WBO lightweight champion, Ricky Burns (36-2-1, 11 KO's), coming off a hotly disputed 12 round draw in his last outing against Raymundo Beltran (scores: 115-112, 114-114, 113-115), will seek for gratification this Saturday (March 1) when he takes on unbeaten American, Terence Crawford (22-0, 16 KO's), at the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre (SECC) in Glasgow, Scotland.
Against Beltran (Sept, 2013), Burns, 30, suffered a broken jaw during the second round, was knocked to the canvas in the 8th, and subsequently visited a Glasgow hospital to have a titanium plate inserted into his jaw.
A terribly sore one for Burns when it came to his performance, the draw, oh, and the jaw.
After a hard night's work inside his office, the boxing ring, Burns usually goes home via McDonald's to feast upon a Big Mac. Not on this occasion. A trip to McDonald's would have to wait a month or two, as the healing of his snapped jaw meant that liquid through a straw would be the only intake of nourishment.
Back in 1962, after being smacked senseless by Sonny Liston, the fearsome heavyweight champion, Floyd Patterson's turbulent mind went into overdrive when decided to leave Comiskey Park, Chicago, disguised in a false beard and sunglasses – such was the embarrassment of his defeat that he delved himself hiding.
Make no mistake about it, the only hiding Burns has ever done would be when he took part in a game of Hide-and-Seek as a teenager in his hometown of Coatbridge.
Burns will stand during the introductions, within the confinement of the ring inside the SECC arena on Saturday night, with a certain slogan cemented upon his consciousness: “Losing is not an option.”
Crawford, 26, from Ohama, Nebraska, verbally pointed out his sureness of winning during Wednesday's final news conference.
He added: “It's definitely my time now, it's been a bit slower than I wanted to get here but I am here now and I am ready to become a world champion, no doubt about it.”
Burns certainly has the world title fight experience which Crawford lacks. He won his first world title against the highly respected Puerto Rican, Roman Martinez, back in 2010 at super-featherweight. And it was perhaps the best win of Burns' entire career. After being dropped by a straight Martinez right hand near the end of the first round, Burns showed his mettle. He sucked up everything Martinez threw at him, used his spearing jab, stood inside, triggered-off combinations, and pulled out the win down the stretch to win on points.
If Burns is going to send Crawford home a loser, well, he'll need a virtuoso, Martinez like, showing.
Burns' trainer, Billy Nelson, has been implementing aggression and volume into his pupil's arsenal. But at his best, Burns is a stand-up, long range, accurate, stand-off, point-scoring stylist. His jab is, without question, his main tool for success in the trade of fistic violence.
If you picture Ken Buchanan (rated among many historians as Scotland's greatest ever boxer) in the ring at work, a similar picture of Burns is presented.
While his nifty skills and moderate hitting power have usually equated to Burns going the the 12 round distance throughout his nine world title fights, his power shouldn't be underestimated. He stopped fellow Brits Nick Cook (TKO1) and Kevin Mitchell (TKO4).
Crawford, who'll be fighting outside America for the first time as a pro, doesn't seem too bothered with the hostile reception he'll receive from the 10,000 sold out home crowd. He arrived in Glasgow at the start of fight week with a posse of around a dozen in his entourage. Included within that circle is trainer, Kevin McIntyre.
He added: “I look at Ricky and I see what he is capable of and I look at Terence, and I see what Terence is capable of, and I believe Terence is way better and he is a couple of years from his peak. In two years, he will be like Floyd Mayweather”.
Crawford, a fighter possessing decent athleticism, a solid defense, and quick hands, sure knows the geography of the ring. Included in his amateur record: a silver medal at the 2006 National Golden Gloves, and a gold medal at the Pan American Games Box-Offs in 2007.
He'll, no doubt, take confidence from the fact that he's challenging for his first world title against a fighter with a somewhat leaky defense, and only average hitting power. But Burns' accomplishments and skills far exceed that of Crawford victim Breidis Prescott, easily beaten on points by Crawford early last year).
For Burns to successfully defend his title, he must avoid a full scale collision. Feeling his way into the contest and focusing on movement and defense would be a wise move on his behalf. No matter if Crawford is being aggressive or not, Burns must stick to an educated gameplan and blank out trying to simply please the crowd – keep his emotions in check. That means popping his jab and boxing the challenger, at least during the early stages.
If the fight goes by the halfway stage, with success going his way, of course, Burns can then start moving through the gears, testing Crawford's armoury with regular combinations and right hand leads. The inside uppercut of Burns just happens to be one of his infrequent weapons. He'll certainly need it when up-close and inside in the trenches.
Crawford needs to keep his cool throughout the biggest occasion of his life. He's an unknown commodity at world level, yes, but there comes a time when every fighter needs to step up to the plate and prove his worth.
Naturally an orthodox fighter, Crawford has the ability to switch to southpaw, easily. Trust me, that's a nice piece of equipment he's got up his sleeve going into this fight when it comes to befuddling Burns' rhythm. It's being drastically overlooked by many observers.
The weigh-in: Crawford 134.5lbs; Burns 134.25.
The last time an African-American came to Scotland to challenge for a world lightweight title was away back in July 1980. His name was Howard Davis. He lost on points to Jim Watt for the WBC title at Ibrox Park, Glasgow. Davis was a fast and slick stylist, a bit like Terence Crawford.
Davis' amateur pedigree was as impressive as you could possibly get – his overall record was 125-5. He won a gold medal at the 1976 Olympics as a lightweight. He also won the revered Val Barkey trophy (the award for the best pound for pound boxer at the Olympics) at the games as well, beating boxers like Sugar Ray Leonard and Michael Spinks.
As a professional, Davis never won a world title.
Can Crawford succeed in Scotland where Davis failed?
Robbi Paterson is a feature writer/analyst who has contributed to various boxing websites. He can be reached at Oscar_no1@hotmail.com