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Boxing: Burns retains title with helping hand

WE will never know for sure whether Ricky Burns would have retained his world lightweight title at the Emirates Arena on Saturday evening had mandatory challenger Jose Gonzalez of Puerto Rico not retired injured.

Scotland's Ricky Burns holds aloft the WBO belt after his victory over Jose Gonzalez. Picture:  Getty Images
Scotland's Ricky Burns holds aloft the WBO belt after his victory over Jose Gonzalez. Picture: Getty Images

Gonzalez stunned the 6000 crowd when he refused to come out for the 10th round of Burns' third World Boxing Organization lightweight championship defence despite the best efforts of his corner to persuade him to box on.

It later emerged Gonzalez – previously undefeated in 22 fights – had suffered damage to his left wrist, possibly during the seventh round when he drove Burns back on to the ropes and threatened to stop the champion from Coatbridge with a barrage of punches. It also transpired that Burns was trailing by three rounds on each of the three judges' scorecards.

Burns' promoter, Eddie Hearn, questioned whether Gonzalez any longer had the stomach for a fight, saying: "I think there was more to it than an injury. I think Gonzalez was also suffering from a broken heart. When you are leading and you can switch hit, why would you quit when you need only one more round to win a world title?

"When I looked across at Gonzalez's corner two rounds before it was stopped, I could see that he was starting to look very tired. In my opinion, after he had thrown everything at Ricky in the seventh round, he was broken."

Perhaps Hearn had a point, but what was more obvious is that Burns showed courage and the robustness of his constitution to bounce back in the eighth and ninth rounds after being pummelled in the seventh. But that should not come as any surprise to those who know Burns. "Once again, I showed that when the going gets tough, I'm not one for quitting," he said. "I've got a sore jaw but I proved I can take a good shot and fire back when I need to.

"I know what it feels like when you're tired and want to give up but it's just not in me to quit. When I saw the referee was thinking about stopping the fight in the seventh, I just fired back with a few good shots of my own.

"Make no mistake, Gonzalez is a world-class fighter and he will win a world title at some point, because he's tricky and punches with both hands.

"With the exception of my trainer, Billy Nelson, and I, I think everyone underestimated him. We knew he had power in both hands and he hurt me but when somebody does that I have a go right back at them.

"He was much tougher than Roman Martinez, who I beat to win the WBO super-featherweight title, and I knew I was in for a hard fight and we prepared for that. But it's tough when you are trying to fight someone who doesn't want to commit and who steals rounds by making you miss.

"I was trying to force the pace and I was overstretching and getting caught with shots that I shouldn't have been hit with but Gonzalez always seemed to be waiting for me to throw a punch and was countering my efforts to try to force me to increase my work rate."

Burns said that he knew a lot of the rounds were close, adding that he told his corner Gonzalez was "stealing" them. He believed the challenger was starting to tire after the seventh round as he was "grabbing on". "I could sense his volume of punches were getting less and he was on the back foot more, trying to stay out of range," he added. "I knew it was tight but I always go for a big finish and I train for a hard 12-rounder. It's in the championship rounds where you are found out and I was thinking to myself that I need to win 10, 11 and 12 convincingly. I knew he was under pressure and he didn't like it."

Hearn revealed he is hoping to return to the Glasgow venue for Burns' next defence, most likely in September, very possibly against the International Boxing Federation champion Miguel Vazquez, adding: "Now that the mandatory is out of the way, the big thing now is we can take voluntary challenges and unification fights."

Meanwhile, Greenock super-featherweight John Simpson has secured a world title shot after outpointing Mongolian veteran Choi for the vacant WBC International title in the main undercard fight.

Edinburgh's Stephen Simmons won the vacant Celtic cruiserweight crown, Irishman Michael Sweeney retiring in the third.

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