The lightweight division is top-heavy in terms of recognizable and marketable fighters. At 135 pounds, the most enticing matchup is a proposed unification bout between newly-minted WBC champion Adrien Broner and WBO boss Ricky Burns.
Burns-Broner appears inevitable, but negotiations seem to have had multiple false starts. Regardless of who one feels is at fault, both fighters at least project a surface desire to unify titles. However, verbal promises don’t necessarily help with the logistical and financial hurdles that are inevitable in any negotiation process.
Of course, Burns (35-2, 10 KO) held the WBO 130-pound title when Broner (25-0, 21 KO) was a rising contender and, eventually, the Scotsman’s mandatory challenger. Rather than face Broner, Burns vacated his belt and moved up to lightweight, where he immediately captured an interim title. Thus, while Broner might be a more “mainstream” fighter, he has consistently been in a position of chasing a fight against Burns.
So, is Ricky Burns ducking Adrien Broner?
Well, not really. The inability to make Burns-Broner is more complicated than a simple declaration that one fighter is avoiding the other. Firstly, RingTV.com’s Harry Pratt notes that Burns moved up to lightweight because he could no longer make the 130-pound limit.
Rather than accusing Burns of cowardice, applaud his professionalism and ability to understand the reality of his bodily limitations. By doing so, Burns avoided the embarrassing situation Broner found himself in when he was 3.5 pounds overweight for a title defense against Vicente Escobedo.
Now that Burns appears settled at lightweight, Pratt, in the above-cited article, also reports that the current WBO champion intends to stay put. If he genuinely hopes to capture the Ring title at 135-pounds, Burns will have to fight Broner.
To further complicate matters, Burns was supposed to headline a card at London’s ExCel Arena on December 15. However, Burns had two opponents—Liam Walsh and Jose Ocampo—withdraw. Walsh suffered injuries in a minor automobile accident, while Ocampo was saddled with the sudden passing of his trainer (per Bad Left Hook).
Naturally, these events were jarring for all fighters involved.
As a result, Burns and his team appear to have concocted a plan that could lead to a unification showdown against Broner in the spring. According to Burns’ manager, Alex Morrison, the Scotsman will make a January title defense in Glasgow and then pursue a fight with Broner for April (per BoxingScene.com).
But is this good enough? Should Burns have opted to forgo his newly-scheduled January defense and face Broner on February 16?
Location is obviously a major factor in fight negotiations. Had Burns decided to fight Broner in February at the Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, he would have conceded his deserved right—as a champion—to barter for an optimal venue.
Also, Morrison, in the above-cited BoxingScene.com article states that “Ricky didn’t want to jump from a non-event to the biggest fight of his life in a matter of weeks.” While this will surely elicit groans from some fans, it is a reasonable excuse.
That said, it only retains validity if Burns actually fights Broner in April.
If Burns retains his title in January and then balks during renewed negotiations with Broner and his team, he could then be accused of ducking. For now, fans and pundits should trust Burns. After all, he is a two-division champion with a 7-0 record in title fights.
But where does Broner stand in this minor fiasco?
A report from ESPN.com’s UK outlet suggests that Broner wanted to secure a fight against Burn for February:
American Adrien Broner has accused Ricky Burns of shirking his challenge in the past and says he wants to get the Scot in the ring for a unification bout in February.
“I'm ready for Ricky Burns,” Broner told the Daily Mirror. “He’s a world-class fighter and I respect him for what he’s done.
“I wanted to fight him for the WBO title, but he moved up. I hope he doesn’t try and avoid me again."
Broner clearly respects what Burns has accomplished at 130 and 135 pounds, even if he feels that Burns is ducking his most competitive and potentially lucrative fight. For all of Broner’s brash antics, his comments regarding Burns, thus far, appear pointed and partly valid.
Luckily, Burns-Broner remains an enticing matchup and was recently infused with more extracurricular pizzazz thanks to Broner’s reaction to Burns’ opponent issues for December 15. According to the Daily Mail, Broner made Burns a confident yet safe offer:
American world champion Adrien Broner has sensationally challenged Ricky Burns to a unification clash at just TWO days notice.
Burns was due to defend his WBO lightweight title against first Liam Walsh and then Jorge Ocampo but both pulled out, leaving the Scot without an opponent for Saturday's show at the Excel in London.
But Broner, who won the WBC belt against Antonio DeMarco last month and is regarded by many as boxing's successor to Floyd Mayweather Jnr, claims he would fly to London to take on the Scot.
Now obviously, Broner knew that Burns and his team would not accept such an offer. However, in the spirit of gamesmanship, Broner, at this point, has the edge. Never one to lack swagger, Broner’s insistence that he could defeat Burns on two days notice speaks to his confidence and gives those who think that Burns is avoiding the fight more ammunition.
While Broner was sensational when he won the WBC title by stopping Antonio DeMarco, Burns remains the more experienced and accomplished champion. Obviously, this doesn’t mean Burns would necessarily defeat Broner. Still, those claiming that Burns is ducking this unification fight should withhold rash judgment (until April).
Broner’s skills and persona have captured much of the boxing public’s imagination. With major fights looming at junior welterweight, Broner’s stint at lightweight figures to be brief. If Burns is sincere about unifying titles, he’ll have to take concrete action by the spring of 2013—at the latest.