).
Weight problems eventually forced a move up to lightweight, where Burns once again won WBO recognition, beating Aussie warrior Michael Katsidis and Kevin Mitchell – and Mitchell fights for the WBC title later this month, don’t forget.
But after that Mitchell triumph in September 2012, Ricky’s form went right off. He was behind on all cards when Puerto Rico’s Jose A. Gonzalez retired claiming a damaged wrist, received a fortunate draw (plus a broken jaw) against Raymundo Beltran, got schooled by Terence Crawford and was dropped and beaten by unexceptional Dejan Zlaticanin.
He moved up to light-welter for the Lepelley fight and once more boxes at 140 against Figueroa, a former WBC lightweight champ who is unbeaten in 25 fights (one draw). Brawler Omar has been involved in several wars and it’s not hard to hit, which would have made him the perfect opponent for a younger, fresher Ricky Burns. Problem is, this Burns is 32 years old and with plenty of miles on the clock.
It’s been well reported how Burns now has financial worries after legal battles with Frank Warren, who guided him to world title status. (Burns moved over to Eddie Hearn, who has got him and Jamie McDonnell on this Haymon show). One imagines he is getting well paid for this non-title 10-rounder, which could turn out to be a long and difficult afternoon for the Scot. Let’s hope Burns does himself justice in the Lone Star State.