Scotland’s Ricky Burns got off the floor to win the WBO super-featherweight title against hot favourite Roman Martinez on Saturday night.
The former commonwealth champion was decked by a straight hand in the opening round but came back strongly in a barnstorming contest at Glasgow’s Kelvin Hall.
Both fighters had their successes but Burns, who had never fought at such a high level before, consistently made the previously unbeaten Martinez look clumsy.
Burns entered the fight a big underdog with the bookmakers and those odds appeared to be correct as the 27-year-old was dropped by a right hand down the pipe.
But the champion appeared to throw the gameplan out the window thereafter when he could see that Burns was there for the taking.
However, that was ot the case as the Puerto Rican did not account for the Scot’s desire and bravery as he took some big shots while he continued to walk down the champion.
Burns made his mark in a riproaring third round as he repeatedly hurt Martinez with some chopping right hands.
The pair traded wild blows and Martinez appeared crude at times, clearly looking for the knockout punch after dropping Burns in the opening round.
However, despite the Scot’s success Martinez still sent out the odd reminder who was boss, his crisp straight right occasionally stunning the challenger.
The home favourite took the fourth as well though, Martinez’s gameplan totally awry as Burns repeatedly beat him to the jab and followed up with juicy uppercuts.
Burns caught the champion again early in the fifth, and while Martinez again had his successes the Scot finished as he started it, a huge right hand wobbling his opponent who was relieved to hear the bell.
After an even sixth Burns started well in the seventh but a big left hook glanced off his chin and the Scot looked shaken for a moment before unloaded more heavy artillery of his own.
But this time it was the champion who ended it on top with Burns trapped on the ropes and on the receiving end of a barrage of blows.
The next two followed in similar vein, with every punch thrown with spite from both sides. Burns was again the one desperate for the bell at the end of the ninth and he even took a couple after it as well.
Despite the punishment he had taken Martinez remained threatening with both hands as he sought a one-punch finish.
But Burns, never taking a backward step, continued to take it to the champion who didn’t have a moment’s peace in the entire contest.
With each round that passed the feeling was that the Scot was edging towards snatching the title. He stayed out of trouble in the 11th while landing the lion’s share once again.
And it was Burns who merely forced home his advantage in the final session, catching the Puerto Rican with a solid left hook that had the champion back-pedalling once again.
The celebrations around the arena were already under way before the judges’ scores of 115-112 (twice) and 115-113 were announced in favour of the Scot.
“It was a clean shot, I’ll give him that – throughout the fight he did catch us a few times – but as I said before I do have a good chin and I took them well,” Burns told Sky Sport’s
“I had to grit my teeth every round there and I’m just overwhelmed.
“I couldn’t ask for a better camp behind me, the build up to this fight all I could think about was winning this world title, and now it’s here I don’t know what to say.”
Smith takes title
On the undercard, Liverpool youngster Stephen Smith took the Commonwealth featherweight title from John Simpson on a narrow points verdict.
Smith entered the ring lacking experience but has a decent future ahead of him after taking the title in just his 11th paid contest.
By contrast, the fight was Simpson’s 12th title bout and his vast experience appeared to have told as he built up an early lead.
However, the 27-year-old began to tire towards the end and Smith, who fought for much of the contest with a cut above the right eye following an early clash of heads, finished the stronger of the two to earn a majority verdict – 116-112, 116-114 and 114-116.
“This fight’s been put back three times since June, I’ve been eating, drinking and sleeping John Simpson,” said Smith, whose brother Paul is British super-middleweight champion.
“What a warrior, what a tough lad and I’m the example that hard work pays off.
“Everyone knows how tough, strong and fit he was, and he loosened one of my teeth.
“The main thing that surprised me was he’s hard to hit inside and it got messy inside.
“That’s maybe more down to me because I struggle there but I got long shots off so I tried to stick to that as much as I could.
“But all credit to the man, he fights anyone and he’s a warrior.”