Glasgow has been the scene of many a feisty scrap on a Saturday night and the city's favourite fighting son, Ricky Burns produced a classic performance to retain his WBO world lightweight title with a victory over Londoner Kevin Mitchell that demonstrated he is now among Scotland's greatest ring artists.
Yet while Burns was favourite, the manner of his win was one that few could have predicted. Never noted as a puncher, the 29-year-old twice floored Mitchell with belting blows in an exhibition of box-fighting that stunned the 8,000 crowd last night at the SECC Arena as well as the bemused challenger.
Only one second of the fourth round remained when referee Terry O'Connor pushed himself between the fighters with Mitchell being battered on the ropes.
Burns, who built his reputation – and acquired both featherweight and lightweight world titles – on skill and technique, suddenly turned savage, inflicting only the second defeat of Mitchell's 35-fight career. It was expected that this would be a classic duel in which Mitchell's spiteful punching might be neutralised by the methodical guile of Burns. In fact it was the Scot who turned aggressor from the outset, much to the surprise and delight of his supporters.
Mitchell seemed to have edged an opening round that set the pace for the brief bout, jarring Burns with a right hand. But from then on it was Burns's own swinging right that was to dominate. Never afraid to mix it in mid-ring, he frequently stunted Mitchell's advance with that competently thrown punch, beckoning Mitchell into the fray. After being caught by one of them in the third round, a right to the temple, Mitchell beat his chest Tarzan-like as if to say: "Bring it on."
Burns did just that, a left hook sending Mitchell tottering back and down for a count of eight before a series of those thudding right-hand volleys put him on his back again in the fourth. Burns pursued him relentlessly and referee O'Connor might well have stopped it before he did as the bell was about to sound for the end of the round.
Such was the intensity of the fight that it was hard to believe that these two "auld enemies" from north and south of the border are actually the best of pals outside the ropes. This was underscored when Mitchell sportingly raised Burns's hand as they hugged when the decision was formally announced and later, as they sat together on the ring apron, arms around each other, they indicated they might be sharing a beer together later.
"It's only a boxing match, nothing personal," Mitchell had said before the bout. And he did well to disguise his disappointment as Burns told him: "I said you'd bring out the best in me."
"He done a job on me tonight." Mitchell admitted. "I couldn't believe how quickly he covered the ground. I know I said before that I didn't think he could punch but he proved me wrong."
The newly-wed Burns, who now wants to unify the title, said: "The build-up for the fight was just perfect to me. I felt so much physically stronger. I knew I had to keep the pressure on him and once I got him on the ropes I knew it was all over."
Frank Warren is surely right when he says that Burns is the most improved fighter in the land. "It was a fantastic performance," the promoter said.
Scott Harrison, who at 35 is making a comeback after an even longer ring absence than Ricky Hatton, won his second fight following seven years away from boxing – several of them spent in a Spanish jail.
The former world featherweight champion from Glasgow defeated Nottingham school teacher Joe Elfidh on a 60-53 points decision over six rounds but it is clear that he has some way to go before regaining anything like his former status.
Elfidh, who was a short-notice opponent, seemed to be heading for an early exit when he was floored with a left hook in the opening round but he recovered to prove an elusive target, giving Harrison a sounder workout than he had anticipated. Yet the Scot declared, in Hatton-esque style: "I'm back – I feel better than when I was champion."Reuse content