Burns edges Relikh

Martin Chesnutt
10/10/2016 12:17am

When Ricky Burns found himself on his backside in the first round of his first world title shot against Roman Martinez, you can imagine many of his fans questioning whether their man belonged at that level.

Six years later, Burns is a three-weight world champion, and on the cusp of a glamour fight with U.S. bad boy Adrien Broner.

Getting this far has not been plain sailing, but by maximising his skill set and working hard, Burns' career is evidence that what is possible and what people expect are two entirely different things.

On Friday night the WBA light welterweight champion defended his belt at The Hydro in Glasgow against Kiryl Relikh.

Relikh came into the fight with a 21-0 record, stopping 19 of his opponents along the way. Many of the fans in attendance didn’t know what to expect from the Belarusian. He hadn’t been in with the calibre of fighters Burns has, but his high knockout percentage could not be ignored.

The challenger quickly let the champion know that home advantage and the big stage would not bother him, as he pressed forward, easily backing the Scot up in the first two rounds.

As he has done many times throughout his career though, Burns dug deep, adapted and controlled much of the middle of the fight, although many of the rounds were close, making them hard to score. What did you like? The flurries of pressure from Relikh, or the consistency of Burns?

There were noticeable tendencies from Relikh, such as dropping his hands while stepping back to recompose himself after many Burns attacks, and also letting his head drop after a couple of the middle rounds, perhaps feeling he was losing control of the fight after his good early work.

However, a sense of urgency then arrived and Relikh fought back hard over the last four rounds, finding Burns at his feet in the final round, although a knockdown was not given. Fans debated whether it was knockdown or whether the champion had been pulled down.

The judges awarded Burns the fight by unanimous decision, with the cards reading 116-112 twice, and 118-110, which was not a fair assessment of the fight, and certainly ruffled a few feathers.

I scored it 115-113 to Burns, although I was questioning one of the rounds I’d given to Relikh, and would have been comfortable signing off on a 116-112 scorecard.

The judges were raked over the coals again with regards to their ability to accurately score a fight, which in this instance I think was a bit unfair. Sure they’re trained and paid to do a job, and their experience should mean they are more than capable, but some fights are just not that easy to score.

Judges can only score based on what they’ve seen. Once their card is marked, they move on. There is no time to ponder or allow for retrospective scoring. A judge cannot tally up their card, only to make changes if thinking ‘I’ve scored it 9-3, but it really felt like a 7-5 fight.’

I’ve not watched the fight back on television and will be brief in mentioning the obvious, namely that scoring a fight live is a completely different experience to scoring while watching the television ... but it is!

Ultimately, it seems most people feel the right man got the nod, but the cards didn’t wholly reflect what was a close and very competitive bout.

Burns will move on, expecting to travel overseas to face Broner, while Relikh came away from the fight with a lot of credit, new fans, and likely a feeling he has it in him to win a world title belt.