Boxing's pride hangs on Battle of Britain

World lightweight champion Burns and Mitchell will do talking in ring

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The Independent Online

If Andrew Flintoff's planned excursion into the ring is, as Frank Warren warns, "car-crash television" then the confirmed return of Ricky Hatton surely is equally an accident waiting to happen.

Both prospects should fill the fight game with foreboding, doing little credit to the British Boxing Board of Control, who seem happy to licence both misadventures.

Thankfully there is a timely reminder that this is still a sport to be taken seriously, with the all-British WBO world lightweight title fight in Glasgow next Saturday between hometown holder Ricky Burns and London challenger Kevin Mitchell destined to be one for the genuine fans, though possibly not for the faint-hearted.

Promoter Warren predicts that this could be the fight of the year, an enthralling domestic dust-up between two fighters in their prime with excitingly contrasting styles and personalities.

Burns, 29, with 36 fights and two defeats to 27-year-old Mitchell's 34 with one loss, are intriguingly matched. The outcome may well depend on how well the spiky Mitchell has recovered from the self-admitted alcoholic aberration which surrounded his crushing defeat by the Australian Michael Katsidis on an ill-starred night at Upton Park two years ago. Subsequently Burns boxed superbly to take the lightweight title against Katsidis last November, adding to his super-featherweight belt.

Mitchell certainly looked back to his best when he stopped the better-fancied John Murray last year, and has returned from high- altitude training in the mountains of Montana unfazed at having to venture into Burns's backyard. He said: "Sometimes you have to go into the lion's den to have a right old punch-up. It's gonna be me versus him, and whatever happens, happens. Hostile crowds are not a big deal for me. All I know is that it will be a helluva war."

The view is shared by co-trainer Mark Tibbs: "Kevin's such a spiteful and vicious little sod with serious punch-power. He's also a very smart fighter who reads between the lines and instinctively seems to know what's going on in his opponent's head. It will be brutal."

Burns will be undaunted. The Scot may be among the least visible and voluble of world champions but there is no shortage of bottle in his armoury. He still works part-time in a sports shop, says he gets embarrassed signing autographs and wanted to tear down posters depicting him as a Scottish Rocky.

"I'm just an ordinary laddie," he said. "I like to keep myself to myself and do my talking in the ring."

Refreshingly, there has been no bad-mouthing between the combatants, who actually are quite pally outside the ropes, though friendship will be forgotten once the Caledonian clamour is turned up full volume at the SEEC Arena as MC Michael Buffer urges the 8,000 crowd to get ready to rumble.

"When fight night comes, me and Kevin are in there to do a job and trash talk won't win anything," says Burns, who has grown in stature and confidence since becoming a champion. I suspect Burns may have the ring nous to survive Mitchell's sustained fusillade and work his way methodically to a close points victory.

Burns versus Mitchell is live on BoxNation (; Sky 437/Virgin 546)