By Mark Gillespie
GLASWEGIAN Ricky Burns confirmed his status as one of Britain’s finest boxers on the world stage, with a unanimous points victory over Michael Katsidis at Wembley Arena on November 5th. 28-year-old Burns won the vacant WBO interim title in his first fight as a lightweight following his successful reign as WBO super-featherweight titlist. However, this was no easy night for Burns. His opponent, the 31-year-old Katsidis is a genuine world-class operator, who has faced the majority of the world‘s elite fighters at lightweight. The 5‘7 rugged Australian is notorious for his relentless, come-forward aggression and this was easily the toughest assignment in Burns’ career to date.
Burns (33 wins out of 35 fights) controlled the early rounds well, firing out his left jab with pinpoint accuracy and effectively keeping the charging Katsidis at bay. The rampant Aussie set a furious pace but Burns coped well, showing tremendous mental fortitude to compliment his boxing ability. With his nifty footwork, the Scot displayed impressive ring generalship and consistently landed eye-catching uppercuts on the head and body of his opponent.
The first four rounds clearly belonged to Burns, but Katsidis, who goes by the nickname of “The Great” in reference to his Greek heritage, came back strongly in the mid-to-late sessions. Whenever he finally managed to trap Burns on the ropes, Katsidis would unleash a barrage of powerful blows and although few of them penetrated the tight guard of Burns, he landed some vicious looking shots to the body that undoubtedly took their toll as the fight went on. As each round began, Burns dictated the rhythm by throwing his jab, often in doubles and triples, whilst trying to control the pace with his footwork. Katsidis, as always, charged forward and never stopped throwing punches in bunches. It is this crowd-pleasing style along with an extremely affable personality, that has made the Australian fighter such a popular figure in world boxing.
Entering the late rounds, it appeared like the frantic pace was finally catching up on both men. Round ten was a clear round to Katsidis and for a moment, there was apprehension amongst the majority of the Wembley Arena and a fear that the tiring Burns might capitulate under the relentless assault of his adversary. The Coatbridge man however, dug deep and in the championship rounds he alternated between standing his ground and utilising his elusive boxing skill to pull out the victory.
The three judges scored the fight clearly in favour of Burns: 117-112, 117-111 and 117-111.
With the victory, Burns gained the interim WBO title at lightweight and is currently awaiting the decision of Mexican boxing legend, Juan-Manuel Marquez, who owns the full WBO lightweight as to whether or not Burns will be his next opponent. Should Marquez vacate the title, Burns will be installed as champion. Whoever he fights next, Burns is now a respected player in the higher echelons of world boxing. He carries the torch passed down by Scottish boxing greats such as Ken Buchanan, Jim Watt and in more recent times, Scott Harrison and Alex Arthur. It is Burns however, who is the man of the moment and he is particularly keen to bring his next fight, scheduled for early 2012, back home to Glasgow.
“The fans up here (in Scotland) are unbelievable,” said Burns.
Whatever happens and wherever it takes place, the next chapter of the Ricky Burns story looks set to provide Scottish boxing with an exciting start to 2012.