RICKY Burns, the world lightweight champion from Coatbridge, has been ordered to make a mandatory defence of his WBO title against undefeated American Terrence Crawford, it has emerged.
The Scot, 30, had hoped to persuade the World Boxing Organisation to sanction a rematch with Mexican Raymundo Beltran after it was generally held that Burns, who suffered a broken jaw, had been fortunate to escape with a draw when the pair met in September.
But Burns’ promoter, Eddie Hearn revealed yesterday: “We received a letter from the WBO on Friday to the effect that we must begin negotiations with Crawford’s people, adding that we should get back to them within 30 days stating where we are at.
“But it’s quite a complex situation. Top Rank represents both Beltran and Crawford and we made them an offer which Beltran’s team was happy with but Top Rank was not.
“In the meantime, I have asked the WBO for a voluntary defence against Beltran in February. I am also in talks with Miguel Vazquez and Richar Abril regarding a unification bout that would supersede a mandatory defence so there are lots going on.
“But Top Rank is trying to force our hand and they have made their position very clear in that they would like Ricky to fight Crawford.
“If it has to be Crawford then we will fight him. The split is 75-25 in favour of the champion and I am very confident that I could bring that fight to Scotland. We are not looking to going to America to fight Crawford and it would take an incredible offer for that to happen. But the fight everyone wants to see is Beltran and it is the right fight for boxing after what happened last time.
“I am not saying that fight is completely dead but we have done everything we can to try to make it happen, as Crawford would not hold the same attraction for Scottish fights fans. Despite the fact he is very good, he is not particularly well known over here.
“He is tough but also unproven to an extent. But whatever happens, Ricky will be fighting in February, either in a voluntary defence, a unification bout or against Crawford.”
According to Hearn, Burns is making sound progress after he underwent surgery to have a plate fitted in his damaged jaw.
He added: “When I last spoke with the doctors recently they said that it should be six to eight weeks after the operation before Ricky started full training and ideally 12 weeks before he sparred, as a safeguard.
“That takes us to mid-December when he can start sparring although he is already back training.
“The doctors are quite confident, but we won’t know for certain about his jaw until he spars and it comes into contact with punches.
“Ricky is disappointed about what happened in his last fight and that he didn’t have the chance to perform like he can.
“So he wants the chance to set the record straight against Beltran although that is now dependent on several factors”