Ricky Burns stops Nicky Cook in first round to retain WBO crown
Ricky Burns retained his WBO super-featherweight title in bizarre circumstances with a first-round defeat of Dagenham veteran Nicky Cook.
The 28-year-old Scot had Cook in trouble with his first punch, as the challenger twisted to try to avoid a right to the body after six seconds.
The former world champion was clearly in pain but continued until his corner threw in the towel after 93 seconds.
Cook was stretchered from the ring and later diagnosed with a prolapsed disc.
Although Cook, who has a history of back trouble, appeared to be injured as much by an attempt to avoid taking a punch as from the punch itself, Burns insisted the shot to the ribs had been good enough to hurt his opponent.
"It was a shot right on his ribs and I felt him go straightaway. I wouldn't be surprised if he's got a broken rib too," he said.
"I said I wanted to go out fast at the start and obviously the first punch was a good one.
"I'm sure Nicky was prepared properly. He wanted to win, but it was a good shot."
This was Burns' third title defence since winning the belt from Roman Martinez in September last year in Glasgow.
His promoter Frank Warren chose to take his man on the road, to the Echo Arena in Liverpool, to increase his exposure to boxing fans around the UK.
But he simply did not have the opportunity to win any new admirers, such was the brevity of the bout against Cook, who had fought only once since March 2009.
After Burns' opening attack left 31-year-old Cook hopping in agony and with his back turned on the champion, there seemed little prospect of the fight lasting until the end of the first round.
And so it proved as twice more Cook, with a record of 30 wins in 32 fights coming into this bout, was sent to the canvas, plainly unable to carry on and relying on referee Phil Edwards for protection.
Burns' trainer Billy Nelson had said earlier in the week that his fighter was in the best shape of his career and that Cook would "have his hands full" when he entered the ring with the Coatbridge fighter. In contrast, Cook had revealed the extent of his back problems in an interview with the Daily Telegraph on Friday, saying: "When it comes I have to take a step back, stop training and it until it goes away again. I can manage it, though."
Burns, who looked in excellent condition and prepared for a gruelling contest was left with conflicting emotions after the bout: a sense of relief at retaining his belt but dejection, too, that he was unable to show off his skills after months of training.
His focus now will be to win the Ring Magazine belt, the so-called "Rocky belt" that he craves, which he can do if he can secure a bout with, and beat, South Africa's Mzonke Fana.
The Ring Magazine belt is awarded to the best fighter in each weight division but, despite his standing with that publication, Fana has been stripped of his IBF title after failing to make a defence.