My battery is at 10% – if it cuts off that’s the reason!”. Ah, the dreaded phone battery. But then, this is Ross Burkinshaw that I am talking to, a man who has overcome far more significant issues than low power on a lithium-ion battery. We made it in one conversation.
Burkinshaw (14-6-2) is a man who at only 28 is on to his second career and has experienced multiple lows to match his significant highs. Prior to starting on the road to being a professional boxer, Ross had spent time in the army. Then for six years from 2006, he broke a boundary and managed to hold down both positions, as he tells us:
“I turned pro in 2006, but was in the army until 2012. I was the first serving soldier to be granted permission to turn professional (Ross was in the rifles). I was Combined Services champion two years in a row – it meant I didn’t actually go back to my batallion until 2006, which is when I wanted to turn pro. I moved back to Sheffield and got a civilian flat and trained at a civilian gym from then on. Used to go to Catterick once a month and talk to recruits about my career – they used me for publicity, putting my face on billboards and the sides of buses around the country. They would march out to the ring with me so it was great PR for them as well, they even got to march out live on Sky Sports.”
Professional boxer and part of the Army. Ross sure knows how to pick the hard work careers. But it is the kind of physical and mental fortitude that would have been drilled in to him during his army career that has helped him during his boxing career as well. Two years after he turned professional, and having amassed for wins and a draw, Burkinshaw suffered his first loss.
“My shoulder popped out in 2008 in a fight against Abdul Mghrbel which was my first loss.” Ross tells me. It wasn’t the last time that injury would disrupt one of his fights. “I continued trying to fight with my left arm, but the ref had realised that my shoulder had popped out and stopped it. I got back on a winning spree and then ended up getting beaten by Lee Haskins in 2009 for the British flyweight title.”
Over the years that loss to Haskins has proven to be perfectly respectable – this year the Bristol bantamweight picked up the IBF title against Ryosuke Iwasa. Burkinshaw re-grouped, and picke up three consecutive wins before putting himself in a position to challenge for the British bantamweight title in 2010 against the unbeaten Craig Lyon. The fight ened in defeat, and was the start of a difficult two years for Burkinshaw who suffered numerous injuries, returning to the ring in April 2012 losing to Michael Ramabelesta. He then spent a further 15 months on the sidelines before fighting the talented Gavin McDonnell in July 2013.
“ had been out 15 months with an injury. My trainer at the time said it would be a good idea to move up in weight and fight Gavin for the central area title, but after having that period of time out of boxing, looking back in hindsight I shouldn’t have done it.”
McDonnell is another fighter that holds no shame in losing against. Brother of former world champion Jamie, Gavin has an unbeaten professional record and is looking at world honours himself. After the loss Ross went back to re-group again. He put together a string of five consecutive wins, including one particularly impressive victory over undefeated Jason Cunningham of Doncaster. Is it the what Burkinshaw would rate as his best win?
“It was my best fight – I have a 12 round war! I was training for a fight in mid September and got a phone call on second September seeing if I would fight for the Commonwealth title. I told them yeah no problem, then asked when it would be – this Saturday!” Hardly ideal preparation to step in for a Commonwealth title fight – and it got worse when he found out his opponent. “They told me it was against Jason Cunningham – I don’t really follow boxing too much any more, I’ve been in the sport 21 years and it can take over your life. But I had heard of him, so I asked about and found out he was unbeaten, never lost a round and was English champion and former ABA champion. I thought to myself why not, so I went out there and did it.”
Ross shows off his skills of understatement! The fight was a war that went the full 12 rounds – Burkinshaw suffering a cut to the head in the 10th round. At a weeks notice he had put an end to Jason Cunningham’s unbeaten record and captured the Commonwealth bantamweight title. In his next fight he then did a one round demolition job on Benjamin Smoes of Belgium, in the process capturing more silverware – this time the WBO European bantamweight title. But then injuries made an unwelcome return….
Challenging for his third different title in three fights, Burkinshaw was this time taking on Klaas Mboyane of South Africa for the vacant WBO Inter-continental title in Rotherham, not far from his home town of Sheffield.. Burkinshaw dominated the early proceedings, taking apart the overseas fighter. 3-1 up on the scorecards after four rounds things were looking good when Ross was unable to return for the fifth round – an issue with his elbow causing him too much pain to continue fighting.