After two consecutive below par performances, WBO lightweight champion Ricky Burns is at somewhat of a career roads as he embarks on his 10th world title defence against unbeaten American, Terrence Crawford. It really is win or bust at world level for Ricky Burns, who suffered a broken jaw when he was badly beaten in his last fight against perennial contender Raymundo Beltran.
That night many thought the dream was dead and buried for Ricky Burns, the end of an incredible journey that, in the beginning, not even his own trainer thought he was capable of. In reality, Burns has already achieved beyond his wildest dreams by becoming a two weight world champion with a string of successful defences.
Still, sitting in the crowd, I was as stunned and bewildered as anyone when Burns was given the benefit of the doubt against Beltran due to the judges awarding the fight a draw, which allowed Ricky to retain his title. It was a robbery. Plain and simple, and from an impartial point of view it seems like both fighters are headed on different career trajectories.
Burns’ recent stuttering form is the polar opposite of the challenger Crawford who is coming off the back of impressive victories over Andrey Klimov, Alejandro Sanabria and Bredis Prescott. The challengers recent form has propelled him right into championship contention, whilst Burns’ recent history suggests he may be about to be banished from boxing’s top table.
However, Ricky Burns has been there and done it many, many times before and is well accustomed to confounding the critics and upsetting the odds in big fights. So whilst Crawford arguably represents the Rickster’s toughest ever test, Burns is most definitely Crawford’s most testing assignment to date. Both fighters are up against for different reasons.
For starters, Crawford will have to contend with the most caustic atmosphere of his life when he enters the ring to a crescendo of boos from the 10,000 Scots packed into the audience. I was at Burns’ last fight at the same arena and it truly was a sight and sound to behold- his fanatical support does not stop singing for the entire fight. Saturday night will be no different.
Burns obviously takes tremendous heart from his frenzied following. He will be especially fired up come fight night because he knows he must do the business after the Beltran debacle. Aside from helping to rouse Ricky Burns so he can reach the very limits of his capabilities, the frantic reaction from the fans every time Burns does any positive also must subconsciously influence the way judges score the fight. Close rounds will be the given to the champion. Consequently, Crawford probably needs a knockout if he is to claim his 1st world title.
So whilst I think the crowd will be a pivotal factor in favour of Burns, I do not subscribe to the school of thought that Crawford’s lack of experience at championship level will hinder his chances of a successful outcome. Crawford is as accomplished a boxer as any other belt holder in the lightweight division, Burns included, and the only reason he has not won a world title is because he has never had the chance. But now he has the opportunity, and he must prove he can cut it at the top by taking Burns’ title from him in his own backyard. No mean feat considering Burns last official loss was over seven years ago- Crawford hadn’t even turned pro by then.
Ricky Burns, whose manager Billy Nelson initially thought the very limits of his ability would be to potentially win a British title, obviously didn’t rise to top of the sport on talent alone. No, he owes his success to sheer hard work and dedication, allied to a burning desire to reach the highest echelon of his profession. Ricky Burns, the unassuming character from Coatbridge, is quite literally living his dream. Not blessed with any discernible punching power, Burns relies on the potent mix of Olympian like stamina and athleticism, a granite chin, a great jab and a ferocious will to win, which has allowed him to scale almost unimaginable heights in his now glittering career.
So although Burns may have only above average boxing ability, he is a special person- a man with boundless ambition and determination, and thus it may well take more than someone like Crawford, a superior technician, to turn his dream into a nightmare.
As a fellow Glaswegian and Proud Scotsman I cannot allow my judgment to be clouded by objectivity! So Burns to do the business and gain a split decision victory. How do you do you see the fight going?
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