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Page last updated at 01:46 GMT, Sunday, 13 March 2011

Ricky Burns eyes unification bout with IBF champion

Ricky Burns connects with an uppercut against Joseph Laryea
Burns connects with an uppercut against the awkward Ghanaian Laryea

By Keir Murray
BBC Scotland at Braehead Arena

What would seem a reasonable reward for a world champion after retaining his belt?

A holiday in the sun? Perhaps a spot of self-indulgence in shops and restaurants?

Not for Ricky Burns.

Scotland's WBO super-featherweight champion will take no more than one week's rest at home before resuming his pugilistic duties as sparring partner for British lightweight champion John Simpson ahead of his bout against Commonwealth belt holder Stephen Smith.

It typifies the Lanarkshire fighter's down-to-earth manner and his attitude to his profession.

"Boxing is what I love to do," he said after successfully defending his title against Joseph Laryea in Glasgow on Saturday.

"If I could fight every month I would do it."

Burns dreams of 'the Rocky belt'

It is hard to believe it is only six months since Burns beat Roman Martinez to win the title at Glasgow's Kelvin Hall.

In that time, the unassuming 27-year-old has seen his image plastered across billboards in the city, his message of good luck has been played at a packed Hampden Park to motivate the national football team, and he has had to get used to strangers stopping him in the street for his autograph.

Embarrassed by the attention, Burns has kept his Saturday job in a sports shop to keep himself grounded and has focused on improving as a boxer.

His Ghanaian challenger resisted for seven rounds before being retired by his flamboyant trainer with a broken knuckle in his right hand prior to commencement of the eighth.

"I am very pleased with the way that went," said Burns after the bout in front of about 2,500 fans.

"The first couple of rounds were a bit awkward. His reach is a lot longer than you think; he had a real reach advantage over me.

Once I took the centre of the ring, the fight was over

WBO super-featherweight champion Ricky Burns

"We had worked on trying to keep the punches long and straight and, when we got the chance, banging them into the body, but also doubling up to head and body.

"In the last couple of rounds I upped the pace and it got the job done.

"As I was going back to the corner at the end of the seventh round I knew he only had another couple of rounds in him because in the two rounds before it, after every combination I threw, he was looking away from me and I got the feeling he didn't want to be there.

"So I think it was a fair thing to do for the corner to pull him out."

Burns had risen above the nonsense coming from the West African's camp in the build-up: the witch doctor's curse on a pigeon, Laryea's promise to the Scot to "gut him like a pig", and the throat-slitting gesture at their media conference.

Instead, he got his head - and chin - down in Billy Nelson's gym and refused to watch footage of the 25-yard-old from Accra, whose record of four defeats in 18 bouts, coupled with his dismantling of Paul Appleby last year, were enough to make Saturday's bout an interesting prospect.

"He's not a one-punch knockout artist but he was a hard puncher, because when I was getting caught I could feel them," confessed the champion in his changing room.

"He was being dirty with his head, coming in quite low, but we expected a tough fight.

"When I thought I was out of distance he was catching me with the odd jab and the big right hands.

"You've got to dictate the whole fight, which he never got the chance to do with me. Once I took the centre of the ring, the fight was over."

Burns is hoping for a unification fight with Mzonke Fana
Burns hopes to fight IBF champ Mzonke Fana and be rated as number one by Ring Magazine

Though Burns never looked in trouble, Laryea's snappy jab, eager right and appetite for the fight tested the Scot for at least five rounds.

Laryea was warned by the referee for use of his arm in the sixth as the home fighter stepped up a gear and it was in that round that his opponent showed the first signs of breathing heavily.

A big left hook to the jaw from Burns in the seventh produced a roar from the fight fans that seemed to motivate the belt holder to inflict further pain before the bell sounded.

Yet for all Burns had upped the tempo and one suspected the Ghanaian had peaked, it did come as a surprise when he was pulled out of the fight.

Laryea's bravery was plain for all to see in those seven rounds, yet the suspicion remains that had he been bossing the fight and not Burns, his corner would not have called a halt.

"Maybe them pulling him out with a sore hand was a wee excuse," was Burns' assessment of the stoppage.

With 31 wins and two defeats, Burns's next fight could be a title unification bout with the South African Mzonke Fana, the IBF champion.

Victory in that would bring the added bonus of another prestigious title.

"Everybody knows that I would love to fight for that Ring Magazine belt," said Burns.

"In the ratings they've got Mzonke Fana number one and I am number two.

"I am sure he would love to unify the division. Any boxer would love to fight for that 'Rocky belt', as we call it. It's the one I want. I would love to have that wrapped round my waist.

Ricky looks to Rocky for inspiration

"I was reading from his camp that they were saying all (promoter) Frank Warren has to do is get in touch with him, so fingers crossed he can pull it off."

And the venue?

"Airdrie Stadium would be ideal - it's only five minutes from my house and I am sure we can get it packed out with 15,000."

Perfect. That way Burns could get home with the minimum of fuss.

see also
Burns sees off Laryea challenge
12 Mar 11 |  Boxing
Burns plays down best Scot label
08 Mar 11 |  Boxing
Burns confident of title defence
11 Mar 11 |  Scotland
DeGale on Burns world title bill
08 Mar 11 |  Boxing
Burns fight unrealistic for Walsh
01 Mar 11 |  Boxing
Ricky looks to Rocky for inspiration
24 Feb 11 |  Scotland
Burns shrugs off Laryea warning
24 Jan 11 |  Boxing

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