Boxing: Burns steps out of shade to reignite the fight game

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The Independent Online

After the humbling of the Hayemaker, world championship boxing returns to some semblance of sanity next weekend. Liverpool may have much in common with Hamburg, not least as a shrine to Kevin Keegan and The Beatles, but the battling Briton who puts his World Boxing Organisation super-featherweight title on the line for the third time on Saturday night is determined to erase the sour taste of a lost weekend when calling a foot fault was not confined to Wimbledon.

The crowd at Merseyside's Echo Arena, where Glasgow's Ricky Burns meets Dagenham's former champion Nicky Cook in an all-British encounter, will amount to about a 10th of the 55,000 who watched David Haye. But it won't be another ridiculously lop-sided fight.

The same can be said of the other tasty domestic scrap between lightweights John Murray and Kevin Mitchell for a lesser bauble, the WBO Inter-Continental belt, a bout postponed from last night because Mitchell suffered a virus.

Not only is Burns at the other end of the weight scale from Haye, he is a world apart in his persona. Different class, you might say. The 28-year-old Scot is also the least visible and voluble of Britain's remaining trio of world champions. He works part-time in a sports shop, says he gets embarrassed signing autographs and wanted to tear down posters depicting him as a Caledonian Rocky.

"I'm just an ordinary laddie," he says. "I get embarrassed by all the fuss and feel myself cringing a bit. I like to keep myself to myself and do my talking in the ring. When fight night comes, me and Nicky are in there to do a job and trash talk won't win anything." That is unusual at a time when mouthing off seems to have become a requirement for selling yourself, as well as tickets.

On paper Burns, with 33 fights, and Cook, with 32, seem evenly matched, both having lost twice and relying on skill rather than slugging. Both are of similar disposition and it may be that the 31-year-old Cook, who is opening a bar in Tenerife, feels lucky to get a chance to reclaim the title he lost in four rounds to Puerto Rico's Roman Martinez in March 2009. Six months later Martinez ventured to Glasgow and was deftly, if unexpectedly, defeated by Burns.

Burns has grown in stature and confidence, and Cook will need a substantial improvement on his last fight in May, a uninspiring points win over Syrian-born Youssef Al Hamidi.

The intriguing Murray-Mitchell match-up may well depend on how well Londoner Mitchell has recovered not only from the virus, but the self-admitted alcoholic aberration that followed his crushing defeat by Michael Katsidis. I take Mancunian Murray to further his record-breaking unbeaten run on a night when boxing should restore its diminished respect.

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