SCOTLAND’S only world boxing champion, Ricky Burns, surrendered his WBO world lightweight title in brave but ultimately doomed fashion at a sold-out SECC in Glasgow on Saturday night.
Terence Crawford of Omaha became only the third man from his home state of Nebraska, USA to win a world championship when he clearly outpointed Burns over 12 rounds in which he proved himself a master boxer.
“It was so long ago I can’t remember who the last [Nebraskan] champion was,” said the likeable Crawford afterwards – easy, Terence, it was the great Max Baer, world heavyweight champion of the 1930s, the conqueror of Max Schmeling and Primo Carnera.
He may need a history lesson, but Crawford needs no education in the fistic arts. He switched from orthodox to southpaw stance and back, took the battle to Burns when needed and defended superbly on the counterpunch – make no mistake, Crawford is going to be a very big name in world boxing now that he is a genuine champion, having beaten a man who was a true two-weight champion.
Burns was a shadow of the man who beat Roman Martinez and knocked out Kevin Mitchell and, as he himself said, there were no excuses as the jaw broken in his last controversial draw with Raymundo Beltran was not an issue.
“The better man won on the night,” said the Scot, “You can see why he’s touted as the next best thing in America.” His remarks proved Burns has class and dignity in defeat as well as victory.
Burns had started the fight well enough, and shaded the opener by landing some scoring punches near the end. Crawford took the second with good body punches, but Burns won the third and possibly the fourth.
From then on, Crawford dominated, and trapped Burns on the ropes so often it seemed just a matter of time before the champion succumbed. The only round that might have gone Burns’ way was the seventh, although, again, it was too close to call. Referee Luis Zabon could have taken points off both men for holding, but he contented himself by breaking up the clinches quickly, which played into Crawford’s hands.
Burns tried his very best in the final two rounds, knowing that Crawford had never gone beyond ten before, but it was the American who finished the fresher and stronger and, frankly, Burns looked tired long before the end – a sign perhaps that time and a long career is catching up with Burns, whose commitment to tough training has been total since he joined the professional ranks as far back as 2001.
Judges Salven Lagumbay of the Philippines and Zoltan Enyedi of Hungary scored it 116-112, while Mexican judge Alejadro Lopez Cid scored it 117-111. For what it’s worth, The Scotsman’s scorecard was eight rounds to Crawford, two to Burns, and two rounds equal, although Burns’ protestation that several rounds were close is correct.
Burns’ immediate reaction was to vow to get back into training in a fortnight – at 30, he might be better to have a break and think about his future after the third defeat of his 40-fight career that brought to an end his reign as world champion since winning the WBO super-featherweight title by beating Roman Martinez in September, 2010.
He said: “Boxing is all I have ever wanted to do and I will be back. This is just a setback for me. There are some big fights out there for me. My hunger to box is the same, whether I was world champion or not, my attitude towards it doesn’t change at all.”
Denying he had peaked, Burns said: “I’ve got another good ten years in me. I’m 31 in April and, easy, another ten years. Everybody knew this was going to be a hard fight but the support I got was unbelievable and I’ll definitely be back.
“Domestically there are some big fights out there but the way I would like to go, if we don’t get a rematch with Terence, then I would like to go chasing some of the other world titles.”
Promoter Eddie Hearn indicated he would seek other challenges that Burns was better placed to deal with stylistically rather than push for a rematch – that’s good sense, as Crawford will only have improved for the experience.
Burns said: “He was awkward. I felt I was letting him steal some of the rounds and letting him outwork me and outjab me. Every time I was going to throw he was just stepping out of distance and looking for counters. When someone is doing that, and his movement is so good, it’s hard to fight. I felt sometimes I was forcing it and that’s when I was getting caught with stupid punches. If the rematch happened, I would try to be a bit busier but, whenever I got on the inside, the ref was just splitting us up.”
Burns’ coach Billy Nelson said: “There’s no complaints. Crawford is an excellent all-round fighter and he proved how exceptionally good he is.”
Crawford, notoriously a man of few words, loved the atmosphere in the SECC. “It was tremendous out there,” the 26-year-old said. “He had a lot of support there and that’s what it’s all about. I had people back home cheering me on and he had his people here. Burns was real tough. I hit him with some hard shots and he took them well. I feel I’ve beaten a good champion.
“The gameplan was to go for the body because we knew he liked to keep his hands up, and I wasn’t going into the fight looking for his jaw because, if his jaw wasn’t healed, he wouldn’t have been fighting.” Asked about a rematch in Scotland, Crawford quipped: “I like Scotland, it’s kinda cool, but why don’t you all come and see how you like Omaha.”
The venue is usually the choice of champions, but Crawford proved on Saturday night that he can go where he wants and win – he is that good.