THEY called him the Man of Steel, but in Glasgow last night, Ricky Burns was smelted.
Scotland’s only professional world champion lost his world lightweight title to a superb challenger from the USA, Terence Crawford, who looks capable of dominating the division for as long as he wants.
The Man of Steel branding came from the titanium plate inserted to mend Burns’ broken jaw after the controversial draw against Raymundo Beltran last September.
His jaw stood up to the test and his heart never broke, as he fought valiantly to the end, but there was no saving draw for Burns from the judges this time.
Judges Salven Lagumbay of the Philippines, Alejandro Lopez Cid of Mexico and Zoltan Emyedi of Hungary all scored it for Crawford, 116-112, 117-111, 116-112 respectively, and the crowd’s mute response showed they knew the champion had been beaten.
The champion certainly threw more scoring leather in the first round, though the challenger had a couple of flurries, while referee Luis Pabon had to caution Crawford for holding onto Burns’ arms.
The man from Omaha took the second by virtue of being less inactive than the champion in a dull round. The test for Burns was always going to be how his jaw stood up to a solid punch, but Crawford concentrated on body punching in the third and after a quarter of the fight, the challenger had not landed a blow on what should surely have been his main target.
The fourth saw a big change of tactics as Crawford went headhunting, forcing Burns to mix it up with the challenger. It was a close round as a result.
By the fifth, the American was showing all the skills and he rocked the champion back only for Burns to respond with a long right that had Crawford nodding in respect at the bell.
Burns was marked beside the right eye early in the sixth as the challenger moved up a gear, and Crawford also took the seventh as the champion began to look tired.
Two-thirds in and it was clear that Burns was going to need a minor miracle to win, especially after Crawford trapped him on the ropes in the eighth and ninth.
Burns knew he had to stop his opponent but Crawford was just too good for him, and though he had never fought beyond ten rounds before, the challenger appeared to be the fresher in the 11th round.
Crawford went all out to stop Burns in the last, and only the Scot’s courage kept him upright.
In the end, however, it was Crawford’s night and Crawford’s fight.
There was bitter disappointment for two Scots on the undercard of Ricky Burns’ clash with Terence Crawford at the SECC in Glasgow last night.
Former British featherweight champion Paul Appleby of South Queensferry was sent to the canvas in the eighth and final round of his lightweight contest against the Lancashire-based adopted Scotsman Scotty Cardle.
Cardle, who is of Glaswegian antecedents, is the Central Area lightweight champion and a natural at the weight, while Appleby looked small beside him.
He may have lacked raw power, but there was no doubting Appleby’s courage as he carried on fighting after being cut and having his nose bloodied, and inflicted a cut on Cardle, too.
Appleby was possibly ahead after five rounds, but by the end of the seventh round his lack of a telling punch was showing, as Cardle began to pour on the punishment.
In the final round, Cardle threw combinations to head and body and Appleby succumbed to a tremendous blow. He got to his feet but referee Kenny Pringle rightly called it off after one minute and 17 seconds of the last.
“It was a heavy knockdown but I felt I could have finished the fight,” said Appleby, “as I am very fit.”
Greenock’s John Simpson is another former British featherweight champion who has stepped up to lightweight but before his contest against the vastly experienced John Murray of Manchester, he openly stated that he would go back down two weights to featherweight and try and regain his title.
That’s what he’ll need to do as Murray’s heavy punching felled him no less than three times in the second round, all body punches that had the Scot in agony.
It was a good night for former Olympians. Heavyweight Anthony Joshua proved that he is a serious contender for world title challenges in the future when he knocked out Hector Avila of Argentina in two minutes and 14 seconds of the first round.