RICKY BURNS and Willie Limond finally fight each other this weekend. The welterweight 12-rounder between Scottish veterans – one of the year’s unlikeliest match ups – goes ahead at the Braehead Arena in Glasgow on Friday night, more than seven years after the fight was first mooted.
Forty-year-old Burns, 44-8-1 (16), says he intends this to be his farewell and, at 44, Limond, 42-5 (13), surely can’t have many fights left after this, even if he wins.
Of course, neither wants to leave boxing on a loss, but the stakes were higher when the match was suggested in the past. There was talk of Burns-Limond happening if both won at Glasgow’s SSE Hydro in May 2016.
Burns (Coatbridge) delivered by becoming a three-weight world titlist with a stoppage of the disappointing Italian Michele Di Rocco for the vacant WBA super-lightweight title, while Limond lost his British title in nine rounds to Tyrone Nurse.
The fight still might have happened had Limond beaten Liverpool’s Robbie Davies Jnr in Preston the following January.
Beating Davies would have given Limond (Glasgow) the necessary world ranking to challenge Burns, but days before the fight, Willie was ruled out through illness.
The Limond record shows that, of his five defeats, four have come against world belt-holders. He had a 12-0 Amir Khan down – he says for a long count – before being ruled out with a broken jaw.
And he impressed 34-year-old Erik Morales enough in a six-round loss, in front of 60,000 fans in a Mexican bull ring, to be invited to spar him before he fought Marcos Maidana.
Limond also lost to common opponent Alex Arthur – 20 years ago – and was soundly outpointed by Anthony Crolla in British-title fights, at 130 and 135lbs respectively.
Burns won major belts at three weights and the night he won his first must surely be ranked as one of British boxing’s best nights this century.
“Everyone was saying he was the number one super-featherweight and I had no chance,” Ricky remembered of his challenge for Roman Martinez’s WBO belt at the Kelvin Hall in September 2010. “People thought I shouldn’t have been in there with him. But I’m at my best when I’m up against it.”
Burns only ever seemed to believe in himself when he was in a fight. Naturally shy, Burns would watch Rocky IV before every fight and then morph into a Scottish version of Rocky Balboa when he pulled a pair of gloves on. He just loved to fight.
“From the amateurs, I would always fight anyone,” said Burns.
“Even when I wasn’t boxing, I would go to shows with my kit bag in the hope I might get a fight. I was willing to fight older guys, bigger guys, anyone at all.”
Burns claimed 100 wins from 106 amateurs and, after turning pro at 18, he always got the most out of himself.
There were tears of joy after he upset British lightweight champion Graham Earl in an eight-rounder in 2005 and Arthur predicted a big future for Burns after they fought 12 hard rounds for the British, Commonwealth and European belts at 130lbs.
Martinez seemed more concerned about the Scottish weather than Burns when asked about his third defence of the title he had taken from Dagenham’s Nicky Cook with an emphatic fourth-round KO.
Burns-Martinez had been set for Puerto Rico before Martinez’s promoters discovered they didn’t have enough funds and, as Frank Warren struggled to secure a television date for the fight in Scotland, Burns thought over an offer to challenge British champion Gary Sykes.
Sykes may well have started that fight a slight favourite, but Burns decided against taking it, giving coach Billy Nelson more time to study Martinez.
At the time, Nelson was working the night shift at a secure unit for troubled youngsters and after getting home around 8.30am, he would study the DVDs of Martinez he had bought from the back pages of a boxing magazine for a couple of hours before heading to the gym.
“Two people thought Ricky would win. Me and Ricky and that’s all that matters,” said Nelson, but soon after the opening bell rang, he was concerned.
He noticed the “thud” whenever Martinez landed and late in the first, he sent Burns down.
Burns fought back magnificently. “Sometimes in a fight, instincts take over,” he told Boxing News. “Nobody expected me to go out and fight him; everyone thought I would box off the back foot.
“But as the fight went on, I noticed I had the most success when I went forward letting my hands go.”
Punch stats showed Burns outlanded Martinez by 210 shots to 83 and though the judges had it closer, Ricky was ahead on all the cards after 12 thrilling rounds he enjoyed as much as the crowd.
“The fight was back and forth and that’s what made it so exciting,” he said. “I like being in fights like that. I like a good brawl.”
In the afterglow of victory, Burns said he “surprised” himself with his performance and he possibly matched it when beating Michael Katsidis and Kevin Mitchell up at 135lbs.
It’s fair to say Limond has also exceeded expectations.
He didn’t appear to have much of a future in the sport after Crolla outpointed him for the British title in November 2011.
Limond was a 32-year-old former Commonwealth champion who had already been a pro for 12 years, but he went on to reinvent himself up at 140lbs and enjoy the best days of his career, capturing British and Commonwealth titles.
Possibly his best night came in June 2014, when he dropped footballer-turned-fighter Curtis Woodhouse twice and took away his British title.
Burns had less to celebrate that night, being outhustled by Montenegro’s Dejan Zlaticanin over 12.
To Saturday night and, for all the good-natured build up, expect Burns and Limond to give their all.
We’re going to go for Burns to have a bit more left than Limond and win a competitive fight on points.
There are three solid matchups on the undercard, each for Scottish Area titles over 10 rounds.
At super-lightweight, the 7-0 Martin Crossan from Newarthill defends his belt against Elgin’s Andrew Smart, 6-1. The vacant featherweight title is contested between Glasgow’s Jack Turner, 6-0, and Cumbernauld’s Andy Tham, 4-1 (2). And the super-featherweight championship is contested for the first time since 2017 when Dundee’s Charlie Doig, 3-0 (1), takes on George Stewart, 4-0, of Inverness.