Dave Oakes previews Saturday's lightweight clash between Ricky Burns and Paulus Moses.
Ricky Burns makes the first defence of his WBO lightweight title this weekend when he faces former WBA holder Paulus Moses in what could be an outstanding fight at the Braehead Arena, Glasgow.
Bookmakers are offering odds as generous as 6/1 for the Namibian to prevail. Whilst it remains to be seen what Moses has left in the tank, those odds for a former world champion who’s only suffered one defeat look tantalising to the everyday punter.
Moses, 28-1 (19), appeared to be a fantastic talent as he raced to 24-0, securing the WBA title along the way with an impressive points victory in the champions backyard – beating Yusuke Kobori in Japan. Big things were expected of Moses after the Kobori win, things didn’t go as planned though; he successfully defended the title against Takehiro Shimada but then surrendered it in surprising fashion in only his second defence.
He was the big favourite to beat Miguel Acosta - he was unbeaten, had hometown advantage and was facing a fighter who’d been stopped twice previously - all things pointed to another Moses win. The fight was fairly even going into the sixth and what proved to be final round; Acosta was the aggressor whereas Moses was having his own successes off the back foot, despite not looking at his explosive best. Two minutes into the round an overhand right caught Moses, the punch didn’t seem to land with any major impact but it was enough to send Moses to the canvas, where he sat out the ten count.
It was one of the strangest knockouts of recent memory, the punch didn’t seem to carry any significant weight behind it, it didn’t catch Moses on the temple nor did Moses walk onto the shot. Moses didn’t even look to be hurt when he was on the canvas; he simply took the ten count, got up and walked back to the corner on what looked to be very solid legs. Whether the punch was more debilitating than it seemed or whether Moses quit – for some unknown reason - it was an odd ending to fight.
The ending to that fight is the big question mark over Moses coming into this fight. Is he chinny? Is his heart the problem? Or was it just a good shot that took everything out him? No-one really knows. There have been rumours of personal problems for Moses leading up to the Acosta fight, which can have an effect on a fighters mental strength, but to me, that seems like an easy excuse for his team to make, just like the currently fashionable moving up in weight after a defeat.
Burns, 33-2 (9), can never be questioned when it comes to heart, chin and doggedness. He might not be the most naturally gifted fighter but what he does he does well and he will never back down from a challenge – despite what his critics would have you believe.
Burns has received criticism in some quarters for the standard of his opposition when he was champion at super-featherweight. His defences might not have been that great in terms of opposition but Burns isn’t a big name in Britain and no-one should begrudge the man from earning a few quid from moderately easy defences, especially after he won the title in such impressive circumstances against Roman Martinez.
The easy defences weren’t Burns’ fault; he was beating whoever Frank Warren put in front of him. I wouldn’t even blame Warren for those fights; whilst they weren’t great for the fan, they were great for Burns - money in the bank and reputation intact before moving up a division to bigger fights and better paydays.
Looking at it from a fans perspective, it would’ve been nice to see Burns in more competitive bouts, but we have to be realistic, fighters, especially those like Burns who don’t earn big money from every fight, need a bit of financial security before taking on the big boys. Whilst that might be somewhat annoying for the fans, it’s good promoting and matchmaking and it would be naïve to think otherwise.
Two title fights into his career at lightweight and Burns’ opposition has already been superior to that of when he was a champion at super-featherweight. Beating Michael Katsidis so easily last time out to claim the title was mightily impressive, he dominated the aggressive Aussie from the first bell, he was beating him to the punch, countering him beautifully, controlling him with the jab and generally making a very good fighter look like an amateur.
Ignore Burns’ defences at super-featherweight, put the Katsidis win together with the Martinez victory and this defence against Moses and that should be enough proof that Burns not only wants big fights but that he belongs at world level. Also, should he prevail here, he’ll almost certainly meet Kevin Mitchell in either late June or September, which will be another stern test.
Everyone knows Burns’ qualities, like I mentioned earlier, he doesn’t excel at one aspect of his boxing, he’s just a very good all-rounder. He’ll look to establish his jab and control the fight off it, it’ll be up to Moses to counteract that and force Burns into a style he’s less comfortable with.
Moses also possesses a fine jab, the difference between his and Burns’ being that Moses keeps his left hand dangling low after throwing it whereas Burns immediately brings his fist back in front of his face. Moses is clearly open to the right hand – something that cost him dear against Acosta. Burns might not be a concussive puncher but if he can establish his jab and land enough right hands, it should be enough to perturb Moses from ascertaining a foothold in the fight.
If Moses turns up at full strength, and with more hunger, passion and desire than he showed against Acosta, then this could prove to be a very dangerous night for Burns. Moses is quick, carries respectable power and has a slight reach advantage over Burns - something that Burns hasn’t had to contend with that often in his career. I have my doubts about Moses's mental make-up though, and with this in mind, I’m picking the battle hardened Burns to overcome a slow start to claim a convincing points victory.