A POOR display saw Scotland’s former world champion Ricky Burns lose his comeback fight against Dejan Zlaticanin of Montenegro at the Braehead Arena on Friday night.
The judges scored it 115-113 twice for Zlaticanin with one judge reversing that call. This time there was no home town decision, however, and Burns’s career lay in tatters, his thousands of fans in Braehead downhearted at their hero’s failure to perform.
The new WBC International champion clearly won the fight, but several rounds were closer than they looked though the split decision is unfathomable – how could England’s John Keane give the fight to Burns by two rounds? – so Zlaticanin and not Burns can go home and prepare for a world title challenge.
The former two-weight world champion from Coatbridge is now 31 and at an age when reflexes naturally slow down. That’s fine for most people but boxing success and failure is measured in the milliseconds it takes to avoid a punch, and Burns simply took too many punches from a raw and wild opponent to remain a credible force at world level.
Burns announced in April that he had left the gym of Billy Nelson in Lanarkshire and moved to a new trainer, Tony Sims, at his gym in the London suburb of Hainault. He said he was stale and needed a change – the truth may be that his best days are over.
Terence Crawford’s victory over Burns in March and his poor performances in his previous two contests before that - the controversial draw with Raymundo Beltran of Mexico and Puerto Rican Jose Gonzalez’s ‘No Mas’ quitting – signalled to some pundits that here was a ’shot’ fighter.
They may have have thought their suspicions were confirmed after a few seconds of the opening round when a wild left haymaker from Zlaticanin landed flush on the side of Burns’s jaw just at the place where he sustained a fracture against Beltran.
No such injury this time, and thought it was in the nature of a ’flash’ knockdown, it gave the Montenegran great heart and he tore into the former world champion.
Rough and ready, awkward and dangerous, the man who had never fought outside the Balkans before silenced the Braehead crowd with relentless attacks, and he landed far too many big punches for it to be a fluke.
Just when it looked as though Burns was turning things around with an excellent sixth round, Zlaticanin again produced a big left in the seventh that rattled the Scot. Burns eventually fought his way off the ropes but Zlaticanin repeated the dose in the following round and Burns, who has never liked fighting southpaws, looked bewildered at the sheer ferocity of his opponent.
Burns finally began to score against the 30-year-old Montenegran and took the championship rounds comfortably, though Zlaticanin still landed the odd wild one.
Try as he might, and he certainly did try, Burns could not land the knockout punch he needed to win the bout, and on a night when Scottish boxers on the undercard performed admirably, it was the nation’s biggest draw who failed.
It is difficult to see where he goes from here.