Ricky Burns ready for 'dangerous' Kiryl Relikh in title defence

By Richard WilsonBBC Scotland
Ricky Burns and Kiryl Relikh
Ricky Burns fights Kiryl Relikh in Glasgow on Friday

To Ricky Burns, his assignment at the Hydro in Glasgow is simply another opponent, another world title defence.

There are plenty of reasons to be wary of Kiryl Relikh, but Burns has never carried apprehension into any of his fights.

Friday night's bout will be Scot Burns' first defence of his WBA super-lightweight belt - the third weight at which he has held a world title - and there is a stark contrast between the two boxers.

Burns is experienced, a 33-year-old about to fight his 47th bout with 349 rounds behind him in his professional career, and a man at ease with his status and the demands of being a world champion.

Relikh, at 26, has only fought 21 times, across 61 rounds, although there ought to be regard given to 19 of those fights ending by knockout. It is clear that the Belarus boxer, who lives and trains in Manchester, is capable of powerful punching, but also that Burns is a step up in class from his previous opponents.

'A very dangerous defence'

The Scotsman is accustomed to dealing with the high stakes involved in a world title bout. The possibility of a high-profile and lucrative fight in Las Vegas with Adrian Broner, the former four-weight world champion, has been raised, but Burns is not susceptible to losing his focus.

"He is a consummate professional, he's very one-track minded and all he's thinking about is beating Kiryl Relikh and moving on," said Burns' promoter Eddie Hearns.

"He's in the best shape of his career so far, he's making the weight a lot better than he did at lightweight, and he's confident.

Eddie Hearns
Hearns believes Burns' experience will be crucial

"[It is] a really tough defence. He has got a fighter here who is relatively unknown. People will look at it on paper: Ricky Burns, three-weight world champion, this is going to be a nice home-town defence. Absolutely not.

"Kiryl Relikh can really punch, the first three or four rounds are going to be very dangerous for Ricky Burns. [By using] his experience, getting the jab working and tiring out Kiryl Relikh, I believe he'll stop him late in the fight, but it's a very dangerous defence."

Hatton: He's a real nasty fighter

Relikh is being trained and mentored by former world champion Ricky Hatton, and even stays in one of Hatton's houses in Manchester. Relikh does not speak enough English to talk without a translator, but Hatton has been an enthusiastic advocate of his fighter's ability.

The Belarusian has not fought to 12 rounds before, though, and will be fighting in a hostile environment in Glasgow.

"When it comes to this stage, a few days out before the fight, a boxer and a trainer have to look in the mirror and say, is there any more that we could have done? We looked in it this morning and we know there isn't any more we could have done," Hatton said. "We're ready.

"He's a nice, down-to-earth kid, but he is cold in his veins, he's a real nasty type of fighter. That's what you need in boxing. It's hard to convince a fellow who's had 19 knockouts out of 21 that you're not just going to be able to go in there and bash this guy. I think the message has hit home and if he uses his boxing ability then he'll win.

"It is going to be hostile, but he has an arrogance about him, when it comes to his ability. He'll warm to it rather than it work against him."

Ricky Hatton
Hatton won 32 of his 48 fights by knockout

Burns 'ready to deal with it'

Burns made the weight at the first attempt at the weigh-in, registering nine stones, 13 pounds and two ounces on the scales, while Relikh was initially over the 10st limit and was allowed an hour to drop enough weight to proceed with the title contest.

The drama strengthens the sense that Burns has the experience as well as the physical capability to take command of the bout. His sparring partners at Tony Sim's Essex gym talk of his professionalism, his endurance and commitment to his technique - boxing behind an insistent and relentless jab.

Burns will need all of his attributes when he climbs into the ring to face Relikh, but he ought to have more than enough to see off the challenger.

"Training's gone well," Burns said. "I was down in Essex for 11 weeks and we could not be happier with the way preparations have been going. We've been working on a few different things and Tony's been watching a lot of my opponent. Whatever's coming my way, we're going to be ready to deal with it.

"Although he's got all those knockouts, it's the level of opposition he's been knocking out. This is a step up in class for him. I don't know what kind of person he is outside the ring, how he's going to deal with it, but we've trained for a hard 12 rounds. All our sparring has gone well, so I'm 100% confident."

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