By Dan Davies (@DanDavies98)
This is my review the May 28th card at the SSE Hydro Arena where Ricky burns became a 3 weight world champion as he stopped Michele Di Rocco in the 7th round of their WBA Light welterweight contest. The Scottish man has now won world titles in the super featherweight division, the lightweight division and now the light welterweight division. He is now, on paper, the most successful Scottish boxer of all time.
The Scottish hero started the bout very well and built solid foundations with his jab which broke down the weak attacks of the Italian. Burns looked extremely sharp but then again, Di Rocco was of the same class as some of the recent IBF mandatory challengers that we have seen in the UK. Ricky had great tactics for the oncoming Di Rocco. Every time Burns threw a shot or combination, he took one small step back to get himself out of range and this left the Italian swinging at thin air and being at risk of walking on to a shot in the process.
It was only a matter of time before the visitor walked on to a shot and in the third round, the inevitable happened. Burns stepped in with a combination and caught Di Rocco with a short right hand which bundled the Italian over, however, he did get up and finish the round – only just. If you needed to see a classic case of ‘saved by the bell’, watch the end of that round. As the fight went on, Ricky became more and more in control and simply couldn’t miss with his jab which was one of the main components of his success. Di Rocco was taking stupid risks as he became tired and the experienced, now 3 weight world champion, Burns took advantage of the Italian’s mistakes to put him over again in the 8th round after an uppercut in a clinch shook Di Rocco. Ricky kept up the pressure and connected with 3 more solid punches around the Italian’s guard before he met the canvas for the second time in 8 rounds. He did get up but obviously was in no position to continue due to his shaky legs and less than convincing body language. Terry O’Connor ended the one-sided fight and Ricky Burns was crowned the WBA Light Welterweight Champion of the World.
This win has opened lots of opportunities for Burns and he now has the option of unifying the division for big money paydays. However, in our most recent interview which we did with Ashley Theophane, he stated that he would be up for fighting the winner. This makes perfect sense as TMT are coming to the UK to host a show with Matchroom Boxing where they match their fighters against each other. It sounds like it was meant to be.
After a couple of horrid years and tough fights that Ricky has been through and part of, I was extremely happy to see him reach the pinnacle of the sport once again. In addition to this, I would like to applaud the Scottish fans that support him fight after fight and produce an atmosphere like last night, even after the past few poor performances against Beltran, Crawford and Zlaticanin. Loyalty is an understatement, I am proud to call you fellow boxing fans.
On the undercard, there was a British title fight between Tyrone Nurse and Scotland’s own, Willie Limond. Nurse, the defending champion, started very well and was as classy, awkward and slick as ever whilst Limond held a high guard and was making it no secret that he was trying to get inside by countering Nurse’s jab with a solid right hand every time the champion let fire. Limond did catch Nurse a few times with some great counter shots but Nurse showed great heart, chin and mental toughness to soak them up and regroup whilst showing a poker face. This paid off for Nurse and Limond seemed to lose belief in his work the longer the bout went on.
One punch that was visibly hurting the warrior on the receiving end of it was the left hook to the body. The fighter handing this sweet shot out like there was no tomorrow was the defending champion, Nurse and it surely played a big part in the way that the fight ended. He mixed in uppercuts with the crippling body punch which resulted in Limond not being able to breathe through a bloody nose and therefore he could not recover as well from the body shots which were being fired his way every round without fail.
After seeing Willie Limond in some great fights and becoming a huge fan of his, it was hard to watch the 5th round as Nurse broke him down physically and mentally by landing big shots to the head and body. The worst thing about this onslaught was that Limond was showing Nurse he was hurt by bringing his guard down when after receiving a body shot. I would have thought that a fighter with the experience that Limond has, would have disguised the pain a bit better – but that’s easy for me to say as I wasn’t the one taking the hurtful shots. Limond survived that round without being dropped which is a great testament to his chin as well as his heart but it was only a matter of time before the ref expressed his concern for a fighter who was outclassed from the second round onwards.
After a few more rounds that followed the same pattern, Nurse then stepped up his attack and went through the gears comfortably. In the ninth round, he hit Limond with a crunching left hook to the body. Limond stepped back out of range and dropped his arms which encouraged the referee to call an end to the one-sided bout. Nurse held on to his British title by 9th round stoppage which prompted Limond to announce that it could be his last time in a professional ring. If that was his last fight he went out in true Willie Limond fashion. He wore his heart on his sleeve and give as good as he got. What a fighter.
Nurse will now have to defend his belt against the mandatory challenger who is the unbeaten and highly talented Jack Catterall. This is an extremely tough fight for Nurse and I expect him to lose his belt but there is no shame in losing to a fighter of Jack’s standard. It’s an intriguing fight and I look forward to watching it later this year.
In addition to these great championship fights, a fighter who hopes to emulate his dads champion status was on the undercard of the historic bill. Conor Benn, son of Nigel, made his second appearance in a professional ring against an impressive and game Luke Keleher who certainly earned his money. Benn impressed last time out on his debut where he blasted his way through a foreign opponent who was over here for the payday but this time he had a real live wire in front of him. Luke came straight out of the blocks and put it on Conor from the get-go. Conor took the onslaught well and then turned Keleher into the corner and fired in his own shots that didn’t seem to bother the ‘opponent’.
The first round was non-stop action and had the making to be an all-time classic had it been scheduled for 12 rounds. However, the bout was only scheduled for 4 rounds and went the distance which ended in Benn taking a generous 40-36 victory on the referee’s card which the Scottish crowd were not happy about.
I do worry about young Conor Benn when he steps into the ring because I feel as though he thinks that he needs to mimic his dads fighting style and try to rack up numerous stoppage victories which is why he tries so hard to blow his opponents out which this time worked against him. If he composed himself and didn’t go looking for the knockout, he would have more chance of stopping game opponents like Keleher because they would walk on to shots which would double the power of the punch.
In addition to this, he does not think about his defence as much as I would like him to. He focuses on going forward and trying to stop people rather than putting on a boxing master class. If Keleher was a big puncher, he would have dropped Benn a few times due to him landing flush shots but unfortunately they had nothing behind them – they were arm shots. It reminded me of watching Khan when he was coming through the ranks. He would only concentrate on attack and neglect his defence and he all know what happened to him when he got in with a big punching Breidis Prescott. I’d hate for that to happen to Benn as he is such a likeable character but I feel that he needs to mature mentally and learn from the fighters who he trains with in order to mature and think about his work more when stepping inside the ring on fight night. Nevertheless, he is a really exciting fighter that I have loved watching so far in his career and we are only two fights in! Benn is next fighting on the Anthony Joshua card in London at the O2 Arena on June 25th against an unnamed opponent.