The WBO lightweight title belt will be on the line when Terence Crawford (22-0, 16 KO) challenges Ricky Burns (36-2-1, 11 KO) in Glasgow, Scotland, and just a few key elements separate these fighters.
Burns will have the advantage of playing to a thoroughly friendly crowd, while U.S. native Crawford will have to cope with the time difference and an unpleasant environment.
But each of these fighters has enough flaws to make this contest a thoroughly even one.
Crawford has been busy riling up the locals with some disparaging comments about Scotland, so the fans are buzzing for this one to finally get underway.
When it finally does at 2 p.m. EST, it’ll be the fighter that adheres to a few of these key principles that takes home the victory.
Coming into the fight, Crawford’s biggest advantage seems to be his conditioning and ability to outlast his opponents.
While he does pack a punch, particularly favoring a hard left hook, he’s a very skilled boxer that has exceptional speed. Both of these attributes could pose a real problem for Burns.
Crawford’s slippery nature has even earned him comparisons to a certain other famous American.
"I look at Ricky and I see what he is capable of and I look at Terence, and I see what Terence is capable of, and I believe Terence is way better and he is a couple of years from his peak. In two years, he will be like Floyd Mayweather,” Crawford trainer Brian McIntyre told The Telegraph’s Gareth Davies.
While that might be a bit of hyperbole from an enthusiastic trainer, McIntyre is correct that the two are comparable fighters—they hit hard when necessary, but they’ve got the ability to outlast slower opponents like Burns.
The defending champ has responded by trying to up his conditioning.
He added his old friend Matthew Smillie to his corner as a strength and conditioning coach back in December 2013 to help prepare for Crawford’s elusiveness.
“My good mate Matthew has come in as my strength and conditioner. We've known each other a long time, so that's helped, and we're really mixing it up so it never feels boring or stale,” Burns told ESPN’s Dan Rafael. “The 6 a.m. starts for the hill sprints haven't been great fun as I'm not a morning person, but I soon got into the routine and I've really loved this camp and I think it's going to benefit me on fight night.”
However, it’s impossible to be sure how effective this extra burst in conditioning has been given an injury Burns is still working through.
Burns’ Broken Jaw
Burns has had a rough couple of months, with no fight rougher than his draw against Ray Beltran in September 2013.
He suffered a broken jaw in just the second round, yet managed to keep fighting and earn a draw that prompted outrage from Beltran’s side.
But despite the controversial decision, the injury remains. He had a titanium plate fitted to his jaw to help him recover, and it’s been a long way back.
"The jaw is getting there, healing the way it should do, I'm in light training but no boxing for another four to five weeks," he told Sky Sports back in October. "When I say light training I mean swimming or cycling, even jogging I need to stay away from. There's nerve damage, it's still numb but it's getting there.”
That put a damper on Burns’ efforts to match Crawford’s conditioning, let alone to him getting in the ring and sparring.
When he was able to step back into the ring, he brought in Kevin Mitchell—the man he beat back in 2012—to test the jaw as a sparring partner, and he seems confident that it will be a non-issue.
But it is still hard to predict exactly how he’ll respond to a hard hit on the chin on the big stage instead of behind closed doors, as Sky Sports’ Johnny Nelson points out.
He said he was very weary to start with, but bit by bit it is now the norm and I am sure he feels that chin is back - and maybe even better. Remember when Muhammad Ali had his jaw broken by Joe Frazier, he was told it would be even stronger when it repaired itself. I suppose Ricky's biggest concern is boxing in public for the first time since it happened... but the one place you are used to taking a shot is on the chin.
While the jaw seems fine for now, there’s no doubt Crawford will be aiming for it early to test him.
Should he be able to land one of his powerful left hooks and rattle Burns early, this one could be over quickly.
Burns will have to hope that his extra conditioning pays off in order to keep pace with shifty Crawford.
If he can’t, then his title defense won’t last very long at all.