Quiet man Ricky not reluctant to talk of treble ahead of Mitchell showdown
23:48 GMT, 18 September 2012
He has watched the glorious home-comings of this summer’s sporting heroes with a mixture of admiration and, truth be told, horror.
A double world champion who has spent his two-year reign actively avoiding public shows of adulation, Ricky Burns would rather face a barrage of body shots with his arms tied behind his back than board an open-top bus for a victory parade.
His natural shyness should never be mistaken for a lack of ambition, of course. Having moved up last year to add the WBO lightweight title to the WBO super-featherweight crown he had clinched on a frenzied night in September 2010, Burns cannot discount another giant leap — and a chance to become the first Scot to win world belts in three different weight divisions.
Focused: Ricky Burns can't wait to get in the ring against Kevin Mitchell
For now, he is focused entirely on Saturday’s hugely testing defence against Kevin Mitchell, in front of an anticipated 10,000 fans at the SECC; the vast majority will be there to hail Coatbridge’s most feted sporting son.
Ask this most retiring of global greats about enjoying the kind of organised hoopla arranged for the likes of Sir Chris Hoy and Andy Murray in recent days, though, Burns looks positively mortified.
‘I am the total opposite — everybody knows I like to keep myself to myself,’ he said. ‘The training and the fighting is what I do, the fighting is the bit I enjoy.
‘After that, I like to return to normal. Would I like all that (the parades) Not at all.
‘It’s just not a big thing that appeals to me. Boxing is all I’ve ever wanted to do but, apart from the fighting, I’ve always said the publicity, all the attention I get, isn’t something I’m fussed about.’
Champ: Burns is a two-weight world champion and could be tempted by a third
The hype will only increase should he beat Mitchell in what could be one
of the fights of the year, with Burns conceding he might yet move on in
search of fresh challenges. Addressing the possibility of a unique
Scottish treble on the world stage, he said: ‘Now I’ve moved up to
lightweight, I can see I’m physically bigger.
‘We have spoken about it (moving up). Maybe I’ll get another year or two at this weight, a few more fights at lightweight.
‘But, if the big opportunity came at light welterweight, never say never. The bigger I get, the harder my punches are.
‘When I’m sparring, a couple of the guys are welterweights — a lot
heavier than me. But the size difference isn’t that much. If a big
fight came up at light welterweight, I’d be more than happy to take it.'
Eyes on the prize: Burns defends his title for the second time in Glasgow on Saturday
Wherever his career takes him, Burns is guaranteed to take thousands of fans with him. In a sport where a big mouth is often as important as a big right hand when it comes to selling tickets, his low-key approach to self- publicity has not done too much box-office damage.
Aware that Saturday’s bout is heading for a sell-out, he insists talk of the crowd becoming the equivalent of football’s 12th man for a home fighter is a little over the top, saying: ‘It’s only me in that ring — I’m the one taking the punches.
‘I try to block out the crowd, although I am grateful for the support I get — so I want to say a big thanks to everybody. Hopefully, I’ll do the business for them.
‘You tend to notice the crowd before and after the fight. Once that bell goes, it’s just a big blur. But it’s good to walk out in front of your own crowd, aye.
‘The crowd come into it in the later rounds, though. You can always hear certain things, even if most of it is just a blur.
Tough job: Burns is expecting a difficult 12 rounds against Mitchell in Glasgow
‘If you look at it that way, it can put added pressure on you, make you feel as if you’re out there to look good. I always say, I need to win.
‘This is going to be a tough, tough fight. Kevin is a big puncher, a good fighter.
‘Since he lost to Michael Katsidis, he’s come back to beat John Murray and Felix Lora. I think his training has gone well, so the fans are in for a good fight.
‘Throughout the 12-week training camp, all I’ve been thinking about is this fight. When it’s been hard in sparring, I’ve been thinking: “Well, what am I going to do on the night”.
Battle of Britain: Burns and Kevin Mitchell are heading towards an explosive showdown
‘I’ve spent a lot of time in the ring thinking about the different scenarios that could happen.
‘This is the worst time, three days before the weigh-in, but I’ve still got a smile on my face just now.
‘Once the weigh-in is over, you can concentrate on the good bit.’
If that ‘good bit’ goes right on the night, Burns will be afforded a raucous reception to rival the loudest roars of this Olympic summer.
Just don’t expect to see him waving his belt from the top of a bus, float or specially chartered charabanc any time soon.