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Page last updated at 09:56 GMT, Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Good times for Scottish boxing

WBO super-featherweight champion Ricky Burns
WBO super-featherweight Burns is expected back in the ring in spring

By Jim Black

January is traditionally a time for reflection, analysis and prophecy. In the case of Scottish boxing, the prognosis is good.

Ricky Burns and John Simpson combined to see out the old year in style when they beat the big freeze with a stunning December double.

Having produced a Kelvin Hall classic in September to claim the WBO super-featherweight crown from Puerto Rican Roman Martinez, Burns followed up by making a successful first defence against Norwegian Andreas Evensen.

The 27-year-old Coatbridge star's points win over Evensen at Braehead at the start of last month lacked the drama and excitement of his super-show against Martinez.

But Burns was a comfortable winner nonetheless, and when Greenock featherweight Simpson followed up by ending Ulsterman Martin Lindsay's reign as British champion 12 days later there was plenty to celebrate.

Simpson, also 27, defied the odds at Belfast's Kings Hall to secure a unanimous points win, just as Burns had done against Martinez and Evensen.

Lightweight legend Jim Watt summed up Burns' display in glowing terms, describing it as "a truly outstanding performance".

"To be the underdog and get decked in the opening round by the first decent punch and then get back up and win takes real courage," said Watt.

John Simpson
Simpson may go after a European title this year

"You also need to show character to put that sort of setback out of your mind and carry on and Burns has plenty of that. Martinez simply couldn't handle him."

Simpson had surrendered his Commonwealth crown to newcomer Stephen Smith on the undercard of the Burns bill.

But, faced with a win-or-bust showdown against Lindsay, Simpson responded in the style of a true champion to force the critics to eat their words.

With Lee McAllister still in possession of the Commonwealth lightweight crown, Simpson could be the man to complete the set after Watt urged him to target the European title.

McAllister has been sidelined since last January when he made a successful if unconvincing defence against Ghanaian Samuel Amoako at Bellahouston Sports Centre.

But fight boss Tommy Gilmour hopes to have the 28-year-old self-styled Aberdeen Assassin back in action in April, now that McAllister appears to have recovered from an elbow injury.

Gilmour also expressed optimism that Scottish boxing will ride out the current recession and emerge stronger than the pound.

He said: "I genuinely believe that the sport is in as healthy as state as it has been at any time over the past decade. There is no need to talk boxing up because we have three champions and a second tier coming through.

"For a small country like ours to have world, British and Commonwealth champions is exceptional, and I am personally very excited about the future.

"In addition to Burns, Simpson and McAllister, Callum Johnson looks to be a very promising prospect, albeit he is still in the embryo stage of his career."

Lightweight Ryan Brawley, light-middleweight Kris Carslaw, welterweight Jamie McLevy, super-bantamweight Davey Savage and featherweight Michael Roberts are all undefeated and Gilmour anticipates that at least three of them will be in British title contention.

Alex Arthur
Former champ Arthur is on the comeback trail

Delhi hero Johnson lived up to the hype surrounding him following his Commonwealth Games gold medal-winning performance at light-heavyweight when he stopped Ulsterman Phillip Townley in four minutes 34 seconds of his pro debut.

Regrettably, there was a major upset on the Braehead undercard when former British featherweight champion Paul Appleby bombed against Ghana's Joseph Laryea.

Appleby had promised much before losing to Lindsay in Belfast in April 2009, but his points defeat cost him the vacant WBO inter-Continental super-featherweight title and a probable shot at Burns.

Edinburgh super-middleweight Kenny Anderson, 27, suffered a first career defeat at the hands of George Groves in a Commonwealth title bout.

But the 2006 Commonwealth Games gold medallist had the champion down and rocking from a series of head shots prior to his sixth round stoppage, so look for Anderson to bounce back.

Another capital fighter, former WBO super-featherweight champion Alex Arthur ditched Frank Warren as his promoter at the start of last year but then made up with the London fight boss.

Arthur, who insists that he can regain his status as a world champion, proceeded to chalk up points wins over Peter McDonagh and Jay Morris.

Paisley welterweight Kevin McIntyre won the vacant Celtic title against Stephen Haughian, while fellow Buddie Carslaw became British Masters champion when he stopped Terry Carruthers at Scotstoun Sports Campus to record a 12th straight win.

And with the likes of Burns, Simpson and McAllister leading from the front, there are grounds for optimism that the seeds of success will sprout and grow in the coming months.

Indeed, with Burns and Simpson due out again in early spring and McAllister expected to progress to a European title shot, Scottish boxing may be on the cusp of a new golden age.

see also
Scots boxers punch above weight
24 Dec 10 |  Scotland
Simpson takes title from Lindsay
15 Dec 10 |  Boxing
Dominant Burns retains WBO title
04 Dec 10 |  Boxing
New kids on the boxing block
28 Nov 10 |  Boxing
Hamed tips Johnson for world belt
18 Nov 10 |  Boxing

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