By Ian S Palmer
Ricky Burns of Scotland will be defending his WBA Junior Welterweight Championship this Friday, October 8th at the SSE Hydro in Glasgow, Scotland against undefeated Kiryl Relikh of Belarus. Burns won the vacant title last May when he beat Michele Di Rocco of Italy by an eighth-round stoppage in his last outing. Relikh’s last bout took also took place in May when he defeated Joaquim Carneiro by a fourth-round stoppage. This 12-round bout can be seen live in the UK on Sky Sports. Burns is supposed t take on Adrien Broner next if he gets past Relikh.
The 33-year-old Burns will climb into the ring with a record of 40-5-1 along with 14 Kos while the 26-year-old Relikh is a perfect 21-0 and has 19 Kos to his name. Burns five losses have been to Alex Arthur by 12-round unanimous decision in 2006, Carl Johanneson by 12-round unanimous decision in 2007, Terence Crawford by unanimous decision in 2014, Dejan Zlaticanin by 12-round split decision in 2014, and to Omar Figueroa Jr. last year by another 12-round unanimous decision. He also fought to a controversial 12-round split decision draw with Raymundo Beltran in 2013 in a fight many experts had Beltran winning. Burns only victories in the past couple of years have been against the likes of Di Rocco, King, Prince Ofotsu and Lepelley.
Burns has been a two-division titleholder at lightweight and junior welterweight. This is his second reign as a junior welterweight belt holder. He stands 5-feet-10 inches tall with a reach of 70 inches. He’s not much of a power puncher as his current knockout ratio is just 30 per cent. He turned pro in 2001 and has 349 rounds of pro experience. The Scotsman is undoubtedly a durable veteran though who’s beaten the likes of former and current champions such as Roman Martinez, Kevin Mitchell, Paulus Moses and Michael Katsidis. However, he’s not really in the Grade A level as we found out when he faced Crawford and Figueroa.
Relikh has an unlisted height and reach by BoxRec, but there’s one statistic we do know about him and that’s the fact that he’s a heavy puncher with 19 Kos in 21 bouts. This means his knockout ratio currently stands at 90 per cent. In addition, his bouts don’t last very long as he’s fought just 61 rounds in his 21 contests. He’s fought a few times in western Europe, including a couple of times in the UK, but his opponents are basically all unknown by the average boxing fan. He’ll now be facing a world champion in Burns who has 10 of his last 14 outings and has recorded three straight knockouts and five stoppages in his past six wins.
Burns is always in good shape and is a smart boxer with a relatively strong chin. This is Relikh’s fourth contest since 2015 and he’s stepping up in class here. He likes to put the pressure on his opponents and move forward. He’s also a boxer who likes to work his opponents’ body. Burns can’t afford to take him too lightly due to his power, but he may not be too motivated against Relikh since this is a mandatory defence.
Burns has a decent chin, but has been down before. He’ll need to use his boxing skills to keep Relikh on the back foot as much as possible and make his opponent worry about covering up rather than launching a prolonged attack. Relikh hasn’t faced the type of opponents Burns has, but he appears to have a lot of power. If Relikh is going to win this bout it will likely be by a knockout, while Burns has the skills to outbox him. Considering Burns has never been stopped, I’ll take him to win a decision, but to be rocked a few times along the way.