Ricky Burns vs. Terence Crawford: Preview and Prediction for Title Fight

Briggs SeekinsFeatured ColumnistFebruary 25, 2014

Ricky Burns vs. Terence Crawford: Preview and Prediction for Title Fight

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    Mark Runnacles/Getty Images

    Saturday in Glasgow, WBO lightweight champion Ricky Burns defends his belt against undefeated Terence Crawford. Burns is a very popular star with his fellow Scots, but Crawford is a potential superstar in the making. 

    Its tempting to view this as nothing more than another step in the road for Crawford, but Burns has the heart of a lion and certainly won't hand over his belt without a full-blown fight. How a fight looks on paper is always ultimately meaningless. 

    The only thing that will count come Saturday is what happens in the ring. 

     

    Stats via boxrec.com.

Tale of the Tape

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    Mark Runnacles/Getty Images
          Ricky Burns     Terence Crawford
    Record:     36-2-1, 11 KOs     22-0, 16 KOs
    Height:     5'10"     5'8"
    Reach:     70"     73"
    Weight:     135 lbs     135 lbs
    Age:     30     26
    Stance:     Orthodox     Orthodox
    Hometown:     Coatbridge, Scotland     Omaha, Neb.
    Rounds:     281     81

    Ricky Burns is the taller fighter, but Crawford actually has a three-inch advantage in reach. He has the boxing skills to exploit it. 

    Burns will be fighting once more in front of a hometown crowd. He's an action fighter who has done great box office in his home country. 

    Burns is the far more experienced professional fighter. He has fought at the world-class level for several years now. 

Main Storylines

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    Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

    Ricky Burns escaped 2013 with his world title, but his reputation certainly took a hit. In May, he was trailing on all the cards late in the fight against the relatively unknown Jose Gonzalez when Gonzalez quit with a busted hand.

    In September, Burns retained his belt on a draw against veteran Raymundo Beltran. Burns showed tremendous heart in the fight, competing from Round 2 on with a busted jaw.

    Nevertheless, in my opinion it was the worst judging decision of the year. Beltran should be the WBO lightweight champion of the world right now.

    Burns is just 30, but his body has fought a lot of rounds, and his lanky 5'10" frame has endured training down to a 130 and 135 pounds for years. It's not impossible that his best days as a fighter are already behind him, especially considering the damage he took last September.

    He'll need to get his pre-2013 form back in a hurry against Terence Crawford. Crawford is a former amateur standout and one of the hottest prospects in the sport. He is a great defensive fighter with dangerous offense.

    The undefeated Crawford is probably taking a step up in competition against Burns, but it would be wrong to view him as completely untested. His last three opponents, Breidis Prescott, Alejandro Sanabria and Andrey Klimov, are all solid, world-class fighters, although only around a C grade.

    Crawford stopped Sanabria in six rounds and beat Klimov and Prescott by one-sided decision. He's clearly ready for a world title shot.  

Strengths

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    Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

    Ricky Burns 

    Burns is a lengthy fighter with good footwork and a busy jab. He is a boxer-brawler who lets his hands go in quick combinations. 

    Burns has a deep gas tank and can push the pace for an entire fight. He's been fighting at the world-class level since 2010 and is very comfortable fighting in his native Scotland.

     

    Terence Crawford

    Crawford spent his teen years boxing an elite level as an amateur. He is a well-rounded fighter. His defensive head and shoulder movement is outstanding, as is his footwork.

    Crawford is a complicated package on offense. He is a powerful, aggressive counterpuncher, but he has the hand speed to get off with his punches first—if he wants to take the initiative.

Weaknesses

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    Scott Heavey/Getty Images

    Ricky Burns

    Burns has a tendency to get sloppy and leave holes when he is on the offensive. He recorded an impressive Round 4 TKO of Kevin Mitchell in 2012, but his 11 stoppages in 39 fights is very low by world championship standards.

    To win, Burns generally has to employ hustle and boxing skills. Against a younger, quicker opponent with better boxing skills, like Crawford, this will be no easy strategy to pull off.  

     

    Terence Crawford

    Crawford looks like a future superstar to me. I can't pinpoint any specific weaknesses in his game that I've noticed.

    That's certainly not to suggest he is invulnerable. It's easy to look great when you are fighting less athletic opponents with fewer tools. It's going to be Burns' challenge to make the undefeated young challenger uncomfortable and expose his flaws.

Ricky Burns Will Win If...

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    Scott Heavey/Getty Images

    Ricky Burns has looked to be in great condition in every fight I've seen him in. He's going to need to be again on Saturday against Terence Crawford.

    Crawford will enjoy the hometown advantage of 10,000 fellow Scots screaming at the top of their lungs. He needs to maximize that advantage by giving them a reason to be on their feet and cheering in every round.

    That's going to mean letting his hands go often, even if he risks getting countered in return. He's going to need to swarm Crawford and cut off the ring. If the fight is ugly and difficult to score, Burns will be at an advantage in close rounds due to the roar of the crowd.

    Crawford does not look like an easy guy to cut off the ring on, so Burns has to be ready to continually reset and adjust his angles. Burns has to be relentless in this fight.

    If Burns can rally the loud Scottish crowd and push Crawford far outside of his comfort zone, he can win this fight.  

Terence Crawford Will Win If...

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    Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

    For Terence Crawford, I think the biggest challenge of all is going to be blocking out everything going on except for the action in the ring. This is his first time fighting outside of the United States, and he's picked a raucous atmosphere for his international debut.

    Crawford needs to enter the ring in a relaxed frame of mind on Saturday. He has to treat this as just another boxing match and execute the techniques he's capable of executing.

    When Burns looks to press forward behind the stiff jab, Crawford needs to be ready to slip the punch, slide back and counter aggressively. Crawford should use his dazzling head and shoulder movement and slick footwork to frustrate Burns.

    He should also make sure Burns pays a price for his aggression. If Crawford can leave Burns swatting at the air and stumbling into combinations, he will largely silence the Scottish crowd. 

    If the early rounds go according to plan for Crawford, he should shift to a more aggressive mode by about Round 5 or 6. As soon as Burns shows the slightest sign of slowing down, Crawford should begin to press the attack himself.

    If Crawford can start to anticipate Burns' attacks and disrupt them, he should be able to pull away down the stretch.   

Prediction

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    Julie Jacobson/Associated Press

    I don't want to disrepect Ricky Burns here. Although I think Burns clearly lost to Raymundo Beltran last September, I have plenty of appreciation for what he has done in the ring.

    Burns has beaten some good fighters and fought some exciting fights. By the standards of our modern, alphabet-soup era, Burns has been a credible world champion.

    But I also think he's a clear notch below Terence Crawford in athleticism and skill. That's not to say he has no chance to win at all. He's the more experienced fighter, and if he can put Crawford into an uncomfortable place and keep him there, Burns can pull off the upset.

    But the smart money here has got to be on Crawford. He has the look of a potential superstar.

    I can see a fired-up Burns making it competitive in the first few rounds. But I think Crawford will stay cool, get his bearings and then simply outclass the champion.

    As the fight advances, Crawford's superiority will only become more clear. Burns will take punishment in the middle and later rounds but reach the final bell on pure guts.

    I'm predicting Crawford by decision, 117-110.