WBO lightweight champion Ricky "Rickster" Burns (36-2, 11 KO) was less than impressive in his last title defense, but he's hoping to rebound and produce a strong performance against Raymundo "Sugar" Beltran (28-6, 17 KO).
Burns had real trouble with Jose A. Gonzalez before the latter inexplicably retired on the stool before the 10th round in their May 2013 bout. Burns showed heart in rebounding from a slow start, but he was down on all three scorecards before the fight was stopped.
Beltran has won his last three fights and he's faced strong competition in his career. Can he offer yet another stiff challenge for Burns? Here's how you can watch.
What Caused Burns' Issues With Gonzalez?
Gonzalez is a big-time puncher with a strong jab, and he was much quicker than Burns and his camp anticipated. They were fortunate Gonzalez suffered the injury and wasn't able to continue. It is quite possible Burns could have been dethroned if that wasn't the case.
Without tons of punching power, Burns has to use his speed and stamina to outwork opponents. The former failed him against Gonzalez, but he was the more fit fighter and thus he held on to his title.
Speaking to Sky Sports (via Declan Warrington of the Daily Mail), Burns talked about what he did wrong against Gonzalez:
I think when I watched that fight back, from the second round onwards you could see I was getting picked off and I was trying to force the fight. I was lunging in.
I was getting caught with punches I shouldn't have, which I shouldn't have been doing. It's alright saying it now that I've watched it back, but when you are in there, that's when I should have clicked.
Ready to Be More than a Sparring Partner
Beltran has served as the chief sparring partner for Manny Pacquiao, but now he gets the biggest opportunity of his career to make his own mark.
He told ESPN's Dan Rafael:
I'm ready and motivated. Everything is going well. It means a lot to fight for the world title. It's every boxer's dream. It opens up the door to big fights. I want to fight the best fighters at lightweight. He's a champion. He's strong. I've got a lot of respect for him and I'm training very seriously to face the best version of Ricky Burns.
Beltran doesn't possess the power Gonzalez does, but he is rugged. He'll have to overcome a two-inch reach disadvantage to beat Burns, but his experience sparring with Pacquiao should help him handle the moment.
Gonzalez's reach, power and jab helped to set up his attack early on. It was a major factor in disturbing Burns' rhythm. It set up the power shots that ultimately scored and hurt Burns at points earlier in the fight. Unfortunately for Beltran, he doesn't have the length or jab that Gonzalez has.
Beltran is an inside fighter who likes to bang the body and use counter-hooks in close to his opponent.
Stylistically, this is a much better matchup for Burns. In this fight, his jab could be the most important weapon and his work rate could get him an early lead on the scorecards.
Beltran's moderate power combined with Burns' strong chin and heart will make it difficult for the challenger to score a stoppage. Burns is motivated to improve on his last performance, and he has the right opponent in front of him to shine.
The champion will retain his title with a clear unanimous decision over Beltran.
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