Scotland's first three-weight world champion, the much-celebrated Ricky Burns, heads back to the SSE Hydro in Glasgow on 7 October to provide the very first defence of his WBA super-lightweight belt against mandatory challenger Kiryl Relikh. The card also includes Dillian Whyte challenging Ian Lewison for the vacant domestic heavyweight title and Scott Cardle putting his British lightweight strap on the line against Kevin Hooper.
Proceeds from the ticket sales for this event will be given to the family of Mike Towell, the Dundee welterweight who tragically died in hospital last Friday after being knocked down twice and suffering severe bleeding and swelling to his brain during a bout against Dale Evans at the Radisson Blu Hotel. Ricky Hatton has already begun a fundraising appeal.
How to watch
Boxing enthusiasts can watch Burns vs Relikh live on Sky Sports 2 HD, with coverage of the event set to begin at 20.00 BST.
Burns' emphatic eighth-round stoppage of Michele di Rocco in front of a jubilant home crowd in May saw the 33-year-old join Bob Fitzsimmons and Duke McKenzie as the only British fighters ever to claim world titles in three different weight divisions. A cursory glance at the other overseas names on such an illustrious 44-man list, including the likes of Roberto Duran, Sugar Ray Leonard, Tommy Hearns, Oscar De La Hoya, Floyd Mayweather Jr and Manny Pacquiao, gives an insight into the sheer scale of his achievement.
While it would obviously be amiss to rank Burns alongside some of the greatest boxers ever to grace the ring, that triumph did nevertheless mark a stirring comeback from adversity. Formerly a super-featherweight champion, he made the successful jump up to lightweight and won another WBO belt before following a massively controversial 'home draw' against Raymundo Beltran – a fight in which Burns sustained a broken jaw – with a points defeat to the mightily impressive Terence Crawford in March 2014.
While losing to the now unified and lineal super-lightweight king was certainly no disgrace in hindsight, a second consecutive loss at the hands of Dejan Zlaticanin looked to have reduced his career and future world title prospects to rubble. The Coatbridge fighter has battled back valiantly since then, however, gaining confidence by beating Alexandre Lepelley, Prince Ofotsu and Josh King and setting up that memorable win over Di Rocco. Even in ending up on the wrong side of a unanimous decision against Omar Figueroa in Texas last year, he proved that he once again had an appetite for the big occasion.
Next on the agenda for Burns is a potentially tricky mandatory defence against the big-hitting Relikh – one that he will have to take seriously in order to avoid being embarrassed. While obviously far from a household name, the Hatton-trained Belarusian, who lives in Minsk but has previously fought in both Sheffield and Bolton, is undefeated and boasts formidable record of 19 knockouts from 21 professional victories.
In the likely event that Burns successfully defends his title, then a high-profile bout against Adrien Broner likely awaits in December. Eddie Hearn revealed last week that the controversial American is set to fly to Scotland to attend the fight against Relikh and that negotiations are "pretty much there". He additionally revealed that Broner's "issues out of the ring" were the only reason they elected to get this mandatory defence out of the way first.
What the boxers have said (via Sky Sports)
Ricky Burns: "Obviously this is a big step up for him – [the] first time he's headlined an arena show live on Sky Sports – and he's walking into the lion's den in Glasgow. Hopefully the fans will make it hostile for him and I don't think it will sink in the level he's at until there's just me, him and the ref in the ring.
"I have watched a few rounds of Relikh as we knew he was a possibility. He's got a lot of KOs on his record so he can obviously punch a bit, but it's the level of opposition that he's been knocking out. He can dig a bit but we're not treating this any differently to any other fight I've had. I've had a good long camp for this one so there's no fears for me."
Ricky Hatton: "I know a lot of people are thinking 'Who is Kiryl Relikh?', but this kid is the real deal. He has had 21 fights unbeaten with 19 knockouts. He hasn't boxed at Ricky's level yet but the manner in which he has won at the level he is at, shows he is the real deal. He has been with me six or seven years and he just blasts everyone.
"It is all right me saying this but he is fighting a three-weight world champion so he has to prove it. I was in Scotland when Michael Gomez beat Alex Arthur [in 2003] and no one thought he would do that. I believe Kiryl will do the same."
Burns: 46 fights, 40 wins (14 knockouts)
- (W) Michele di Rocco - technical knockout - May 2016
- (W) Josh King - knockout - November 2015
- (W) Prince Ofotsu - technical knockout - August 2015
Relikh: 21 fights, 21 wins (19 knockouts)
- (W) Joaquim Carneiro - retirement - May 2016
- (W) Christian Ariel Lopez - technical knockout - October 2015
- (W) Lazaro Santos de Jesus - technical knockout - May 2015
Burns to retain his title with a comfortably wide points victory.
Odds (via Betfair)
Ricky Burns 1/4
Kiryl Relikh 3/1
Dillian Whyte vs Ian Lewison - for the vacant British heavyweight title
Scott Cardle vs Kevin Hooper - for Cardle's British lightweight title
Joe Ham vs Ricky Starkey
Lewis Paulin vs Adrian Fuzesi
Scott McCormack vs Luke Fash
Kieran Smith vs Robert Asagba
Stewart Burt vs Arturs Geikins
Ross Murray vs Tibor Nadori