Popular world super-lightweight champion Ricky Burns has never been one to take the easy route in his topsy-turvy career but he admits that dangerous Namibian Julius Indongo presents huge risks as he prepares for what he has labelled his “dream” unification bout in Glasgow next weekend.
Burns, 33, from Coatbridge, Lanarkshire, is already into the 16th year of his 47-fight career and is the only Scot to have won world title belts in three weight divisions, having previously held a world super-featherweight title from 2010 to 2011, and a lightweight title from 2012 to 2014.
Only two other British boxers have claimed world titles in three weight divisions – Duke McKenzie and Bob Fitzsimmons. McKenzie held the flyweight, bantamweight and super-bantamweight titles more than 25 years ago, but was never inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame. Fitzsimmons was the middleweight, light-heavyweight and heavyweight king more than 100 years ago.
This time out, Burns carries the World Boxing Association super-lightweight crown into the ring next Saturday night against the International Boxing Federation and International Boxing Organisation holder Indongo in front of his adoring fans at the sold-out SSE Hydro.
Indongo, a long, rangy southpaw, travels to Glasgow unbeaten in 21 fights with 11 knockout wins to his name.
Burns, who has been preparing in Sheffield with brutal sparring sessions, says when he heard about the chance to face Indongo he knew it was the perfect match-up.
“People have been telling me that I’m taking a huge risk in fighting Indongo,” explained Burns. “He is a big, strong fighter, and I had chances to take on other guys – but I wanted this.
“These are the kinds of fights that you want as a boxer. Throughout my career I’ve never been someone to take an easy option. I think these are the kinds of fights that bring out the best in me as a fighter. The harder the task, the bigger the occasion, the better I have performed. That’s what I want to happen against Indongo.
“I can’t wait for it now. For me, it’s a dream to be able to unify the belts – it’s something I’ve always wanted to do. I can’t wait to get in that ring. There was a chance for another couple of fights but, when the unification fight came up, I knew it was right.”
Burns claimed the vacant WBA crown last summer against Italian Michele Di Rocco with an eighth-round stoppage, and defended the strap against Belarusian Kiryl Relikh in October.
He could set himself up for a rematch with the highly talented American Terence Crawford with victory over the Namibian, who represented his homeland at the 2008 Olympic Games. Indongo took his first world title in his only performance outside Africa by defeating Eduard Troyanovsky in Russia with a first-round knockout last December. “It will be great to come home with the titles,” added Burns. “I’m hoping for another great night with my fans.”
Promoter Eddie Hearn believes that a Burns victory would immediately open up the opportunity of a rematch with Crawford, who defeated the Scotsman at lightweight in 2014. The American’s promoter, Bob Arum, has already been in talks for a potential showdown, this time at 140lb, five pounds above the weight limit they first met.
“There were other options, and I know that this is a much harder fight, but the rewards are going to be so much greater,” Burns said.
“There have been a few times in my career when I’ve proved to myself and to other people that, when I’m up against it, when people are writing me off, that’s when I’ll always perform to my best.
“Indongo is tall, has big long arms, fights in the southpaw stance. It’s going to be a hard fight.”
Hearn added: “This is a 50/50 fight. You’d like to think Indongo would fold, coming to Glasgow and the crowd, but he just went to Russia and knocked out the champion. But Ricky knows what he’s doing. He’s been around a long time.”