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Ricky Burns: ‘Maybe when I retire, I’ll step back and think I done alright’

Ricky Burns
Action Images/Reuters/Tony O'Brien
But former three weight world champion Ricky Burns has no plan to stop any time soon. He speaks to John Dennen ahead of his clash with Lee Selby

RICKY BURNS has had a long, punishing career in boxing. Now 36 years old, he’s been fighting professionally since 2001 and yet his enthusiasm for the sport appears to be undimmed. “I was 12 when I had my first amateur fight. Ever since then I’ve just been hooked on it. It’s all I’ve ever wanted to do. When I’m out and about people are asking me, ‘What will you do when you stop boxing?’ I’ve not even thought about it. I still think I’ve still got a few years left in me,” the Scotsman told Boxing News. “I’ll know myself when it’s time to pack it in. I can still dish it out as good as I’m getting when I’m in the gym. When I’m in fights as well. I’ve definitely got a few years left in me yet.”

He insists he is not formulating a retirement plan. “I love it. My attitude towards boxing has not changed since I started it. I still enjoy the fighting mostly, I enjoy the training, I enjoy getting up in the morning, doing sprints with everybody that I train with. I enjoy all that. Obviously the fight night’s the best bit. The only bad thing is dieting but I’m sure every boxer will tell you that. That’s the only bit that annoys me sometimes. I keep saying to myself I’ll keep fighting as long as I’m not taking too many punches and do you know, even in the gym that’s where you would find out. Because all the guys that I’ve been sparring with [are good]. Joe Cordina, Conor Benn, Martin Ward, we’re all round about the same weight so we spar quite often. So if there was a point where I was taking too many punches, it would definitely happen in the gym. I would know myself. But I can hold my own. So all good,” Burns said.

He does have a major fight looming. Burns will box fellow ex-IBF featherweight titlist Lee Selby on the undercard of Josh Taylor’s October 26 super-lightweight unification against Regis Prograis at the O2 Arena in London.

“These are the kind of fights I want, he’s a big name, a former world champion himself. This could put me right back in there. But obviously I can’t look past this,” the man from Coatbridge said. “He’s got my full attention.”

Ricky Burns vs Kiryl Relikh
Burns became a three-weight world champion Action Images/Jason Cairnduff

Selby and Burns have history. The two sparred when the Scotsman was getting ready for his lightweight world title fight with Terence Crawford. “We knew he was flashy, switch hitting, we were expecting a good spar and that’s what we got. This time we’ll be doing it for real, no headguards, no big gloves so we’ll see how it goes,” Burns said. “When he came up [for sparring] I actually couldn’t believe the size of him. How did he do featherweight? Because he was bigger than me. Although I was on fight week I was still hovering about the 10 stone mark. He looked massive so he did.

“He was saying [recently] that he did struggle. The sparring sessions were good. Again I can go on that but, like I said, once we step through the ropes the best man on the night will win. I’m confident to get out there and get the job done.

“You’re meant to go in there [in sparring] practising, sharpening your tools obviously for the job. So I don’t really go on that. But like I said I’m confident I can go out there and get the win. In my eyes that’s the main thing.”

Although Selby has moved up two divisions, Burns is convinced that will be to the Welshman’s benefit. “That was years ago that we sparred and he was always big for featherweight. So I think that’s going to do him the world of good. Styles make fights, the spars we had, we gelled well. Everybody in the gym seemed to enjoy the spars so I’m sure the fans are going to love this fight,” Ricky said. “Throughout my career my attitude’s always been the same. A fight’s a fight. I will fight absolutely anybody. So if all goes well, get the win, we can start looking at the bigger names.”

He has already fought plenty of top level operators throughout his career, not least Terence Crawford who is a force up at welterweight and one of the best fighters in the world today. “He was a good fighter,” Burns said with some understatement. “I can remember during the fight once he sussed me out, he always seemed to be one step ahead of me. But technically he was just too clever. I’ve been in with some good fighters throughout my career, I’ve been in with some big punchers as well.”

Despite losses to high calibre fighters, Burns has achieved a great deal in the sport, winning three world titles in three weight classes. But he maintains he doesn’t feel under-appreciated. He won’t dwell on his reputation. “In my house my belts are in the spare room, in the cupboard,” he said. “Maybe when I stop boxing that’s when I might step back and say, ‘Aye I done alright.’ But now a fight’s a fight in my eyes. It doesn’t matter if I’m fighting Lee Selby or I’m fighting for a world title or I’m fighting a six rounder, my attitude towards the fight’s still the same. I want to go out there and get the win. In my eyes that’s all that matters.”

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