On September 22nd Scotland’s Ricky Burns shall make a second defence of his World Boxing Organization (WBO) lightweight crown against Cockney favourite Kevin Mitchell in a bang-up that seems sure to feature in the Fight of the Year honours.
Ahead of the clash at Glasgow’s SECC, boxing writer Glynn Evans canvassed 40 of the sharpest minds in boxing and asked them to predict a winner.
Burns v Mitchell is live and exclusive on BoxNation (Sky Ch. 437/Virgin Ch. 546) this Saturday night. Join at www.boxnation.com
Frank Buglioni (London supermiddle prospect): Kevin Mitchell, 100%. It’s going to be a proper battle and Ricky Burns is a very formidable fighter, so strong. I love the effort he puts in.
But I’ve been in the gym alongside Mitchell and seen how hard he’s been training. His mind’s right and he looks in really good form.
Kev’s a really sharp puncher and he’s got great timing. I see him walking Ricky Burns onto something and forcing a late stoppage. I see a few little holes in Burns and I expect Kevin to find them.
Liam Walsh (Commonwealth super-feather champion): I go Burns on points in a very close fight. I expect it to be more technical than most seem to be anticipating. Kevin was one of the youngest ever to win a senior ABA title and he’s a very good boxer himself.
I don’t think the location will be an issue. I saw Kevin fight John Murray in the north-west and he just swaggered out. Also Mitchell’s certainly got more one punch power.
Burns might not have anything that makes you go ‘Wow!’ but he’s extremely fit, extremely hard to break down and, when he puts those long forearms up, it’s very difficult to nail him with anything flush. It’ll be a good ‘un.
Johnny Nelson (ex world cruiserweight champion): I’d say Kevin’s the more talented and if he turns up on best form, he wins it on points, even up in Scotland.
It’ll be a cracking fight. Burns has a great Cinderella story and trains too hard to be beat by one punch so I think it’ll go to the cards. But Kevin will be really hungry, wanting to prove a point. If he doesn’t pull this one out of the bag, where does he go?
Kevin showed when he beat John Murray up in Liverpool that the venue means little to him. Even though it’s on Ricky’s turf, for me, Mitchell’s both the better warmonger and the better boxer, and I expect him to pull it off.
Anthony Crolla (Manchester lightweight): I expect it will be a great fight and I’m really looking forward to it as a fan. They’ve proved themselves the best two lightweights in Britain. I think it might be more tactical than some expect. People forget, Kevin’s really well schooled himself.
I actually sparred Ricky about three years ago but I think he’s improved a lot since then. He’s certainly got stronger inside and now he can really bring that left hook through to the body.
Mitchell’s a very good finisher and can certainly punch so Ricky might have to come through some rocky moments, possibly even get off the floor, to win. But Ricky’s really hard to hit on the ropes and I think he probably wins on points. He’s in great form at the minute. He’s got a very underrated jab and I think he can control the fight with that.
Jim McDonnell (Essex trainer): Gonna be a good one and it certainly ain’t an easy one to call. It’ll be really tight either way. At a push, I’ll go with Burns to edge it in Scotland on a close, possibly controversial call.
If it was in London or even Manchester, I might edge to Kevin but the momentum and home advantage favour Burns. On his night, Mitchell can compete with the best of them. When he performs, he’s top quality and very, very heavy handed. He’ll be striving to be a world champion and I really expect him to bring it, to refuse to lose. If it’s going to happen for him at world level, it has to be this one.
But it’ll take a very special performance to take the title off Ricky in Scotland and I’ve a sneaky feeling that Ricky will retain. Just.
Jamie Moore (ex European light-middle champion): It’s gonna be a right good fight. Kevin’s a classy fighter who’s hit his peak. I expect him to give a real good account of himself, prove really stubborn, refuse to concede defeat.
But since first winning the world title, Burns has just got better and better. He ups his game a bit more every time. His jab may be predictable but it’s very consistent.
I expect it to be real close for six rounds but, after the turn, I expect Burns to take over. He’s got that little bit more experience at the very top level. Burns on points in a cracker.
Jamie McDonnell (European bantamweight champion): Mitchell’s a great fighter and possibly the tougher physically but Burns just keeps getting better and better. Ricky doesn’t want to scrap with Mitchell or he’ll come unstuck but, if he goes back foot, hits and moves, he’ll probably win on points.
Joe Gallagher (Manchester trainer): I so, so want Kevin Mitchell to win. He’s a real good kid. The way he conducted himself in the John Murray fight was the blueprint for all professional fighters. He was funny, quick witted but always respectful. He’s also said that, if he wins, he’ll give John Murray first shot at his belt.
Ricky does the basics very well, has a solid guard and tighter defence. The grapevine is rife that he got the better of it when they sparred and that might give Ricky a psychological boost. He won’t take Mitchell lightly and he’s bound to be bullish fighting in his own back garden.
Either way, I see a stoppage late on and, tentatively, I’ll go with Kevin. He’s the stiffer hitter, certainly the more spiteful, and he’ll have those ‘let’s have it’ moments.
Don Charles (London trainer): My money will be on Kevin Mitchell, not based on him being a Londoner but based on my knowledge of boxing.
Firstly, I have to salute Ricky and his fantastic trainer, Billy Nelson, on the way they dissected Michael Katsidis. They out boxed and out fought him for the full 12 rounds. Remember, it was the same Katsidis who stopped Kevin Mitchell. But that’s Kevin’s only loss, he fought completely the wrong fight and got done early.
Ricky’s technically cleaner, immaculate, and he can adjust. But I feel Kevin is the better all rounder, probably tougher and definitely the harder hitter. Remember how he tamed Breidis Prescott, made him look amateurish. In Jimmy Tibbs, he has an exceptional coach.
Provided Kevin applies himself in preparation and isn’t affected by issues in his ‘outside’ life, he wins the fight and I don’t think it’s a points thing. I see Burns getting stopped.
Gary Lockett (Cwmbran trainer): I’ll go with Burns on points in a pretty close one. Mitchell’s certainly the harder hitter but I think that’s probably the only department where he holds an edge.
Ricky’s become a very difficult animal to beat. Though Kevin himself has fantastic boxing ability, I think Burns has got the better jab, the better engine and the better all round game. He’s also got an edge in top level experience, been in tougher fights and come through them.
A lot depends on what Kevin Mitchell turns up. I didn’t think he was firing on all cylinders in the 10 rounder he had in February with Felix Lora and, though he’s very talented, he hasn’t got the best defence.
If he’s on it, it’ll be very close and Ricky will need to be right at the top of his game …..but he always is!
Dominic Ingle (Sheffield trainer): I go with Ricky Burns. I always recognised his ability even dating back to when Carl Johanneson dropped him and beat him. I always thought he had world title potential.
He’s the more disciplined, has less hassle in his life. He’s got a more consistent track record. Kevin’s been out of title action for quite a while and he’s had a few ups and downs in his private life.
Unless there’s a cut, I’d expect Burns to grind out a 12 round decision by a three or four round margin.
Nathan Cleverly (world light-heavyweight champion): It’ll be a real class fight. Kevin’s got the flair and the flash and he’ll definitely hurt Burns at some stage with those crisp, snappy bombs of his.
But I’ll go with Burns to get behind his jab and pinch it on points from long range. He’s the more consistent, has been kept busier and has more momentum. I think that will be decisive in the later part of the fight.
Colin McMillan (ex world featherweight champion): It’s got all the ingredients for a great clash. Both have got decent chins so I think it’ll go to the cards. Ricky Burns has become very hard to beat. He’s a very skilful boxer, has home advantage again and the Scottish crowd will be very vocal in his favour. He’ll definitely be up for it.
It depends largely on which Kevin turns up. If he turns up in the condition and form he was in when he beat Breidis Prescott, I lean slightly towards Kevin to do the job. He’s the more spiteful puncher and he’ll be hungrier. He’s had setbacks along the way and knows it’s now or never, a great opportunity to finally establish himself. I think that’ll be the deciding factor.
Enzo Maccarinelli (ex world cruiserweight champion): It’s a real 50-50 fight. They’re so evenly matched, it’s hard to pick a winner. Every round shall be really closely contested. I’m expecting a mini-classic.
A year ago I’d have said Kevin Mitchell, all day long but now I edge to Burns. He’s so hard to beat, it’s hard to go against him. I think Burns will win on points by keeping it basic, sticking and moving. But Kevin can box too. I only give Burns a slight edge.
Johnny Eames (London trainer): I expect a very tight, tricky fight, especially for the first six rounds. But if Kevin’s 100% right mentally, and from what I hear he is, he can win. A good Kevin Mitchell beats everyone, including Ricky Burns. Ricky’s very durable so I doubt Kevin stops him but I see Mitchell ‘s greater power taking over in the second half.
Derry Mathews (Liverpool lightweight): Ricky Burns is a really good lad and he’s been a great champion. I’ve sparred quite a lot with him and he’s very good at what he does.
But I’m going to go with Kevin Mitchell. I’ve always been impressed with him since I saw him thrash Stephen Smith something like 19-1 in the amateurs. At his brilliant best, like he was against Breidis Prescott and John Murray, he’s a fighter we can all learn off.
I know he got stopped by Katsidis who Ricky beat quite comfortably but that wasn’t the Kevin Mitchell we all know. Clearly something was up with him that night.
Under Jimmy Tibbs he’s a great fighter and I see him winning clearly on points or by late stoppage. I just think he’s a better fighter, a much harder puncher.
Carl Froch (world supermiddle champion): It promises to be a decent fight, very, very close. The smart money will be on Burns on points but you’ve got to get behind the English and Kevin’s a tough little f*****. I think he’ll stay on top of Burns with educated pressure and his power punches will see him to a late stoppage.
Anthony Farnell (Manchester trainer): I used to think Kevin Mitchell would be far too good but Ricky’s really come on over the last year or so. Now he fights with the confidence of a true world champion.
Personally, I’d rather watch Kevin all day long. I’ve loved his style since he was a junior amateur. If he lands one of his big left hooks he’s definitely got the power to stop Ricky Burns but I’ve just got this feeling that Ricky has his number.
There’s nothing really special about Burns but he’s really solid all round. He’s got a great jab, good one-two, lovely uppercut and nice defence; always high hands and chin tucked. He’s a very fit, dedicated lad.
Also it’s common knowledge that Kevin had his arse handed to him by Burns in sparring. Ricky just seems to have the perfect style to tame Mitchell. Burns on points.
James Cook (London trainer): It’s a very interesting fight between two guys who really want to fight each other and can be guaranteed to give it their all. You don’t get that too often these days.
Ricky Burns is a very calm guy, very tight defensively and he’s certainly improved in recent years. But I believe an ‘on song’ Kevin Mitchell beats him on points, even up in Scotland. Kevin’s a very experienced kid now, location shouldn’t matter. If anything, the home crowd could play into Mitchell’s hands, push Burns to impress and walk onto something.
Kevin has the better all round ability. I don’t think Burns can outbox him. Mitchell thinks a bit better. It’s Mitchell for me.
John Breen (Belfast trainer): It should be a really good fight for the fans to watch. I take Ricky Burns to get on top in the later rounds and stop Mitchell. Ricky’s a consummate professional who does nothing special but does everything right, inside and outside the ring.
On his day, Kevin Mitchell is capable of beating anybody but his life style doesn’t appear best suited to professional boxing and he has good days and bad. He’s not as consistent as Burns who lives the life 110%.
Alex Arthur MBE (ex world superfeather champion): I’m a wee bit stuck. I like to examine fighter’s prep. Ricky always prepares really well and I hear through the grapevine that Kevin Mitchell’s really got his act together; that’s he’s miles ahead of schedule and that those close have never seen him so driven. He performs best when he’s a wee bit frightened by the opposition. Check his fights against Breidis Prescott and John Murray.
It’s a really 50-50 fight and genuinely down to who delivers on the night. I lean 51-49 in favour of Ricky. If you’ve not sparred or fought him before, he’s really hard to work out and he’ll have the best chin Kevin Mitchell will ever have come up against, guaranteed.
Kevin’s at his best when the opponent goes at him but I don’t think Ricky will be overly aggressive. He’ll wait for Kevin to make mistakes. If there’s to be any excitement, Kevin will initiate it but I’m expecting quite a cagey fight and I’d bet anything that it goes to points. It’s going to be a tremendous England v Scotland battle.
Bradley Saunders (light welter prospect): I sway slightly to Ricky Burns. We’ve sparred and he’s very underestimated. He’s got plenty of pedigree and I’ve never met anyone fitter. He finishes a spar at exactly the same pace he starts it and that pace is high.
Kevin’s obviously got a puncher’s chance but it depends which Kevin Mitchell turns up. He can be a bit ‘hit ‘n’ miss’. Burns is always on form.
Mitchell has a clear edge in power but Ricky hits hard enough himself. I see him outworking Kevin Mitchell on points or possibly even grinding him down for a late stoppage.
Ashley Theophane (London light-welter): I’ve watched Kevin spar and he’s a top quality fighter but I have to go with Ricky Burns on points in a great fight because he’s more proven at world level. He’s also in his home town.
Each fight he steps his level up a notch, gets better and better. He’s had far greater experience at the very top flight and he’s always come through those tough fights.
Brian Lawrence (London trainer): Oooh, hard one. I think if Mitchell turns up in shape he beats him because he’s a better boxer, has more flair. Burns is relentless but basically just a toughie . I don’t think he can outbox Kevin Mitchell.
I think Burns has the same kind of style as John Murray and he’s not as dangerous as Breidis Prescott who Mitchell handled easily enough. Burns is very tough, I’ll give him that, but I know Kevin’s been training exceptionally hard and I think he could even stop him late.
Scott Quigg (British superbantam champion): Much as I’d like Kevin to win, I think Ricky Burns will be too big and will apply too much pressure, even though he’s viewed as a boxer-mover.
I’ve always rated Kevin but Burns has improved so much, technically and confidence wise, since he beat Roman Martinez. Burns has also got the better engine and that’ll see him edge it over the late rounds. Burns on points in a good ‘un.
Chris Sanigar (Bristol trainer): I’ve been very, very impressed with Ricky Burns. He’s very deceptive; so much stronger than he appears from a distance.
But I’m a big, big Kevin Mitchell fan. Clearly he underperformed against Michael Katsidis but to do what he did against John Murray, it was a hell of a result. I see a very good technical fight – I don’t foresee any knockdowns either way – but Mitchell’s got class and I think he outpoints Burns, even up in Scotland.
Jim Watt (ex world lightweight champion): A safe prediction is that it’ll be a good fight because both are always in good fights.
No doubt Kevin will try and get close, turn it into more of a brawl but Ricky’s proved how tough he is, even in those fights he lost to Alex Arthur and Carl Johanneson. Over the years he’s really learned to utilise his physical advantages, that height and reach. I think he has the style to confuse and upset Kevin from long range. I go with Burns on points.
Kell Brook (world class welterweight): It’ll be a really good fight for the Scottish fans to enjoy.
Ricky Burns has shown himself to be really consistent over his last few fights but if Kevin Mitchell turns up 100%, like he did against John Murray, I think he’ll beat Burns. He’s very exciting can really punch and is also a very good boxer when he chooses to be. I wouldn’t be completely surprised if Kevin stops him but it’ll more likely be a points job.
Steve Collins (ex world middle and super-middle champion): I like Ricky Burns on points or late stoppage in a very good fight. He’s been around longer, has more big fight experience and has been very impressive in his most recent fights. I don’t think Kevin Mitchell looks as strong as Ricky.
Paul Smith (Liverpool super-middle): Tough one, mate. Two great lads and two very, very good fighters. I’m expecting a chess match rather than them going toe-to-toe. Kevin’s got a great jab, possibly the best of any British fighter active at the moment.
Kevin’s obviously had some personal problems but hopefully they’re sorted. He seems rejuvenated of late. I think he’s probably got a bit more power and quality than anybody that Ricky Burns has fought before. He whacks really hard and Ricky’s been over a few times before.
It’s going to be a close one but I sense Kevin will be a bit too strong and powerful. If he catches him with a clean shot he might even put him away.
Tony Borg (Newport trainer): Cor, such a tight one. It’s a proper fight and you don’t get too many of them these days.
Gary Buckland has been sparring Burns and really rates him but I go with Mitchell, possibly on a late stoppage. I really like Kevin’s energy and, on his game, he’s hot, real class.
Burns is more reserved, doesn’t take chances whereas Mitchell is very exciting. I think he’ll be really up for it and might have a bit more dog.
Jon Thaxton (ex European lightweight champion): It’s real 50-50. Whichever dog has his day. Mitchell on his day, like against Murray and Prescott, can be brilliant but you never know what’s going on in his life.
Because they’re fighting in Scotland, I’ll go with Ricky Burns on points, out boxing him from the outside, in a Fight of the Year candidate. But it’s not with any strong conviction.
Richie Woodhall (ex world super-middle champion): It’ll be a great fight between two of the very best in the division. Proper fighters. Too many others just avoid each other but these two both deserve respect for stepping up.
Ricky Burns has improved out of recognition since first winning a world title and the Scottish crowd should help him no end. They could also make him tense.
I’m going for Kevin Mitchell on points. I was so impressed with him against John Murray and I think he might want it a bit more.
Brian Rose (British light-middle champion): It’s going to be really close. Our gym is split over who wins. Burns keeps shocking everyone, especially when they’ve put him down in the past.
I expect it to start off quite technical but they’ll end up ‘having it’ in the middle of the ring. I’m gonna go with Mitchell. I think he’s technically better and he’ll really want it. He’s waited ages for an opportunity and I expect he’ll grab it with both hands.
Brian Magee (WBA interim super-middle champion): It’s a hard one to pick. Mitchell has the better experience, I think. He looked very good against John Murray and he can really dig.
It’s a cracking mix of styles and I’m expecting a real tear up. Burns is always in exciting fights and he’s on a real hot streak at the minute. For me, it’s a points win for Burns.
Lee Selby (British and Commonwealth featherweight champion): It’s a good lively fight that could go either way but, though Mitchell’s more exciting, I think Burns probably wins on points. Look what Burns did to Katsidis and what Katsidis did to Mitchell.
Ricky sticks to the basics very effectively, uses the ring well and has a good defence. I think he’ll outwork Mitchell.
Rendall Munroe (ex world superbantam challenger): I think it’ll be a brilliant fight. Kevin’s aggression against Ricky’s smooth boxing.
Kevin Mitchell seems to have dealt with the issues that caused him the problems against Michael Katsidis. Sometimes you need a kick up the arse to put yourself right. He’ll have a lot to prove to himself and, when others are looking down on you, it spurs you to train harder.
When he first joined the pros, Kevin was touted to be a big star but no one’s really seen the proper Kevin Mitchell yet. I see him putting Burns under a lot of pressure. He’s got good ability, good work rate and showed against John Murray that he can take a punch.
I don’t think home advantage will have much affect. It didn’t when Mitchell beat John Murray. I don’t think Kevin stops him but he wins convincingly on points. Ricky’s got all the attributes but I think Kevin has more to prove.
Maurice Core (Manchester trainer): Tough call. I’ll go with Ricky Burns, mainly cos he’s been more active. He performed very well against Michael Katsidis and he’s really grown into the weight; tall, long reach. He’s growing in confidence with each world championship defence.
But I only go against Mitchell because of his inactivity. Jimmy Tibbs is really good at getting into Kevin’s head. He’ll not mind going into Burns backyard and he can really bang. I’m hoping Kevin does him but I think Ricky wins on points.
Matthew Hatton (ex world light-middle challenger): It’s gonna be an absolute classic. I can’t wait. I think the styles will blend really well.
Kevin’s a big talent and I’ve been so impressed with Ricky’s last few fights. He’s got a great attitude, is really dedicated and just keeps getting better every fight.
It’s real 50-50 but, if you put a gun to my head, I edge to Burns on points in a real close one. I think he’ll have a slight edge in size – he looks like a light-welter – and that might be decisive.
Kerry Kayes (fitness/nutrition expert): It’ll be a great fight, one for all the pundits. Technically every thing points to Ricky Burns. He’s great at long range and has won in better company.
But I’m going with Kevin Mitchell all day long, though I’m not sure why. I just think he’ll be hungrier. Since going with Jimmy Tibbs, he’s started getting his act together and beating John Murray so convincingly has given him a real injection of confidence.
I don’t think Kevin stops Ricky but I think he beats him because he’ll be busier.