20th September 2012

Nelson on the pads with Burns
Billy Nelson’s role in steering Ricky Burns to world titles in two weight divisions must never be diminished.

 
The
Coatbridge star was a forlorn, twice defeated 23-year-old when
residential care worker Nelson hopped onto the trainers saddle following
‘Rickster’s’ February 2007 British super-feather title loss to Carl
Johanneson. Nineteen fights together since have brought 19 victories,
the last half dozen in WBO world championships.

Formerly
the chief pad man to Scott Harrison and Alex Arthur during a 14 year
apprenticeship under Peter Harrison, Nelson, Essex born but a fierce
Scottish patriot, has been operating independently from his ‘Fighting
Scots’ gym in Stepps, Glasgow for five years now. He is widely regarded
as one of the most committed and savvy coaches in the industry.

 
Yesterday
afternoon, with Burns’ titanic title defence against Dagenham’s Kevin
Mitchell drawing ever closer, the 44-year-old former amateur
middleweight took time out to discuss his man’s preparations with boxing
writer Glynn Evans. 
Billy,
how do you reflect on Ricky’s previous defence, the comprehensive
decision over Namibia’s Paulus Moses at the Braehead Arena last March?
What were you happy with? What still needs attending to?
I was very, very pleased overall because Moses was an extremely dangerous opponent who’d probably take care of all the other top domestic lightweights we have. I think he was very underestimated going into the fight but never by us.
Ricky
boxed really smartly, used his distance well and applied educated
pressure. The only real mistake was when he lifted his head up in the
first round but I quickly brought that to his attention….gently. I’m
not a shouter in the corner. Ricky doesn’t need it.

 
Would you say the Mitchell fight is the biggest of Ricky’s career?
Could
be, aye. The Martinez win will always be Ricky’s most important because
that’s the fight that really put his name out there and got the ball
rolling. But I guess if you’re talking with regard to profile, publicity
and occasion, this is the biggest. It’s definitely the biggest arena
Ricky’s fought at but he wouldn’t see it as pressure. Hopefully, he’ll
feed off it.

 
Has Ricky done anything different for this training camp?
Nothing
different, really. We’ve had 11 or 12 weeks as opposed to ten simply
because we were helping Bradley Saunders to prepare for his last fight
and we just carried on after that. We’ve had some fantastic sparring
with Bradley, Ashley Theophane, Dave Brophy and Michael Roberts. As
always, Ricky’s looking fantastic.

Ricky’s a notoriously laidback character but what’s he like in that crucial final week building up to a world championship?
Like
every fighter, he becomes a wee bit edgy as he loses the final few
pounds but he’s no problem. All the real hard graft has been done and
Saturday night just can’t come quick enough for him. He’s ready to go
now.

 
You’ve
been with Ricky for five years now and his general improvement during
that time has been phenomenal. In what specific ways have you noticed
him develop, fight by fight?
I
think the biggest change is that, with each new world title win, each
impressive defence, he’s become more and more confident in himself and
that motivates him to train harder and harder. I have to say he’s a
super, super fit guy and, though he does work extremely hard in the gym,
a lot of that fitness is natural. Ricky’s a fantastic athlete and if he
wasn’t a boxing world champion, he could be successful in a number of
other sports, but most probably as a distance runner.

Ricky’s
won and defended world championships in two separate divisions now. In
your opinion, what continues to drive him to get into such fantastic
shape and put his body through the mill on fight night?

I
think he just loves his job, and how many are in the fortunate position
that they can say that?  He never speaks about money or titles but he’s
finally getting the rewards he deserves and that must make him happy.

 
What’s your assessment of Mitchell as a fighter? What do you need to be mindful of? Has Ricky fought anyone similar?
Kevin’s
an excellent fighter with a really big heart and that’s half the
battle. He’s also a nice guy and I’ve got the utmost respect for him.
But I’ve identified a few faults that he has, that he’s not changed over
the years, and we’ve been working on exposing those. I don’t believe
he’s got as good a boxing brain as my man but we’ll find out about that
on Saturday night.
I
think there’s a bit of both Rocky Martinez and Michael Katsidis about
Mitchell. He has that one punch power (Martinez) and tenacity (Katsidis)
but Ricky handled both of them and has improved a lot in the gym since
those fights.
Without
any disrespect to Kevin, I think Martinez hits harder ‘pound for
pound’. He caught Ricky with a massive, massive shot which dropped Burns
in round one and the thud when it connected never left me for the whole
12 rounds of the fight!

 
How important will home advantage be, regarding both your preparation and on the night?
Well
obviously it’s a big plus for us. Any boxer would want to be at home,
sleeping in their own bed because it minimises disruption. But above
all, it’s great for Scotland, Scottish boxing and especially, the local
undercard fighters. We want more of these nights and that means Ricky
has to keep winning in world title defences.
I
have to say Alex Morrison and Frank Warren have done a great job
selling the fight and we’re expecting close to nine thousand. That said,
it makes no difference to Ricky if he was fighting you in an open field
with nobody there. He’s just a hugely competitive guy, a winner.

 
So what type of fight are you anticipating; cagey or carnage?! Why does Burns win?
It’ll
be a cracking fight and we’ve trained for every eventuality. Obviously
I’m not about to give away how we intend going about it but I think a
big plus for Ricky is that he can adapt better than Kevin; he can box,
move, fight and change things up, mid round. I expect him to win because
he’s just the better fighter, all round. I wouldn’t discount a late
stoppage.

 
And
then? You worked the pads for Scott Harrison throughout his entire pro
career before imprisonment. Could he feature against Ricky in the not
too distant …?
We’re
thinking of nothing but Kevin Mitchell. It would be hugely
disrespectful to Kevin to think any other. Looking beyond is how
champions lose their titles.
Scott
Harrison is a great, great fighter and I’m delighted to see him back
and looking so well. Of course, it’s up to Frank Warren and Alex
Morrison but it could well happen. What a fight that would be for
Scotland.
Burns v Mitchell is live and exclusive on BoxNation (Sky Ch. 437/Virgin Ch. 546).  Join at www.boxnation.com