This Saturday at the SECC Exhibition Centre in Glasgow, Scotland, Caledonian braveheart Ricky Burns will once again call on his fanatical home support as he makes another defence of his WBO lightweight title. He’ll need to draw on every ounce of support he can get however in what’s widely perceived to be his toughest test to date. Standing in the opposite corner on fight night will be unbeaten American challenger Terrance Crawford, who crosses the pond as the odds-on betting favourite.
Burns (36-2-1, 11 KO’s) is a two-weight world champion taking part in his tenth consecutive world title fight and making the fifth defence of the WBO strap he currently holds. He’s proven his exceptional fitness and iron will to win on countless occasions and his boxing ability has often been underrated. Even on home soil however, with a wealth of top-level experience having been a part of some of Scottish boxing’s biggest ever nights, he carries the underdog tag against an opponent who is yet to become a proven entity on the world stage.
Granted Crawford (22-0, 16 KO’s) has looked like the potential star promoters Top Rank are billing him to be up to this point, but as with any up and coming talent questions remain over how good he really is until he starts mixing it at world level. He’s also yet to complete twelve rounds, with his biggest victory to date a ten-round points decision over Amir Khan conqueror Breidis Prescott. Crawford pitched a near shutout, but Prescott’s been outboxed heavily before by the likes of Kevin Mitchell – who was blown away by Burns.
The reason for the widespread dismissal of Burns’ chances on Saturday may largely come down to his last two performances however and the feeling that the 30-year-old Scot is incredibly lucky to still hold a version of the world lightweight crown. Last May, Burns was down on all three scorecards against slick Puerto Rican Jose Gonzalez, only for victory to be snatched from the jaws of defeat when Gonzalez inexplicably retired on his stool after the ninth round citing a wrist injury.
Then in September, Burns got the benefit of what was perceived to be a terrible injustice of home cooking when judges scored his brutal encounter with Raymundo Beltran a draw. Most observers felt that Beltran – who broke Burns jaw in the second round and dropped the champion in the eighth – had dominated the fight and won clearly.
Question marks remain over whether Burns jaw will hold up in his first fight following the subsequent surgery, but one thing Burns did show in his fight with Beltran is that he will not lie down and let his title be taken easily. On the back of two disappointing performances at home also and with an underdog mentality that has served him well in the past, perhaps Burns will rise to this occasion and prove his class to those who are writing him off.
Although he hasn’t yet proven his class in a professional ring, Crawford does boast a fantastic amateur pedigree. In the unpaid ranks he scored victories over Diego Magdaleno, Danny Garcia, Carlos Molina and Mikey Garcia en route to national championships. He’s also had world-class sparring and is rumoured to have held his own with the likes of Timothy Bradley. The perception of Crawford’s ‘inexperience’ therefore is pretty inaccurate.
It’s a hard sell to convince anyone that Burns is a match for Crawford’s technical ability and talent. Crawford is also quicker, more athletic and stylistically could be a nightmare match-up for the champion. Burns will have to draw on the intangibles – such as his home advantage – and his toughness and will really have to be at his best to retain his title. Praying that Crawford has been affected by leaving the USA for the first time might not do any harm either.