For most of the nine rounds that their fight lasted, lightweight titleholder Ricky Burns was utterly outclassed by the largely unknown Jose Gonzalez. It was a shocking scene to see Gonzalez, who was the mandatory challenger for reasons that will remain a mystery -- because it sure had nothing to do with his barren résumé -- toying with Burns.
Gonzalez, who had never fought anyone of remote consequence and was fighting outside of his Puerto Rican home for the first time, had traveled to the lion's den of Glasgow, Scotland, where Burns is a hero, and he took the hero to school Saturday at Emirates Arena.
Burns' title was clearly slipping away -- just listen to the crowd grow quieter and quieter, round after round -- when, suddenly, Gonzalez simply quit on his stool after the ninth round.
The British television commentators, who also had Burns way behind, said it might have been a hand injury. Whatever it was, that's the sort of pain you sign up for when you become a prizefighter. If you want to be a champion, it goes with the territory. Gonzalez (22-1, 17 KOs) couldn't take it, did not have what it takes to be a champion and quit. Poof. Just like that, he gave up the opportunity of a lifetime to win a world title.
But for most of the nine rounds, Gonzalez befuddled an ineffective Burns (36-2, 11 KOs), who was as lucky to keep his title (in his third defense) as anyone is to hit the lottery. This fight wasn't so much about Burns winning it as it was about Gonzalez losing.
Burns, the heavy favorite, showed very little and had me thinking he should be thankful he (and former promoter Frank Warren) turned down multiple overtures from fellow titleholder Adrien Broner. I always thought Broner would manhandle Burns. After seeing Burns against Gonzalez, I'm sure of it.
By the third round, Burns was bleeding from the nose. He was being easily beaten to the punch as Gonzalez showed a really nice variety of punches -- uppercuts, body shots and right hands. He didn't even really use his best punch, the left hook, much.
Gonzalez had big fifth and sixth rounds, backing Burns into the ropes and hurting him with repeated blows. At this point in the fight, it seemed not really a matter of whether Gonzalez would stop him, just when. But I will give Burns a bit of credit here. He is experienced and has heart and obviously knew he was trailing. He let it all hang out in the seventh round, which will go down as a round of the year candidate.
They went toe to toe. They were both hurt and they were both in trouble at different times. It was a blistering round, and it clearly took more out of Gonzalez than Burns.
"He caught me with a few good shots, and I just decided to stand my ground and trade back with him. That's all I could do," Burns said after the fight about Round 7.
Burns mounted a comeback in the eighth and ninth rounds, his best of the fight, as Gonzalez, perhaps his hand already hurt, looked dead tired and did not do very much. Still, Burns was in a deep hole when the ninth ended. And then, out of nowhere, Gonzalez quit, giving Burns the improbable victory.
Eddie Hearn, the Matchroom Sport promoter who signed Burns before this fight after he dumped Warren, seemed relieved Burns had pulled this victory out of the fire.
"Unbelievable courage," he said of Burns' ability to hang in there despite a very tough night.
Then Hearn said they would be back in Scotland for Burns' next title defense in September -- a title he is very, very lucky to still call his own.