Ricky Burns (pictured) takes on Nicky Cook this Saturday at the Echo Arena in Liverpool. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
Dave Oakes previews the rest of Saturday's key matches from the Echo Arena show (check out Dave's Murray-Mitchell preview).
Ricky Burns makes the third defence of his WBO title this Saturday night when he takes on former champion Nicky Cook on an action packed bill from the Echo Arena in Liverpool.
The addition of Murray v Mitchell to the card, along with local favourite Tony Bellew’s fight, has taken a lot of the attention away from what’s supposed to be the headline fight. Some fans and writers are viewing this fight with indifference, claiming that it’s either an uneven contest or going to be a boring fight, or in some cases, both. I wholeheartedly disagree on both accounts.
Cook’s opportunity to win back the title he lost against Roman Martinez may be undeserved due to his inactivity over the past two years but he’s going to be a live opponent. He’s definitely a better fighter than Andreas Evensen and Joseph Laryea, Burns’ previous title defences.
It would be foolish to judge the outcome of this fight based on both combatants’ fights with Roman Martinez, like I’ve heard so many people do in the past few weeks. Burns was in inspired form the night he outpointed the big hitting Puerto Rican, whilst Cook was stopped in the fourth round. That may make this fight look like a bad match-up to the uneducated fan but boxing is never as easy as A beat B, B beat C, so that means A will beat C – it just doesn’t work like that.
It’s also been forgotten that Cook was outboxing Martinez up until the first knockdown, which he never seemed to fully recover from. He had an extended break following the defeat, coming back in May this year to defeat Youssef Al Hamidi over six laborious rounds. Not the ideal preparation for a world title attempt and something which I feel will cost him against the ultra fit and more active Burns.
Burns’ victory over Martinez is undoubtedly the best performance of his career; the way he recovered from the first round knockdown and survived some difficult moments in later rounds was a remarkable feat. He’s made easy work of his two defences, drawing criticism in some quarters for not facing top opposition - that’s something Burns can’t be blamed for though; he seems the type who’s willing to fight anyone who’s put in front of him.
Body punching could be an important factor for Cook; Burns is tall for a super-featherweight and provides plenty of target area downstairs. Cook has a beautiful left hook to the body; the one which flattened Dazzo Williams is the best body shot I’ve seen and would finish most boxers, Burns included.
Burns isn’t a puncher, only eight of his thirty-one victories coming inside the distance. He’s used to going the distance and trains accordingly, making him one of the fittest and most dedicated boxers in Britain. As well as his stamina, he’s also got determination and heart in abundance, not forgetting a solid jab and underrated hand speed.
I’ve got a feeling this will be a nice blend of styles and will make for an entertaining battle. The first six rounds will be back and forth affairs but I feel Burns’ superior fitness and sharpness will tell as the fight progresses. I can see him powering his way through the later rounds to take a hard earned points victory.
The pick of the undercard fights (I’m not classing Murray v Mitchell as an undercard bout) is the rematch between Tony Bellew and Ovill McKenzie for vacant British light-heavyweight title and the Commonwealth title that Bellew holds.
Their first meeting last December was a crowd-pleasing shoot out that saw both men hit the canvas. As is customary for Bellew, he came out all guns blazing, looking for the big shot to finish it in the first round. It didn’t go as planned for him as he was quickly put on his backside by a sharp right, he wasn’t hurt badly but he certainly was in the second round when he was caught with the same punch.
Bellew hit the canvas so hard I thought the paramedics would be needed; remarkably he bounced up onto his feet almost simultaneously and survived the remainder of the round, albeit on slightly unsteady legs.
The knockdowns seemed to calm Bellew down; he used his skills more from the third round onwards and was in control when he floored McKenzie with a left hook in the eighth. This time it was McKenzie’s turn to drag himself up from a heavy knockdown, Bellew sensed blood though and charged at McKenzie as soon as battle recommenced. The fight was waved off seconds later, a straight right from Bellew prompting referee Phil Edwards to intervene, somewhat prematurely in my opinion.
There’s been a fair bit of badmouthing since their first fight with McKenzie implying that Bellew’s on drugs and Bellew being, well, Bellew – loud, brash and aggressive. Despite being a nice bloke outside the ring, it’s in Bellew’s make-up to be confrontational leading up to fight night, it’s what gets his juices flowing - as we’ve seen with David Haye, its okay when you’re winning but you don’t half look a pillock when you lose.
I sense the bad feeling is authentic and that it could be a dangerous thing for Bellew. He’s the type of boxer who likes to go in looking for the knockout, he can’t help himself, the red mist goes up and he starts swinging from his boots, something which can only be made worse by fighting someone who you’ve got a genuine dislike of.
Like the first fight, McKenzie is in with a chance due to Bellew’s keenness to land a fight finishing shot mixed with his none too solid chin. Bellew could make it easy for himself by boxing calmly and picking his shots more but it remains to be seen whether he has the discipline to do so.
I think we saw the best of what McKenzie had to offer in the last fight; Bellew, on the other hand, can raise his game a notch or two if he chooses the correct game plan. I can see it being a case of bombs away again, only this time I feel a fired up Bellew will get to McKenzie early, around the fourth round.
There’s another grudge match on the undercard with Frankie Gavin taking on Curtis Woodhouse. It casts Birmingham born Gavin against a former Birmingham City footballer in Woodhouse.
For those unfamiliar with Woodhouse’s background, he was a professional footballer for ten or so years prior to his boxing career, he was capped at Under 21 level with England and Birmingham spent a million pounds to sign him 2001. He turned to boxing in 2006 when he started to drift down the leagues, citing a loss of interest in football and a lifelong love of boxing as the reason.
It’s fair to say Woodhouse is more of a brawler than a stylist; he carries respectable power, especially in his right hand, and doesn’t mind taking a punch to land one of his own. This fight is a huge step-up in class for him; Gavin was a top class amateur and is the hottest prospect in Britain.
Gavin, 10-0 (8), didn’t impress last time out against Young Mutley, struggling his way through twelve rounds to win a wide points decision. Normal service should be resumed on Saturday with Gavin fully fit and fired up by some of Woodhouse’s barbed remarks.
Woodhouse has looked confident in the build-up but Gavin has all the advantages - he’s bigger, quicker, more experienced and far superior technically. Woodhouse will come to fight, which I feel will suit Gavin, who likes his opponents to come forward so that he can pick them off with classy combinations. I can’t see anything other than a Gavin win, he’s already a few levels above Woodhouse and should stop the former footballer inside six one-sided rounds.