By Ezio Prapotnich
Former WBO Super Featherweight champion Ricky Burns (33-2, 9 ko’s) made a positive debut at Lightweight and silenced all doubters by out boxing and out pointing a spent, predictable and ineffective Michael Katsidis (28-5, 23 ko’s) to win the WBO Interim title of the division.
The Scottish fighter took initiative immediately in round 1 by establishing his jab and kept busy, although not landing clean, with Katsidis stalking him around the ring landing some body shots when he managed to corner his opponent on the ropes. Overall a fairly even opening session.
In the second, Burns started beating Michael to the punch with regularity, getting through his guard with straight shots, and was quick to tie him up when trapped on the ropes. It was worrying initially to see Ricky accepting the Aussie invitation to engage in the middle of the ring in round 3 but, surprisingly, he was getting the better of the exchanges catching him with clean uppercuts, jabs and hooks, while Katsidis was unable to find openings even when cutting the ring successfully.
In the 4th, it became more and more evident that Burns was growing in confidence while Michael was fading, as the few punches he was able to land on target totally lacked of snap.
Ricky became the aggressor in round 5 and effectively kept his opponent at bay starting to put combinations together, while covering up and tying immediately when occasionally caught with his back on the ropes. This pattern repeated again and again for the rest of the fight. Katsidis had become repetitive and predictable in his attacks, had no answers to the Scotsman’s speed and accuracy, and, even when sporadically landing a punch, was not able to follow up. Michael became very aggressive in the twelfth and last round, looking for the knock out he so badly needed at that point, but the only clean shots he scored were on the back of the head. Too little too late, as the judges awarded Ricky Burns with a deserved unanimous decision by scores of 117-112 and 117-111 twice.
Now, the sky is the limit for the new WBO Interim Lightweight champion from Scotland, while we hope Michale Katsidis will retire with his head rightly held high after a spectacular and blazing career, as we do not wish to see the brave Australian keep getting unnecessary punishment like in 3 of his last 4 fights.
British and Commonwealth Super Middleweight champion George Groves (14-0, 11 ko’s) retained his tiles in spectacular fashion stopping former British ruler Paul Smith (31-3, 17 ko’s) at 1:18 of the second round. Smith started the first round well opening up quickly and taking chances that paid off, as he scored a good right hook and then a straight right and a left hook to the head of Groves, ending the round strong. Unluckily, he got dropped in the second by a vicious body shot and knocked down again immediately by a hook to the temple after beating the count. At that point, the referee jumped in and stopped the fight. George Groves passed yet another test by making of Paul Smith shorter work than De Gale did. There is not much left for him to prove at domestic level, but we hope a rematch with the current European champion will not happen too soon. It would be more interesting to match them again when both at world level.
Also on the card, Middleweight prospect Billy Joe Saunders (11-0, 7 ko’s) won the first belt of his professional career by totally dominating game Southern Area champion Gary Boulden (5-3-2). In spite of still being a relatively green novice, Saunders has showed a remarkable degree of maturity working behind a jab he used to set up straight crosses first and then, gradually, to build combinations hitting both head and body and breaking his man down. He never rushed in or wasted a punch trying to follow up, but only fired when sure to hit the target. Overmatched Boulden best answer to the constant pressure where bits of showboating here and there, but he looked on the verge of being stopped in more than one occasion and ended the fight with blood pouring from his nose and from a cut above his left eye. The final score of 99-92 in favour of Saunders was accurate.
In conclusion, this evening, even more than the fight with Martinez for the Super Featherweight title, marked Ricky Burns arrival on the world scene as a genuine champion and contender and there is no doubt that his stable mates Groves and Saunders will be joining him soon at the same level. Stay tuned.