'Man strength' a bonus for Ricky Burns ahead of Kevin Mitchell bout

By Keir MurrayBBC Sport Scotland

WBO world champion Ricky Burns feels fighting at lightweight is bringing out the best in him.

The Coatbridge boxer defends his title against Kevin Mitchell in Glasgow on Saturday in front of up to 10,000 fans, his third bout at the heavier weight.

"The move up to lightweight has done me good," said Burns, 29. "There is no more killing myself worrying about what I'm eating and making the weight.

"I have matured as a fighter. I've got my man strength now. I'm stronger."

His bout against Dagenham's Mitchell, two years Burns's junior, will be a stiff test for the Scot.

The pair have comparable records: Burns has lost twice in 36 bouts but not since February 2007, when he was beaten on points by Carl Johanneson while challenging for the British super-featherweight title.

A year after that bout, Mitchell beat Johanneson to claim the British title.

Mitchell has tasted defeat only once in 34 bouts, to Michael Katsidis just over two years ago, when the Essex fighter had gone off the rails in his private life.

Katsidis, of course, was on the receiving end of Burns's fists at Wembley in his first bout since moving up from super-featherweight, at which weight he was also world champion.

"I feel I have improved as a fighter," Burns told BBC Scotland.

"I am a lot more aggressive and physically stronger and hopefully I can show that on Saturday night.

"I am just counting down the days. All the preparation went well. I am prepared for whatever happens.

"It is now just a case of keeping sharp and getting the weigh-in over on Friday.

"To me, it is just another fight, but I know it is going to be a very hard fight.

"I think we've got all bases covered. Whatever Kevin brings to the table on Saturday, we are going to be ready for it."

It is not just in the ring that Burns and Mitchell engage in battle - they enjoy a spot of virtual gaming from opposite ends of the British Isles, the pair having built up a friendship as they developed through boxing's ranks.

"Me and Kevin get on well, but once we step in that ring, it is time to go to work. Friendship is put aside for one night," added Burns.

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