Ricky Burns eyes Adrien Broner bout after painful WBA world title defence

By Keir MurrayBBC Scotland
Kiryl Relikh and Ricky Burns exchange ferocious body punches in their 12-round bout
Kiryl Relikh and Ricky Burns exchange ferocious body punches in their 12-round bout

With his courageous win over Kiryl Relikh at Glasgow's SSE Hydro, Ricky Burns provided the tonic that Scottish boxing needed following the shocking death of Dundee welterweight Mike Towell a week ago.

A short walk from the hotel where Towell was carried from the ring on a stretcher after his ill-fated bout, the country's top fighter again proved what makes him such a draw and, to its devotees at least, what makes the sport so thrilling.

Towell was remembered with applause as MC Craig Stephen instructed the bell to be tolled 10 times.

It was a particularly powerful moment that threw into relief the danger boxers such as Burns and Relikh are willing to face to fulfil their sporting dreams.

Bruised, but still the champion

Coatbridge boxer Burns, 33, is Scotland's first three-weight world champion, having beaten Michele Di Rocco in May to become world champion at 10st to add to earlier world titles at super-featherweight and lightweight.

His success is a result of hard work, bravery, fast reflexes and sporting talent.

Ricky Burns clasps his WBA world super-lightweight belt as Ricky Hatton removes his tough fighter's gloves
Ricky Burns clasped his WBA world super-lightweight belt in Glasgow

He puts his body through all sorts of torment to stay at the top - fighting with a broken jaw against Raymundo Beltran, suffering a suspected perforated ear drum in the second round against Relikh - but emerges each time with modesty and refreshing honesty.

Asked how he was feeling after win number 41 from his 47 professional bouts, Burns replied: "Sore."

Indeed, his arms were too painful to hold the belt aloft for the BBC TV camera at the post-fight news conference.

"He could bang," Burns said of his talented adversary, the mandatory challenger.

"From the first bell to the last, he made me work for that. He was a very big hitter. He'll definitely come again. He's a good fighter."

The bellicose Belarusian

Belarusian Relikh, 26, has been of late based in Manchester, where he is trained by Ricky Hatton, a former holder of the WBA belt. Pre-fight, Hatton had described Relikh as "a lovely lad" but with "a real nasty streak in him".

All but two of his 21 victories (no losses or draws prior to the Burns bout) had been by knockout, but in Burns he was facing a classier fighter than any of his previous opponents and one with almost six times as many rounds under his belt.

That experience told as Burns kept on the move to avoid, as he put it, "being dragged into a war".

Kiryl Relikh hits Ricky Burns in Glasgow
Few observers at the Hydro would begrudge Belarusian Kiryl Relikh another shot at a world title

"There were a couple of times when he shook me with body shots and head shots, but I managed to hide it from him and I stuck to my tactics and stayed on my bike," said Burns.

"The plan was to keep it long and stick to boxing and I felt I did that for most of the fight."

While one judge, remarkably, gave Burns the fight by 118-110 and another two scored it 116-112, Burns himself felt he had won by "three or four rounds".

He praised Relikh's prodigious work-rate and stamina - the first time he had been past eight rounds - but felt his own punches were the cleaner.

Burns' Essex-based trainer, Tony Sim, revealed part of his instructions.

"The tactic was always to move away from the left hook," he said. "It was a good thing. We worked on taking the left hook on the glove then reacting."

What's next for Burns?

While Burns admitted he had to use his "poker face" to mask the effects of Relikh's punches, he will rely on the nerve of his promoter, Eddie Hearn, to land him a lucrative second defence, possibly against Cincinnati's Adrien Broner in December or at the start of 2017.

"Broner, I think, is top of his list, but you never know who is going to be on the phone next week," Burns told BBC Scotland.

Adrien Broner has twice been stripped of belts
Adrien Broner has twice been stripped of world titles

"There are some big fights out there. I'll fight anyone they want, especially if there is big money involved and if it's Las Vegas.

"I would love to box in one of those big hotels. It's something I've always wanted to do."

Hearn remarked that, far from Broner, who was stripped of the WBA belt earlier this year, keeping his promise of being ringside in Glasgow, he had seen pictures of him on social media "in some club or something like that".

"I think the Broner fight is a great fight for Ricky," said the promoter.

"He deserves that big fight in America and I think he wins the fight as well. There are a few things to tinker with with the deal - we want some more money.

"I'm very confident (of it happening), but there may be another fight that comes up.

"He's in a great position, he's world champion. If they want a shot, they've got to pay for it, especially at this stage of his career. Who knows how many fights he's got left?"

"I've still got a few in me," quipped the champion.

Should he successfully defend his title against someone of Broner's calibre, Scotland may have to declare a second annual Burns Night.