England’s Anthony Crolla came away victorious as he edged out Scotland’s Ricky Burns by unanimous decision in a top quality non-title lightweight bout.
Both fighters came into the fight on the back of defeats, with Crolla losing back-to-back WBA title fights with Venezuela’s Jorge Linares while Burns surrendered his WBA light-welterweight belt to Namibian Julius Indongo in April, but produced an absorbing battle at Manchester Arena.
Crolla was the brighter of the two fighters in the early exchanges but 34-year-old Burns worked his way into the bout as they counter-punched each other throughout the 12 rounds in a engaging tactical contest which could have gone either way.
But all three judges called the bout in Crolla’s favour with the scores of 116-113, 117-112, 116-114 to inflict the Scot’s seventh defeat of his professional career.
The fight began slowly as both men worked on the jab in the opening two rounds before the Englishman found more of his range with two right hooks to Burns’ body to edge the third.
The Coatbridge man started to go on the front foot from the fourth round but struggled to land his left hook as Crolla maintained a staunch defence whilst still connecting with counter jab.
Neither could be separated in the next two rounds with both fighters showing sparks of authority in a tight affair before Burns finally found the overarm right, which brought blood to the nose of the Mancunian.
A burst from the 30-year-old, a regular feature throughout the contest, looked to have edged the eighth but Burns hit back with a left jab that connected on the nose of Crolla in the next, before they continued the final three rounds in counter-punching fashion.
The Englishman believed he did enough to extend his record to 32 wins from his 41 professional fights and is targeting another world title shot.
He told Sky Sports action: “Yeah I thought I’d definitely done enough. He just kept coming. He gave me a very tough fight, but I thought my quality shots won it.
“I owe these people another world title, the way they get behind me, it’s nothing but love.”
However, Burns disagreed with the judges’ decision, he said: “Although it was close, I thought I did enough to edge it. I thought I landed the cleaner shots. In my eyes, I thought I just edged it.”