In the buildup to his lightweight title bout against Jose Gonzalez, Ricky Burns bemoaned the fact that he didn’t get a proper chance to see his opponent in action. One thing that became apparent after their fight on Saturday was that the WBO Champion will hope he never sees this 29 year old Puerto Rican ever again.
Despite stating in the post-match interview that he thought – “some the rounds were close” – he will know in his heart of hearts that he would almost certainly have lost his title had Gonzalez not inexplicably retired on his stool, citing a dubious wrist injury – as opposed to his lack of heart and stamina – as the reason for his refusal to come out for round 10 at the Emirates Arena, Glasgow.
Prior to the fight, the only footage that the Burns camp could find was a series of You Tube clips of Gonzalez knocking people out.
On fight night however, the undefeated Puerto Rican’s frightening stats – 17KO’s from 22 contests – could not have been further removed from the slick and sophisticated style that he showcased. Ricky Burns seemed confused and totally surprised at the approach and the ability of his opponent. He simply had no reply to the challenger’s classy boxing skills, lightening fast reflexes, elusive footwork and defence-splitting jabs. Even the most partisan of home judges would have struggled to award even a round to the champion in the 1st half of the fight such was the dominance of his opponent.
Gonzalez has a freakishly long reach for a lightweight and he used it to great effect to land a flurry of punches which penetrated the champion’s guard, seemingly at will. Burns just couldn’t land anything of note but he remained resolute in the hope (rather than expectation) that his persistence would pay off eventually.
In the 7th however, the writing looked to be on the wall when Gonzalez suddenly abandoned his slick, skillful style and started brawling in the centre of the ring, backing Burns onto the ropes and giving him a ferocious beating to the head and body.
The Puerto Rican let it all hang out searching for a knockout that Burns just wouldn’t let him find.
Instead, the ‘Rickster’ somehow weathered the storm and, actually rallied to win the round, raining down several blows – both physically and psychologically – on his stunned adversary.
Still, Gonzalez had motored clearly ahead on all 3 judges’ scorecards and needed to win only one more round to rip Ricky’s title from him. But his engine was about to blow. He looked devoid of all the stamina and confidence he had displayed in such abundance in the first half of the fight and any punches he did throw were now bereft of any real power or purpose.
Just as Burns came into bloom though, Gonzalez wilted faster than a cheap bouquet of petrol station flowers. The scent of Burns’ blood was now replaced by the pungent aroma of his own fear and – make no mistake – he was in survival mode for the last two rounds and offered virtually nothing.
Yet for all the Scot’s sustained pressure and intense work rate, his fists still failed to inflict any serious physical damage on his opponent. His heart and super-human stamina however, battered the broken Gonzalez into submission psychologically, as he meekly surrendered his shot at the title by refusing to come out for the tenth.
Burns’ promoter, Barry Hearn, who wore the look of a very worried man throughout, summed up the shocking circumstances of Gonzalez’ retirement as he stated ““All he had to do was win one more round and he was world champion so to pull out in those circumstances means something had to be really, really bad. I think Ricky broke his heart. In that seventh round he hit Ricky with everything he had, and Ricky came back.”
One thing has become abundantly clear after this bout – Ricky Burns will be the one left broken hearted if he does not go back to the drawing board before his next fight. On Saturdays showing, fellow lightweight title holders Miguel Vasquez and Richard Abril would be overwhelming favourites to overcome the ‘Rickster’ should his plans for a unification bout with either man come to fruition.