Fight Pick & Preview – Burns vs. Crawford:
On March 1 in Glasgow, Scotland, WBO Lightweight Champion Ricky Burns defends his title against unbeaten American challenger Terence Crawford. This is the first fight for Burns, 36-2-1 (11 KOs), since September when he earned a highly-disputed draw in a taxing battle with Ray Beltran in which he suffered a broken jaw. Crawford, meanwhile, has had things his own way in compiling 23 straight wins to begin his career, though he is taking a step up in this fight.
- Date: March 1, 2014
- Site: Scottish Exhibition Centre, Glasgow, Scotland
- Title: WBO Lightweight Championship
Ricky Burns, 36-2-1 (11 KOs), Coatbridge, Scotland
Terence Crawford, 23-0 (16 KOs), Omaha, Nebraska
Burns was lucky to escape with his title when he fought Ray Beltran in September. His stock is a bit low at the moment. Still, he is a proven competitor who has faced a much-higher caliber of opposition than Crawford has. It’s not terribly uncommon in cases like this for fights to be a little closer than people forecasted, when the young rising commodity facing an apparently-dilapidated titleholder
Everyone is high on Crawford and for good reason, but he has yet to beat anything resembling a top lightweight. He had his way with a trio of top-20 types in Prescott, Sanabria, and Klimov, but fighting Ricky Burns in Scotland is a far tougher task. Is there a chance Crawford is tick worse than we all think, while Burns is not quite as vulnerable as people are making him out to be? If so, this could be a little more competitive than people think.
For Burns to win, he’s going to need some of that same mojo fellow-Scot Jim Watt had when he kept his title over a more-talented Sean O’Grady in 1980. Watt was getting beaten, until a butt-induced cut got him a timely TKO win. Burns will need some of the things Watt relied on, namely a frothing home crowd, the ability to rough-up his opponent, and a little home cooking like maybe a sympathetic ref or some more blind judges like he had in his last fight.
Crawford, 26, surely looks to be the goods. At a wiry 5’8” with a formidable 73-inch reach, he has the perfect lightweight build. He is also a gifted boxer-puncher with a decorated amateur background. Everything looks good, but you could have said that about a lot of fighters who inevitably fell flat in their attempt to break into the upper-reaches of the sport. At the same time, he certainly looks like the best lightweight in the world. You just never know until a fighter actually proves it.
The real question is whether the 5’10” Burns is capable of providing that kind of test or if the job is suited for a more-capable fighter. Just because he’s a titleholder doesn’t mean he represents a reality-check for a fighter of Crawford’s talents. Burns is 30 and a veteran of 9 title fights, some of them grueling battles. He had to get a plate put in his jaw after having it broken by Beltran in his last fight. Is he a little past his expiration date?
Whatever you might think about Burns at this point, this is by no means an easy assignment for Crawford. Fighting in Scotland against a reigning hometown champion is a tough test in Crawford’s first fight outside the U.S. There is no question that Crawford is a superior talent, but now we get to see about his other more off-the-radar traits. Can he overcome difficult conditions, being out of his element, and an opponent who is in his comfort zone both geographically and as a world title fight veteran?
The easy answer is yes. It’s very easy to envision a more-gifted and athletic Crawford having his way with the plucky, but outmanned Burns. It almost seems like too easy of a conclusion, however. Crawford is going to be seeing a lot of things for the first time and Burns has something to prove in front of his countryman.
Not many are expecting him to win, so he has nothing to lose from a pride standpoint. Maybe that will make him looser and he will perform better without the pressure. Those expecting Burns to just roll over may be in for a surprise.
Burns vs. Crawford Prediction
This fight is a necessary part of Crawford’s development and he looks to be up to the task. And considering that Burns got such a gift in his last fight, maybe there will be some overcompensation in this fight or at least not another total robbery in his favor. Still, Crawford might still need to win 9 rounds to get a draw.
I think he can win every round, push a gutty Burns right to the limit, and get a late corner retirement or doctor stoppage. I like Crawford late in a stoppage win.
Prediction: Terence Crawford wins by 11th-round TKO.