By Kuda Love | February 28, 2014

On Saturday night, Glasgow's Scottish Exhibition Centre plays host to an intriguing matchup in the 135lb division. On either side of the ring will stand two men, both with a fair amount to prove at the very highest level. Champion Ricky Burns (35-2-1, 11 KOs) will defend his WBO belt titled against undefeated American Terrence Crawford (22-0, 16 KOs). 


In simple terms, this is a matchup between two fighters who are on the cusp of ruling the lightweight division. Burns' fights against noteworthy opposition have yielded decent results amidst mixed performances, most controversially in his last fight, a disputed draw against Mexican Raymundo Beltran. Granted, Burns fought most of that fight with a broken jaw, and the resilience he showed to fight hard enough to hear the final bell should be applauded, but Beltran's dominance was so clear that Burns' own promoter, Eddie Hearn, publicly confessed that Burns "probably lost." This is precisely what is intriguing about Ricky Burns; he has found a way to claim a win in fights he wasn't favored in. His grit, resilience, and will to win buy him into any fight, no matter how unevenly the odds are stacked against him. The broken jaw against Beltran, an early knockdown against Roman Martinez, the dismal performance against Jose Gonzalez; Burns' has shown ability to weather a variety of storms to go on and claim a victory.

The question marks around Crawford centrer on his lack of experience at this level. Wide decision victories against opponents the caliber of Breidis Prescott and Andrey Klimov are all Crawford has as evidence of his ability to compete against the best in his division. Crawford also doesn't seem the kind of fighter willing to bring out the best in himself without being pushed to. In simple terms, unless his opponent forces him to do otherwise, Terence Crawford seems very happy to cruise to a points victory ala a prime Chad Dawson. As history has proven, passive fighters can be turned over by fighters with significantly less talent.


The style matchup makes for compelling viewing. Crawford is a pure boxer. He relies on his timing, temperament, slickness, and ring IQ gained from his stellar amateur career. Burns, on the other hand, lacking the slick skills of his opponent on Saturday, wins his fights by outboxing those he can outbox, and out-hustling those he can't. Of the two men, Burns is the one who has the more proven ability to make adjustments to change the direction of a fight, but then again, he has never been faced with a fighter as talented as Crawford.

It is also significant to note that Crawford boasts a rare ability which can baffle the most seasoned of opponents. His ability to fight equally well in either stance effectively gives him a trump card if the fight isn't going his way. Burns isn't to know whether he will be fighting an orthodox fighter, a southpaw, or some combination of the two before stepping out for each round of the encounter on Saturday.


It would be surprising to most observers if the fight wasn't fought cautiously. Burns and Crawford are going to feel each other out for as long as possible before looking to assert themselves. Because the early rounds are likely to be quiet (and close), the possibility of a contentious decision exists if neither man establishes unchallenged dominance in the middle rounds. The passionate home crowd will roar Burns on and make the most of whatever meaningful punches he is able to land. We have yet to see Crawford look uncomfortable in the ring, but if a fight with a Scottish hero in Glasgow doesn't force moments of discomfort for him, then he is a lot better than what most experts make him out to be. His chances of victory are likely to rely on silencing the crowd; in other words, controlling the action so thoroughly that neither Burns nor the crowd ever build any momentum. If his recent home fights are anything to judge by, then all Ricky Burns will need to force a victory is to be active enough to push a few rounds close. As long as he fights on the front foot and maintains a higher work rate than Crawford, then the momentum of the home crowd (and the pressure it will exert on the judges) will give him a strong chance of retaining his WBO Crown.


Barring some unexpected event or an adverse reaction to fighting on foreign territory for Crawford, his superior talent should shine through. Burns has been out-boxed by lesser fighters than Crawford, most recently Jose Gonzalez. Crawford's footwork and fundamentals should keep Burns from scoring with any consistency. Burns' underrated defense should also take some unlocking for Crawford. All this points to a competitive Crawford decision victory in a tactical fight.

[EDITOR'S NOTE: FightHype would like to welcome the talents of Kuda Love to the team.]

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