Burns wins but has plenty to ponder

WBO lightweight champion Ricky Burns

Ricky Burns and Jose Gonzalez will have woken up on Sunday morning with alternative endings to the previous night's action racing through their minds.

For the 30-year-old Scot, there will be enormous relief that the WBO world lightweight belt is still in his possession. Yet, he will surely be pondering what would have happened had the talented Puerto Rican come out for the final three rounds of the scheduled 12.

As for Gonzalez, now nursing a damaged left wrist and the first blemish on his 23-fight record, the pain of going nine tough rounds will be competing with gut-gnawing pangs of regret that he didn't try to survive, using his jab, the final quarter of the fight.

All three judges had the mandatory challenger ahead by three rounds when he refused to rise from his stool for round 10, scoring which seemed, to this observer, slightly generous but testament to the boxing skill he had displayed to that point.

Burns described the fight as being "much harder" than when he was last tested to such an extent, his victory over Gonzalez's countryman Roman Martinez to win the WBO super-featherweight title.

Eddie Hearn, the promoter with whom he and his manager Alex Morrison have joined following the late postponement of his last two fights under rival Frank Warren, offered reporters a theory on Gonzalez's decision to quit.

"If you've got three rounds to survive to win the world title and you pull out with a bad hand, there must be more to it," he said.

"He is a class fighter but I just think Ricky broke his heart.

"I think in the seventh round he hit Ricky with everything he had."

Burns had indeed been in trouble in that round. Not since the Martinez fight have his fans seen their hero come under such a cascade of punishment.

"In the seventh round he did hurt me," said Burns, uncharacteristically marked around the face.

"The ref was having a good look. I think he was thinking about stopping it but I just fired straight back with my own. If somebody hurts me I go right back at them."

After edging the opening couple of rounds Burns had lost his way in the fight, missing with all manner of punches as Gonzalez found his range in his boxing debut outside his home country.

The challenger kept on the back foot, switch-hit with his long arms and concentrated on a sound defence and benefited from superb reflexes to dart his head away from the increasingly frustrated but always dangerous and aggressive champion.

And with 17 knock-outs in his previous bouts, he posed a significant threat with his own venomous assaults.

"We didn't know how awkward he was going to be," said the Coatbridge fighter, whose record is now 36 wins and two defeats.

"I felt as if it was a boring fight to watch so I was trying to force it, over-stretching and getting caught.

"When you fight someone who doesn't want to fight, just counter, it is hard.

WBO lightweight champion Ricky Burns

"I knew some of the rounds were close and that he was stealing them. I was getting caught with stupid shots on the counter."

In an atmosphere described by Hearn as "mind blowing", very few inside Glasgow's Emirates Arena could have been numbed by the contest.

As Burns tried to subdue Gonzalez, his trainer, Billy Nelson, was imploring him not to be out-foxed.

"I know the grit and determination of this guy but I was worried in the seventh," he said.

"He has a God-given boxing brain and sometimes that rules that and it shouldn't," he added, gesturing to his heart and head in that order.

"In the eighth and ninth he upped his work rate. They are the championship rounds, the difference between a grade-A fighter and an A-plus."

That seemed a fair assessment as Burns, showing a champion's will to win, began to re-assert himself on the third challenger to his crown.

A relieved Burns said: "He was starting to tire. His volume of punches was less. He was on the back foot a lot more. I knew it was tight.

"I always train for a hard 12 rounds and it's the championship rounds where you get found out.

"Even though 50% of the punches I was throwing were missing he was still under pressure a lot and he didn't like it. I like to throw more than my opponent."

Burns has fatherhood to look forward to this summer before fighting again in September, probably at the same venue.

"The mandatory challenge is done; now he can take voluntary challenges and unification fights," said Hearn.

"[IBF champion Miguel] Vazquez is one we'd like to make, [Gavin] Rees is fighting [Anthony] Crolla, [WBC champion Adrian] Broner is fighting Paul Malignaggi [at welterweight] and Richard Abril [WBA belt holder] is interested in a fight."

There are plenty of options, then, for this courageous champion but a rematch with Gonzalez is not one.

Hearn's instant, only half-jokey dismissal of the suggestion says much about the camp's regard for the artist from Puerto Rico.

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