Originally written on The Queensbury Rules  |  Last updated 11/12/14

(Kevin Mitchell, left; Ricky Burns, right)

Britain’s best match-up of the year takes place Saturday, as cockney wrong ‘un Kevin Mitchell invades Glasgow to tackle Scotland’s smiling assassin, Ricky Burns. The Dear Green Place isn’t exactly an ideal pit-stop for a fighter with a propensity for swimming at the bottom of a bottle. Nevertheless, Mitchell, who pissed away any momentum gained from his sterling effort against Manchester pressure fighter John Murray last year, is hoping that it can frame a redemptive scene that will allow him to grab a seat at boxing’s top table. Burns, meanwhile, looks to solidify his position as one of the finest lightweight boxers in the world, against a top 10 rated opponent who has long been a friend, and is now, fleetingly, a professional obstacle.

Burns, 29, Coatbridge, North Lanarkshire, is ranked third at 135 lbs. by Boxing News Magazine (Mitchell, 27, has been pegged at number 6 by the same publication). A hustler with a veteran’s poise, Burns has grown like Scots pine over the past couple of years under trainer Billy Nelson. Beginning with a wild and woolly win over Puerto Rican Roman “Rocky” Martinez, Burns, 34-2 (9), has proceeded to scalp the world rated duo Michael Katsidis and Paulus Moses.

Mitchell, Dagenham, Essex, is a hot and cold performer. His record in or around the fringes of world class is sparse. He holds solid wins over Colombian Breidis Prescott and Mancunian Murray, which are offset against a calamitous ravaging at the hands of the aforementioned Katsidis. After outlasting Murray in one of the finest punch-outs of last year, it appeared as though the penny had finally dropped with the Londoner. As a high-profile bout against the then red-hot Mexican-American Brandon Rios loomed into view, Mitchell went and caught a three month police curfew after he was caught in possession of a blade. His U.S. visa application went up in smoke, as did the Rios fight, and Murray, the man he’d bludgeoned to defeat, nicked Mitchell’s big chance from right under his nose.

Mitchell, 33-1 (24), hasn’t fought since February and when the contest was announced a few months ago, he appeared jaded and slightly shop-worn. Burns lives clean and remains in shape between bouts which suggests he’ll hold the physical aces here whereas Mitchell may be better primed mentally. Since last he fought, Ricky has been married and by his own admission he allowed himself to relax and celebrate while on honeymoon. In addition, when the pair sparred prior to Mitchell’s bout with Murray, reports snuck out from the gym that Burns had handled Kevin fairly comfortably. There is a possibility, then, that Burns could have found it a challenge to “get up” for Kevin sufficiently, despite all of the hard spars and cold morning runs in the rain.

Mitchell feints habitually with his left and prefers to skirt the outer ring, slipping and sliding his way to safety whenever an opponent looks to unload. The harder puncher of the pair, his sharp, chopping hooks will be a danger, as will his speed advantage. Burns, though, is better-rounded. Smooth when countering, he can also lead adeptly. His jab is rangy, hard and true; a vital weapon he uses in order to set up scything right hooks thrown up top and underneath. Burns will be quite happy for Mitchell to wade into him yet will be prepared for the alternative also, and so the visitor will need to show savvy when structuring his attacks.

Burns’ jab could prove crucial. A disruptive tool, the Scot can use it to keep Mitchell from setting his feet in order to let fly with his hooks. Mitchell needs to find a way around it before driving through the middle with straight shots, which is where Burns can leave gaps as he lunges and swipes. Signs are that Mitchell has prepared to fight like the devil, yet even that might not be enough. Burns, who has sparred the likes of Bradley Saunders, Ashley Theophane and unbeaten prospects Dave Brophy and Michael “Mickey Boy” Roberts in the lead in, should be fit enough to weather anything Kevin throws at him and crafty enough to tally more points. Glasgow, currently in the throes of something of an image revamp, isn’t likely to be anything other to Mitchell than the cliché its inhabitants detest -- a mean old city home to an opponent as sharp and as cut-throat as the razor gangs that once roamed the Gorbals. Amid a rocking Scottish Exhibition Centre, Burns should win over the distance in a bout that could prove more tactical than dramatic.


(Carl Frampton, left; Steve Molitor, right)

Across the Irish Sea, Barry McGuigan’s protégé, Carl “The Jackal” Frampton, aims to make giant strides after only 14 fights (all wins, nine quick) against former junior featherweight world titlist Steve Molitor. British fight fans will be well acquainted with “The Canadian Kid”, who has found the U.K. a happy hunting ground over the course of his career.

Molitor, Mississauga, Ontario, 34-2 (12), enters the Odyssey Arena, Belfast, having bested John McKay, Michael Hunter and the Booth brothers, Jason and Nicky, in boxing outposts such as Hartlepool and Sunderland. A partisan crowd baying for his blood will hold no fear for the Canadian lefty, and neither will the prospect of taking on a relative novice, albeit a highly touted one. Still only 32, Steve’s only defeats came against the gifted Panamanian Celestino “Pelenchin” Caballero and former two-time conquest Takalani “Panther” Ndlovu.

McGuigan, though, shrewd guy that he is, will view Molitor as a respected name but a faded force. He will expect Frampton, who he holds unwavering faith in, to eat the visitor up and then spit out the pips, but is that likely? Against Jason Booth two years back, my ringside notes recall that Molitor’s corner had to virtually beg him to start throwing punches with both hands after Booth had befuddled him early on. Booth, never a junior featherweight, was outsized rather than outfought that night and the winner looked like an alphabet titlist there for the taking. So it would prove as the South African Ndlovu outscored him handily over 12 in his subsequent outing. Again, Molitor had trouble letting go with both mitts.

Frampton, who had originally been slated to face Spaniard Kiko Martinez, is short, stubby, powerful and accurate. Considered and economical, he’ll look to press Molitor from mid-ring, who may elect to fight off the ropes for long spells in a bid to outsmart the 25-year-old Ulsterman. In what looks a fantastic piece of matchmaking (on the Belfast team’s part), Frampton can make his mark with a dominant win, possibly even via late stoppage.

On the Belfast undercard, local featherweight Martin Lindsay challenges Lee Selby for the Welshman’s British and Commonwealth titles in an appealing match that could prove to be the fight of the night (in both countries). Meanwhile, Dungiven junior welterweight Paul “Dudey” McCloskey returns against Hawaii-born Manuel Perez, and he’ll be looking to make amends after suffering a shock May defeat to the Washington road warrior DeMarcus “Chop Chop” Corley.

The Glasgow show also features lunatic veteran Scott Harrison, who engages in his second bout back after a disturbing seven year exile against Nicaraguan punching bag Miguel Aguilar. Hot prospects Bradley Sauders, John Thain and Stephen Simmons are also in action alongside Greenock hard-nut John Simpson, who faces ultra-fit Merthyr Tydfil man Dai Davies.
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