Ricky Burns KO’s Michele Di Rocco – Scotland hasn’t produced a wealth of top-notch boxers, but the country that occupies the northern third of the island of Great Britain has spawned two legendary champions in Benny Lynch and Ken Buchanon and a third champion in Jim Watt who may someday join Lynch and Buchanon in the Hall of Fame. On Saturday, May 28, fighting before a hometown crowd at Glasgow’s new SSE Hydro Arena, Ricky Burns made a strong case for inclusion on the short list of Scottish greats with an eighth round stoppage of Michelle Di Rocco to claim the WBA 140-pound title vacated by Adrien Broner.
Di Rocco rolled into Glasgow with a 40-1-1 record and a 23-fight winning streak, but he was yet something of mystery fighter. All but two of his fights were in his native Italy. Burns (now 40-5-1, 14 KOs), set the tone in the opening round and dominated the first six frames. Di Rocco did his best work in round seven, but Burns regained control in the next round, scoring his second knockdown. The Italian was on his feet when the referee stopped the fight, but he was in no condition to continue.
A former WBO World super featherweight champion and former WBO World lightweight champion, Burns was competing in his twelfth world title fight. His last three losses were to boxers currently undefeated, namely Terence Crawford, Dejan Zlaticanin, and Omar Figueroa, Jr. He becomes the first Scotsman to win titles in three weight classes.
Burns vs. Di Rocco, televised on Sky Sports 1, was the capstone of a 14-bout card presented by Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom Boxing organization. In the chief supporting bout, Tyrone Nurse (33-2-1, 7 KOs) successfully defended his British super lightweight title with a ninth round stoppage of Willie Limond (37-5). It was a slick performance by Nurse who was fighting on enemy turf. The 37-year-old Limond, who announced his retirement after the fight, was hoping to use the match as a springboard to an all-Glasgow showdown with Ricky Burns.
The other bouts on the undercard tended to fall into two categories – (1) prominent British boxers in stay-busy fights, and (2) showcase bouts for hot young prospects.
The stay-busy fighters were Scott Cardle and John Ryder. Cardle, the reigning British lightweight champion, had a more difficult time than expected but won a 6-round decision over Croatia’s Ivan Njegac. Ryder improved to 23-2 with a 6-round decision over Poland’s Robert Talorek. Ryder’s only losses came in British title fights vs. Nick Blackwell and Billy Joe Saunders, the latter of whom holds a share of the world middleweight title.
Belfast cruiserweight Tommy McCarthy improved to 9-0 (5) with a 10-round decision over Jon-Lewis Dickinson who was 17-4 coming. Anthony Ogogo, a bronze medalist at the 2012 Olympiad, is likewise 9-0 (5) after disposing of Gary Cooper whose corner threw in the towel after the third frame. Cooper was a late sub for Germany’s Chris Herrmann who would have undoubtedly given Ogogo a stiffer test.
In another undercard bout of note, Conor Benn, the 19-year-old son of Nigel Benn, a world champion in two weight classes, won his second pro fight at the expense of Halifax’s Luke Keleher. Benn won all four rounds on the scorecard of the lone judge, referee Kenny Pringle, but this was an entertaining scrap that was no stroll in the park for young Benn.