The Renaissance of the ‘Rickster’ Ricky Burns

September 4th, 2010. In what many considered to be one of the fights of the year, Scotland’s Ricky Burns engaged in a twelve round war against a then undefeated Roman Martinez for the WBO super-featherweight World Title.

A fight in which many predicted he would be KO’d by the heavy handed Puerto Rican, Burns utilised his snap-fast jab and ring awareness to push the often aggressive Martinez onto the back foot numerous times and even held his own when the pair exchanged combinations toe-to-toe.

With an exceptionally vocal Glaswegian crowd rallying him on, Burns overcame a few bumps and close calls before the final bell when he lifted the belt from a broken Martinez via unanimous decision.

As expected, the crowd simultaneously erupted as the words ‘and the new’ washed over an emotional newly crowned champ. The reign of ‘The Rickster’ had begun.

It was a legitimate reign, too. Not just another single defence before being knocked off your podium by a younger, hungrier fighter.

No, Burns amassed a praiseworthy three successful title defences before moving up and picking up the WBO Lightweight belt along the way against considerable opposition in Aussie bomber Michael Katsidis and an entertaining, barnstorming defence against fellow Brit Kevin ‘Mighty’ Mitchell would light up Glasgow once again.

In short, the Scotsman was looking very good. A lot better than many expected. Sadly, as we are all aware, nothing lasts forever.

September 7th, 2013 was an awkward night for the Scottish native. Despite numerous hard losses, Mexican mauler Raymundo Beltran had managed to land himself a shot at Burns’ belt.

In one of his more predictably difficult nights, Burns spent a good amount of his thirty-six minutes in the ring fending off the advances of the vigorously hard-hitting and much improved Beltran after he apparently broke Burns’ jaw in the second round.

While Burns did look impressive at times, firing back intermittent heavy combinations, it’s almost undeniable to claim that Beltran wasn’t producing the better work or landing the better shots.

The final bell came and the expectedly pro Burns contingent in Glasgow didn’t seem quite as vocally prominent as they had at the end of previous Burns bouts. You could tell none of them were certain of a sunshine and rainbows result for their champion.

All was not lost.

Burns found himself retaining his title thanks to a controversial draw from the judges’ scorecards. This, however, sparked a chain reaction which would ultimately lead to Burns, one of the nicest and most genuine men in the sport, being vilified by many overseas.

These included the prominent sports writer Dan Rafael who voiced his outrage via satellite on Sky Sports’ Ringside in one of his more memorable appearances on the programme.

Now considered an illegitimate champion by many, where to go from here? Not one to ever dodge a challenge, Burns would next face undefeated American prospect Terence ‘Bud’ Crawford.

In a very respectable but ultimately losing effort, Burns dropped his belt to Crawford and this time the decision was unanimous.

Perhaps due to ring rust or simply struggling to find the same snap in his shots as he used to, Burns didn’t quite look like the fighter we were used to seeing.

Having said that, knowing what we know now about the talents of Crawford and considering his current pound for pound status, this fight may have earned Burns back some of the respect he lost from the Beltran debacle.

He didn’t complain about the result, nor was he knocked out by the much faster and more skilled challenger. He simply took it on the chin as all good fighters should.

Perhaps then in his best post-title performance, Burns kept the action close to Omar Figueroa for the most part keeping his gloves high and working well on the inside:

(Full fight via PBC):

Burns also managed to hold his own when things weren’t so close, sticking his jab out well like the Burns of old. Figueroa brought his own brand of punishment just as effectively.

One of my favourite fights of that year, Figueroa would go on to win via unanimous decision. Not much controversy to speak of, but personally I scored the fight 115-113 in favour of Burns, and I’m probably the only one.

I found too much to admire from his consistent pressure not to score the close rounds in his favour. Despite the loss, Burns was rejuvenated. He proved he could still mix it up at this level and on foreign soil nonetheless.

‘The Rickster’ was back. The renaissance begun. A homecoming title shot loomed. Or so it seemed.

After overcoming two more competent but overmatched challengers in England, Burns earned himself one more shot at glory.

Brash American Adrien ‘The Problem’ Broner had been stripped of his title

on the scales before his fight against Ashley Theophane, a fight he would go on to win by TKO, meaning the WBA was obliged to make a championship match without Broner’s involvement.

Enter Ricky Burns and Michele DiRocco.

The pair came to blows on May 28th for the WBA Super Lightweight title earlier this year.

Somewhat unexpectedly Burns completely outclassed a sluggish-looking DiRocco over seven rounds and finally stopped him in the eighth, becoming Scotland’s first ever three weight world champion in the process.

As I have said, Burns is widely recognised as one of the ‘good guys’ of world boxing, a genuine gentleman fighter, so it’s nice to see him overcome the recent difficulty that seems to have plagued his distinguished career.

Should he be able to overcome his first defence this Saturday, it is expected a fight with former champ Adrien Broner will be made for early in the new year.

Considering the pair are polar opposites when it comes to their etiquette and attitude inside the ring and out, and even though it’s highly improbable, it would please nobody more than me to see the renaissance of ‘The Rickster’ continue in the form of a sweet-as-can-be KO…

“And still…”

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