WE LIVE in an age where superlatives are bandied around to the degree that they become meaningless, but this was far from the case in Glasgow where “The Battle of The Legends” was exactly as billed.
To repeat any of last week’s BN preview would take up valuable column inches, but the achievements of Ricky Burns and Willie Limond inside the squared circle have made them bona fide legends to the public of Scotland. And this bout, ultimately won in eight by Burns, provided one last chance to see these heroes box in the flesh.
The event garnered much attention in the build-up and had the feel of a formal passing of the baton, with shared opponent and former WBO belt-holder Alex Arthur on punditry duties for the BBC, Josh Taylor, John Ryder, Lee McGregor and Nathaniel Collins among the active fighters in attendance, and the supporting bouts featuring some of the country’s best prospects.
Both fighters are coaches for Boxing Scotland, and clearly get along, but any friendship was put on hold the moment this contest was announced. Furthermore, anyone still harbouring thoughts that this was going to be an exhibition was rapidly disabused of that notion in the opening seconds as Limond immediately found Burns with a straight right and took ring centre. The two then exchanged leather throughout the opener as Burns circled and calculated his range before periodically foraying with jabs to the head and long rights to the body of Limond who, incredibly, had shed four stones in weight for the contest.
That pattern continued for most of the second, but it was apparent from that early stage that Burns, who at 40 was four years his opponent’s junior, was the sharper of the two. He utilised his still excellent footwork to regularly change direction, forcing Garthamlock’s Limond to constantly reset his own stance in an effort to catch the Coatbridge fighter. Burns, in turn, increased the regularity of his attacks and vied to take ring centre for himself.
The action ebbed and flowed, with each fighter’s successes triggering the other to retaliate in kind but, although the best punch of the third round was a right that found a home behind Burns’ guard and momentarily stiffened his legs, the tide of the contest shifted in this stanza when a shot from the favourite looked to break Limond’s nose. The resulting bleeding proved deeply problematic for Limond for the remainder of the contest.
Burns targeted both this injury and his opponent’s body in an attempt to break his stamina and resolve, but Limond spat defiance and, to his great credit, never stopped pushing forward, catching Burns with a cracking right hand counter in the fourth, although the former three-weight ‘world’ belt-holder showed his famed durability persists by shaking off the effects within seconds and going straight back to work.
As the contest unfolded, Burns’ successes grew more frequent, including the punch of the fight – a textbook right uppercut in the sixth – as Limond’s face became a mess, with both fighters, on occasion, slipping on the blood-soaked canvas. Limond’s corner fought valiantly to stem the flow, but his discomfort and irritation was escalating to distress as he struggled to breathe between sessions.
The level of fatigue Limond was enduring was apparent to all, but he is a fighter through and through and it took the compassion of referee Victor Laughlin, met with knowing and accepting looks from his corner, to put a stop to the contest at the end of the eighth round. Burns went straight to Limond’s corner, and the two fighters hugged and showed mutual respect, friends once more after sharing a brutal contest of will, skills and heart.
Post-fight Limond announced that this was the end of the road for him, with Burns reticent to make the same commitment and evidently harbouring hopes of another contest to come. However, with his long-declared wish to return to Glasgow for a final victorious outing fulfilled, there could be no more fitting end to a long, hard, and stellar career than this one. Mission well and truly accomplished.
The chief-support in a stacked nine-bout undercard was Jack Turner facing Cumbernauld’s Andy Tham for the vacant Scottish featherweight title. Turner is a known puncher in the gym and had vowed to stop Tham in the first half of the fight, but it was evident from the opening seconds that this would not be easy to accomplish. Tham went straight to work with blistering hand speed and, in the end, proved that he was the puncher by putting Turner on the canvas in the third before unleashing a right in the sixth which caught the Glasgow fighter under the ear and, with his legs at sea, Kenny McIntyre displayed top class refereeing by intervening at 2-24 before any more punishment could be administered.
Knockdown of the night was scored by Newarthill’s Martin Crossan. One right hand to the jaw left Elgin’s Andrew Smart scrambling on the canvas, so much so that he had to twice get up before proceeding. Crossan would not let him off the hook and floored him heavily again, with Kenny Pringle waving the fight off with only two seconds of the first round remaining and Crossan retaining his Scottish lightweight title.
Mr Pringle also supervised early finishes from Matt McHale (Edinburgh), who battered a severely overmatched Steven Maguire (Middleton) in four rounds (1-55), and Commonwealth bronze medallist Tyler Jolly (Dumfries), who beat the resistance out of Greenland’s Frank Madsen, who was rescued at 2-30 of the fourth. Glasgow’s Reece Porter produced the night’s other stoppage when, after knocking down Lithuania’s Egidijus Zukas, he followed up with a flurry of concussive blows which persuaded Mr McIntyre to stop the contest after just 84 seconds.
McIntyre also oversaw: Willie’s son Jake Limond of Glasgow impressing with a second-round knockdown and wide 60-53 points victory over Christchurch’s Stefan Vincent; Dundee’s Charlie Doig displayed his growing skillset, outpointing Wolverhampton’s game Clayton Bricknell by a score of 78-74; and Josh Campbell of Cardonald knocking down and easily outpointing Polish visitor Jakub Laskowski. Stirling’s Taylor Coyle, meanwhile, looked lucky to share the spoils – Mr Pringle scoring 38-38 – with Ukrainian Artem Liashevych.
THE VERDICT: Burns shows he has more left than Limond but that shouldn’t persuade him to go again. This was the perfect goodbye.