By Michael Mcneill: After weeks of Nicky Cook being heavily rumored as the next Challenger for Ricky Burns’ WBO Super featherweight title, it finally looks official after the WBO penciled the bout in on their website along with Boxrec. The bout, which will be Burns’s third defense of the title he won last year from Roman Martinez, will headline Warren’s show at The Echo Arena in Liverpool, with Scouser Tony Bellew defending his Commonwealth Light Heavyweight title on the undercard, in a rematch with Ovill McKenzie.
Burns and Frank Warren have both faced heavy criticism by fight fans who have expressed their frustrations with the caliber of the challengers that have appeased Burns’ reign so far. The criticism directed at Burns is perhaps unfair given that the Coatbridge man shied away from no one on his way up the ranks, taking on vastly more experienced favorites like Graham Earl and Alex Arthur (in the formers’ case, at two days notice) whilst still a virtual novice, before graduating as a champion himself. It was also Burns who was willing to go to Peurto Rico in attempt to dethrone Roman Martinez for the belt he now holds, only for the Champions promoter to fail produce the funds required to stage the contest.
Fans may be slightly happier with this defense however. Cook is a former holder of the belt – out pointing Burns’ compatriot and former foe Alex Arthur to win it, only to be knocked out by Roman Martinez in his first attempt at defending it. The Essex boy was keeping the Peurto Rican at bay early in the fight and managing to land combinations before being flattened and finished in the fourth by an eroding uppercut.
Cook does appear however to have done little in the way of earning another shot at the title. After being inactive for over two years, he returned last Saturday on the undercard of the Groves Vs Degale clash in London, pitching a 6 round shut out win over cagey Journeyman Youssef Al Hamidi.
You have to wonder how a victory of such low magnitude could propel him back into the WBO Rankings and qualify for a voluntary defense.
Never the less, the fight is interesting. Burns will no doubt be an overwhelming favorite, with the 31 year old Cook potentially suffering from poor confidence and ring rust. Despite this, I think it will be a sterner test of the Scotsman’s abilities than his previous two outings. Unlike Joseph Laryea and Andreas Evenson, Cook is well known on these shores has operated, if only briefly at world level. He will also bring a sizeable support to the Echo Arena, potentially out numbering the traveling Burns fans. The bout provides a nice enough clash of styles too, with the rangy champion always willing to mix it up at stages in a fight and the much shorter challenger similarly being able to fight both on the outside and up close. Burns will be looking to impress by gaining his first stoppage as a world champion, perhaps employing his strong arsenal of body shots to an opponent who has proven vulnerable in that area in the past.
It’s easy to write Cook off, of course, but this is perhaps his last roll at the dice career that stems back 13 years. If Burns isn’t at his best, an upset would not be at all out the question. Whilst not a unification fight for the fans to enjoy, the July sixteenth fight is attractive enough to draw the viewers and will spark far more interest than Burns’ previous two defenses and will hopefully put the critics at rest for the time being.