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Ricky Burns awaits title destiny

Commonwealth super-featherweight champion Ricky Burns
Commonwealth super-featherweight champion Burns is desperate for a title bout

Jim Black
By Jim Black

If patience is a virtue, Ricky Burns, the Commonwealth super-featherweight champion from Coatbridge, can probably consider himself blessed.

Burns has endured six months of uncertainty and broken promises with a fortitude and dignity that says much about the 27-year-old's ability to cope with adversity.

The idea of Burns challenging Roman "Rocky" Martinez for the Puerto Rican's World Boxing Organisation title was first proposed towards the tail end of last year, when he was installed as mandatory challenger.

This led to the WBO issuing a warning to Burns that, were he to undertake a warm-up bout in Newcastle at the start of December, it would put his world title ambitions in jeopardy.

Not surprisingly, Burns heeded the sanctioning body's advice and, shortly afterwards, it was announced that the Scot would venture into Martinez's back yard the following month.

But promoter Frank Warren, who wisely secured an option on Martinez when he defeated Alex Arthur's conqueror, Nicky Cook, to claim the title, managed to persuade the champion to relinquish home advantage.

Since then, the bout has been subject to a series of delays and cancellations almost on a monthly basis, giving rise to speculation that it may not happen.

Martinez, for his part, went ahead with a voluntary defence against Nicaraguan Gonzalo Munguia on 29 May. Inevitably, Martinez prevailed by dint of a fourth-round knock-out.

Now there is talk of him pursuing a unification bout of some description or moving up a weight division, making the prospect of a showdown with Burns more unlikely.

Even more frustrating for Burns is the fact that he has rejected several alternate bouts in the intervening period, including one against undefeated Gary Sykes for the Yorkshireman's British crown.

Sykes made a successful defence against Kevin O'Hara last month instead and duly won a unanimous points decision. Interestingly, Burns also defeated O'Hara in the latest of his three Commonwealth defences a year ago.

The Scot has fought only once since last June, in the middle of May when he chipped off his ring rust in a non-title bout against Syrian Youssef Al Hamidi at West Ham's Upton Park, scoring a decisive points win over his rival.

The plan now is for Burns to appear on a Warren bill, at Glasgow's Kelvin Hall on 17 July, featuring Commonwealth featherweight champion John Simpson of Greenock.

All well and good, but Burns confessed: "It is difficult remaining patient for such a length of time, so I was glad to get the fight with Al Hamidi the way the Martinez situation has dragged on.

"I am still waiting for confirmation of a date and I do feel frustrated, especially as I have turned down other fights. Knowing that I could have been British champion by now niggles, because I would have fancied myself against Sykes.

Roman "Rocky" Martinez
Burns awaits a WBO title fight against Roman "Rocky" Martinez

"But Frank Warren has assured me that the Martinez fight will eventually happen. That's providing he does not carry out his threat to have a unification bout or move up to lightweight, of course.

"If the latter were to happen, I presume I would fight for the vacant title."

Burns, a time-served motor mechanic, is currently working part-time in a sports shop in an effort to keep the wolf from the door after pointing out: "Boxers only get paid when they fight and I haven't had regular work of late. So, yes, there has been a degree of financial pressure.

"Thank goodness for the Al Hamidi fight. The money has come in handy and I think I also proved that night that I am a more mature boxer who is starting to come forward more."

According to the boxer's trainer, Billy Nelson, Burns has been downing his sparring partners with such regularity that some have declined to return for seconds.

Naturally, Burns is keen to demonstrate his new-found power in a title bout and will be happy to step up to the plate to face Sykes should, as he suspects, he is kept waiting until late summer at the earliest to confront Martinez, if at all.

"Like all boxers, my ambition is to win a world title, but I would be happy to contest any title and Sykes is on my radar," he said. "I guess if that one was to happen, it would also involve my Commonwealth belt and I wouldn't have a problem with that.

"Hopefully, if I am on the bill at the Kelvin Hall, I will be defending my Commonwealth title at least. Then we'll see what happens after that."

Meanwhile, although 27-year-old Martinez boasts a highly impressive record of 24 wins and one draw, Burns' own statistics stand favourable comparison with the elusive Rocky.

He has suffered only two defeats in 30 paid bouts, to Carl Johanneson, for the Lonsdale Belt, and to fellow Scot Arthur when the Edinburgh man put his British, European and Commonwealth titles on the line in 2006.

But Burns, much younger and far less experienced, was not disgraced in either contest.

see also
Lack of bouts frustrates Simpson
30 Apr 10 |  Boxing
Scottish boxing is fighting fit
25 Jan 10 |  Scotland
Burns overcomes O'Hara in Glasgow
19 Jun 09 |  Boxing
Burns retains title against Gomez
27 Mar 09 |  Boxing
Cook loses WBO title to Martinez
14 Mar 09 |  Boxing

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