By George Ogier
Yesterday saw confirmation of a fight that fans have been expecting for a while. On September 22nd Coatbridge’s Ricky Burns will defend his WBO lightweight title against Dagenham’s Kevin Mitchell in Glasgow.
There have been many dates mooted for this showdown, most notably on the undercard of David Haye v Dereck Chisora at Upton park on July 14th. Thankfully though a fight of this magnitude is getting the headline billing it deserves. As one writer pointed out yesterday it’s the most significant contest between two British fighters for a long time.
Unsurprisingly the contest has already split observers when it comes to the subject of the eventual winner. What has already surfaced though is a pleasing mutual respect between Mitchell and Burns with Kevin taking to Twitter to explain that the fight is just business.
The predictions for September are already coming thick and fast and one thing is clear, this really is a pick ’em contest. Ricky Burns is finally getting the respect that his career deserves. He was written off before fights against Roman Martinez and Michael Katsidis. On both occasions he triumphed convincingly.
Kevin Mitchell on the other hand is more of an enigma. He is clearly in possession of a mighty talent but problems outside the ring have often derailed his career. You could make a convincing argument that with his ability Kevin Mitchell ought to be in Ricky Burns’ position of world champion.
Both men have recently overcome quality fighters in what many have called their defining performances. Burns beat Katsidis on a night when many thought he would simply get out muscled. Kevin Mitchell knocked out John Murray in a fight of the year contender last summer when again plenty thought the Mancunian would be too strong.
However, as impressive as those wins were neither victory puts that Burns and Mitchell at the very top of the boxing tree just yet. Repeated heavy losses mean that Michael Katsidis seems to be a shadow of his former self. John Murray has since proven to have the defensive nous of a fairground test-your-strength punch bag. Both Katsidis and Murray have bags of heart but neither tested Mitchell and Burns technically. September 22nd represents the toughest test yet for both boxers.
As it stands I would make Ricky Burns the favourite. He has fought at a higher level than Kevin Mitchell and has consistently proved the doubters wrong. Mitchell’s personal issues cannot be ignored in the lead up to this fight either. We saw how they affected him when he lost to Michael Katsidis in 2010. All signs are that Kevin is happy with life right now and this could prove problematic for Burns.
I genuinely believe that Kevin Mitchell is one of the most talented British boxers of his generation. If he trains right and remains focused then he can beat Burns, and by a surprising margin. That said, I claimed that Ricky had no chance against either Michael Katsidis or Roman Martinez and look how those fights turned out. I can’t wait!