Third Degree Burns

By Mohummad Humza Elahi on February 23, 2014
Third Degree Burns
Let’s not stand on ceremony here. Ricky Burns has the deck stacked heavily in his favor.

On March 1 at the SECC Arena in Glasgow, Scotland, WBO lightweight champion Ricky Burns defends his title against unbeaten Terence Crawford…

Ricky Burns is playing with fire. The Scottish fighter steps into his home turf of the SECC Arena in Glasgow, Scotland bringing a 36-2 record and the WBO lightweight championship of the world with him on March1st, the primer for a run of fights this spring that could be recorded as one of the best stretches that boxing has seen for a while. And although Rickster enjoys a relatively larger following than his opponent, Terence Crawford, the exciting and unbeaten Nebraskan with a 22-0 rep, he may find that the Glaswegian noise won’t help him ride through this particular storm that’s coming his way.

Personally, I’ve had conflicting views about Ricky Burns for quite some time; he comes across like an affable and humble person, much in the same way that Ricky Hatton managed to connect with such a large cross-section of the British public, a true people’s champion. Win or lose, Hatton always wore his heart on his sleeve and he remains one of the most popular British fighters in recent memory. Burns draws strong local support, but maybe not as wide or as varied as Hatton. One of those reasons, in my opinion, the biggest one, is Burns’ reluctance to concede the advantage of home territory. For all the talk of the best, both being the best and fighting amongst the ranks of the sport’s elite participants, he’s been unwilling to travel. Burns has never fought professionally on foreign soil. Some may say that it works for him; being the champion, he can dictate who he faces but as we’ve witnessed, a queue has started to form at Burns’ door, all ready (and some able) to strip that title from his waist.

First Degree

A huge domestic win against Kevin Mitchell in 2012 meant that 2013 should have been a return to business as usual. But as we saw Jose Gonzalez take apart Burns with alarming ease last May, a fair few thought that Rickster’s time was most definitely up. What happened next was a head-scratcher. Gonzalez quit. The inexplicable type of quitting that draws nervous murmurs from those watching; is it a tactic? Is he serious? Does he have an injury that’s forced him to pull out? The reason for Gonzalez throwing in the towel was a potential wrist injury; whilst the British media, and Hearn chief amongst them, cheered that it was his heart that broke. As Burns was slowly working his way back into the bout, Gonzalez simply couldn’t muster the effort to continue any longer. That may be the case, but to gloat over a fighter like Gonzalez, who hasn’t been seen since that defeat, smells like wafts of relief mixed with anxiety. Burns was getting schooled and the talk of unifying divisions and verbal spats with Adrien Broner looked foolish in hindsight.

Burns had escaped with his honor, reputation as a warrior and WBO belt in tow but he was straying too close to the Sun for his fans’ liking; and I think some of them caught heat rash themselves when Raymundo Beltran decided he fancied a trip to Scotland.

Second Degree

After the “misstep” of the Gonzalez fight, Burns looked to push that particular performance to the side and take on Beltran. A more respectable name than Gonzalez and the talk began of how this would be the step into the international spotlight, to be ranked amongst the best at lightweight and be in line for those big paydays that could finance a comfortable life after he hung up his gloves. 

To describe the decision of the judges to draw this contest goes way past “travesty” and “unacceptable.” Beltran explained his rationale as if these types of occurrences were all too familiar; the home and house fighter is too valuable to the promotional stable and although that fighter would like to believe that they got the decision on credit, deep down they know that without that help, be it from the referee or the judges, they wouldn’t be able to look themselves squarely in the eye and call themselves a true champion.

Beltran took the gameplan that Gonzalez lay out and adjusted it to suit his needs. What followed was an absolute clinic in counterpunching; all of Beltran’s experience and ring smarts paid dividends and he inflicted a broken jaw early before patiently timing Burns with left hooks both upstairs and downstairs. Although Burns seemed much sharper and improved following the Gonzalez fight, those skills were cast aside to make way for holding and spoiling, trying to keep Beltran and arm’s length away and not succeeding as time and again, Beltran closed the gap and stayed busy.

The talk of “heart” was again the buzzword in the post-fight interview; repeated ad nauseam to try and convince the crowd that what they witnessed wasn’t spun in the slightest. He lost. He lost clearly. Tommy Hearns broke his hand against Marvin Hagler, as did Gatti against Ward. Neither made excuses, which demonstrates how far boxing has changed in terms of the mentality of fighters after all is left in the ring.

Would Burns have beaten Beltran had it not been for the jaw? Possibly, but that didn’t happen.

Third Degree

“Bud” Crawford is talented. How talented remains to be seen and it’s a sentiment that seems to be reflected in the betting odds for this fight. I’d hazard to guess that Burns’ general fanbase would be unfamiliar with the Nebraskan, a sharp kid with respectable power. Wins over Klimov, Sanabria and Prescott in 2013 don’t give him the same CV as Burns on paper, but the skills are there and this would be a great stage to showcase them on. Crawford is due a step up in competition and this certainly provides that. If everything prior in this article could be condensed to a single talking point to be incorporated into Crawford’s tactical game it’s this; a wide points victory that includes one, or several knockdowns, may not be enough to take the title home. 

Let’s not stand on ceremony here. Burns has the deck stacked heavily in his favor; a Matchroom promotion show, home turf, vociferous support and judges who could be swayed by a crowd that will cheer every punch he throws. Crawford has it all to do and the savvy punters may be inclined to think that he needs a knockout win to make it certain the decision goes his way; laying on your back and staring at the lights is a position which few can reply from. 


My own biases have my swaying for a Crawford stoppage by the ninth, I think the kid possess enough power to weaken Burns through the early and middle before smelling blood and finishing the job in convincing fashion. Ricky, on the other hand, seems to have had his confidence knocked a bit and I think taking on someone like Crawford as his first since Beltran is a tough ask, even with all the advantages. Burns has height, but Crawford’s awkward combination of being slightly shorter yet with a longer reach is going to put Ricky in unfamiliar territory; if Crawford gets to work with the jab, he’ll have to close the gap, something which he doesn’t seem comfortable doing and doesn’t have much experience with, having really always had the physical superiority. If Crawford takes his time, he will catch Burns with shots as he comes in all night long, as Burns was never a defensive marvel. If you couple that with Burns’ need to force the action, it swings the style stakes towards Bud.
Whatever the case may be, March 1st promises to be an adequate entrée for the boxing feast that’s on the menu.

Tuck in.

Follow Mohummad Humza Elahi on Twitter@mhelahi

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  1. nicolas 12:37pm, 02/24/2014

    While perhaps the deck is stacked In Burn’s favor by fighting in Glasgow Scotland, why is this never said for American fighters when they often fight at home, against foreign fighters, and often with American judges only. Amazed this is never mentioned. Of course also, if Burns loses this fight, what is then for Scottish Boxing? It is not like there are a lot of ranked fighters from that part of the world ready to take his place. Perhaps right now, his fighting before his home people also allows better opportunities for other Scottish fighters to get exposure, and an opportunity to box, it is not like the old days when you might have a boxing show every week.

  2. stefanovic85 12:30am, 02/24/2014

    decent article but it has to be said ricky burns has been fighting at home because it was best for the promotors. he has repeatedly said he would travel, the martinez fight was almost in puerto rico and he is desperate for a fight in america. i believe ricky is one of these ‘a ring is a ring’ type of guys. also some title fights where in london and liverpool, thats england, not scotland.

  3. Mohummad Humza Elahi 08:47pm, 02/23/2014

    Matt - I’m from (East!) London,  but I immediately do my own ring announcement in my head with Buffer’s voice when someone asks me that.

  4. Ted 08:01pm, 02/23/2014

    One of the very best prediction I ever made was to call Ricky’s win over Katsisdis who was running rough shod in the UK at the time. One of my best.

  5. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Gimpel 02:29pm, 02/23/2014

    “Bud” Crawford is not the Second Coming and would have his hands full with Beltran and Lundy for that matter….so there is no foregone conclusion here.

  6. Matt McGrain 11:41am, 02/23/2014

    Nice write up Humza.
    Where you from?

  7. Ted Spoon 04:45am, 02/23/2014

    I’d hate to think of what would happen if there’s another bogus decision. Of course, we all know what would happen; nothing.

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