IT IS fitting that the sporting journey of such a humble man began in unassuming surroundings. Glasgow. Fordneuk Street. Twenty-two years ago. This was the place and a moment a hero was indoctrinated into the fold of Scottish boxing.
Ricky Burns was just 12 years old when he first bowed his head to duck under a rope and stand in the ring. At that point, only a few dozen or so eyes would have been on this unknown schoolboy from Coatbridge.
Tonight, just three miles along the Clyde, 8000 pairs of eyes will be fixed on him inside the SSE Hydro in what is the biggest fight of his career as he goes up against Julius Indongo in a super-lightweight unification clash.
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“I can remember my first fight. It was in the gym at Fordneuk Street in Glasgow. It was my very first. I was only 12,” recalls Burns.
“I think I only got a medal. It meant the world to me at the time, 100 per cent. I think I stopped the boy in the second round. I was over the moon.
“I had so many amateur fights and so many trophies. My brothers used to fight as well so they have probably been put up the loft somewhere.
“I just wanted to do something I enjoyed. When I left school I was a mechanic but as soon as I was qualified I sat down with my mum and dad, who agreed it was okay for me to pack my job in and concentrate on boxing.
“[Despite] the amount of years I’ve been boxing and how hard we train I still enjoy it. That’s all I set out to do.”
Dozens, if not hundreds, of trophies and belts have been garnered along the way. Hundreds of contests won to get Burns to where he will stand tonight with the roar of his own people behind him. Urging him to make history.
Already a three-weight world champion, there doesn’t seem much to intimidate or unsettle this reserved Lanarkshire man. Having come back from the brink after defeat at Braehead Arena three years ago had left a dark cloud over his future, there is no trepidation about trying to become the first Scot to unify this division. Just excitement.
Ahead of his bout with the unbeaten Namibian, Burns was keen to play down the significance of the bout. “Winning the world title fights, and now this, I try to box it – put it to one side,” he said. “In my eyes this is just another fight. I’ve trained for it exactly the same way I’ve done for any other fight. For me there is no difference, I just want to get out there.
“There were a few fights offered to me but when the unification was offered to me it was always top of my list.”
Whenever you speak to Burns, there is not even a faint whiff of showbiz about him. For someone steadfast, clinical and intuitive with a pair of boxing gloves on, the 34-year-old remains perplexed at the fuss made around him.
“Sometimes when you get into the venue and you are sitting in the changing room, someone will open the door. You’ll go out to have a wee look and you can hear [the fans] all singing. You just think ‘listen to them’.
“That makes you sit up. When you walk out in it then obviously it does give you a big lift but as soon as I get in the ring I just need to try and block it all out. You have enough pressure on yourself going into a fight. I just want to concentrate on my opponent.”
He probably has a point.
While Indongo will not be well known to the thousands in the SSE Hydro this evening, the undefeated 34-year-old has an air of authority about him. In more ways than one. “He is a policeman,” explains promotor Nestor Tobias, who was involved in Burns’ win over Paulus Moses at Braehead back in 2012.
“Burns is an accomplished fighter but we are ready for 12 rounds, for anything. You have to treat [Indongo] as a tough guy and a very good boxer, so this is not going to be a walk in the park.
“We have worked very hard to face a very disciplined guy. On Saturday he is going to meet a very good boxer in Julius Indongo. He’s strong and very fast with good feet and he is ready for this fight.”