When the fight commenced last Saturday at the SECC, Glasgow, Scotland I was intrigued to see the 1st statement of intent from the 32 year old Mexican challenger, a long time sparring partner of the great Manny Pacquaio. Having admittedly not seen much of Beltran in action, I initially thought his ultra composed approach was simply his favoured fighting style. But, then, as the rounds wore on, on it occurred to me that something seemed to be having an indelible influence on Beltran’s approach. It seems he knew too much about Burns coming into the fight. By that I mean he over-analysed the capitulation of Jose Gonzales in Burns previous bout, and inadvertently, this subsequent overload of information affected his subconscious decision making, which in turn impacted on and impaired his natural fighting instincts.
Most of the time the Boxing Ring is no place for rational analysis, it is a war ground which requires instinct and instant battlefield decision making. And this is where Beltran faltered in the fight with Burns.
His finishes instincts were imprisoned by his pre-occupation with not punching himself out and suffering a similar fate to Burns’ previous vanquished opponent Jose Gonzales, who emptied his tank on Burns in the 7th to no avail, only to retire, exhausted and heartbroken in the 10th round.
With this in mind, he attacked with trepidation and launched controlled offensives as opposed to the sort of inhibition free onslaught he probably would have mounted had his mind been free of images of Gonzales’ demise.
He had Burns in big, big trouble after the knockdown, which lest we forget was at the very beginning of the round. But still, he remained calm and collected when the occasion called for an unrelenting onslaught that would have put a full stop on the action, and brought Burns reign as World Champion to an abrupt halt. I personally could not fathom his reluctance to throw caution to the wind and go for the knockout- Burns was offering virtually nothing in an attacking sense due to the jaw injury, and was ready to go on the ropes. But he failed to apply enough pressure and took his foot off the gas at the crucial times in spite of being fully aware that Burns was on the block.
So, paradoxically, the amount of information and insight Beltran had about Burns after exhausting re-runs of footage from the Gonzales bout was actually to his detriment as opposed to his advantage.
Lieutenant General Paul K. Van Riper, a retired officer of the United States Marine Corps, stated to Malcolm Gladwell, in his brilliant book ‘Blink: The Power of Thinking without Thinking’
“When we talk about analytic versus intuitive decision-making, neither is good or bad. What is bad is if you use either of them in an inappropriate circumstance.”
Of course Van Riper was talking about a real life war situation, but his conviction fits perfectly into a Prize fighting context, and in particular can be applied to the manner in which events unfolded in the WBO Lightweight title fight between Burns and Beltran.
The Mexican was shackled by the chains of his conscious mind which convinced him to remain composed when his fighting intuition screamed for a decisive finish that would have rendered any judging bias irrelevant, and seen him crowned Champion of the World.
So in the run up to a likely rematch he could do worse than to use Blink and, in particular, Van Ripers convictions, as a point of reference as opposed to convoluting his conscious mind with ill-fated information that has no currency in the heat of battle.