Tuesday, March 26, 2013
Ricky Burns to face Jose Gonzalez
By Dan Rafael
It's been a whirlwind few weeks for lightweight titlist Ricky Burns with the cancellation of a fight followed by the jump to a new promoter.
But now he is set for his next defense.
Burns will make the mandatory defense of his 135-pound world title against Jose Gonzalez of Puerto Rico on May 11 at the Emirates Arena in Glasgow, Scotland, Burns' home country, Matchroom Sport promoter Eddie Hearn announced on Tuesday.
Burns had been due to face Mexico's Miguel Vazquez in a world title unification bout on March 16 in London, but the fight was canceled when Vazquez withdrew, claiming illness, although word had circulated through the industry for weeks that the fight was in trouble and unlikely to come off.
After the fight was called off, Burns, who saw his second consecutive fight fall apart, ended his relationship with promoter Frank Warren and signed with his biggest rival, Hearn.
Hearn quickly announced that Burns' first fight under his promotion would take place May 11 in Scotland. Hearn said that on March 19, a week after Burns signed with him, the WBO ordered Burns to make his mandatory against Gonzalez.
Hearn said he was given five days to negotiate the deal with Gonzalez promoter Peter Rivera of PR Best Boxing or a purse bid would be ordered.
Just before the deadline, they reached a deal and signed the agreement, Hearn said.
"It's been a tough few days and we've had plenty of obstacles to overcome, but I'm delighted to bring Jose Gonzalez to Glasgow for what I feel will be the beginning of a new era for Scottish boxing," Hearn said. "Gonzalez is ranked No. 1 (by the WBO), undefeated and comes with a dangerous reputation. It's imperative that we deal with our mandatory challenger to pave the way for big unification clashes."
Burns (35-2, 10 KOs), 29, a former junior lightweight titlist before giving up the belt to move up in weight, made his first two lightweight defenses in 2012, a lopsided decision against former titleholder Paulus Moses of Namibia in March and a fourth-round knockout of England's Kevin Mitchell in September. Burns will be making his third title defense when he faces Gonzalez.
"I'm really looking forward to May 11," Burns said. "He's a big puncher with a great KO record, but I've been in with big punchers before and that doesn't worry me in the slightest. It's great to have the date and name sorted now so I can just focus on getting myself in great shape for a big night in Glasgow."
Gonzalez (22-0,17 KOs), 29, of Puerto Rico, will be taking a quantum leap in competition against Burns, but is happy to have the shot.
"I'm very glad for this opportunity and it's a dream come true fighting for the world title as the mandatory challenger," Gonzalez said. "I'm not worried about fighting in Burns' homeland. I'm preparing greatly for this fight and I'm sure I will bring the world title to my country."
Said Rivera, "For us it's like a rematch fight because Burns already beat one of our fighters, Roman Martinez (in a 2010 junior lightweight title fight), and now Gonzalez has the chance to avenge that loss."