6 Things We Learned from Ricky Burns vs. Terence Crawford
As predicted by Bleacher Report's Briggs Seekins, Terence Crawford won a clear points victory over Ricky Burns in Glasgow on Saturday night.
Burns had held a WBO world title since 2010, initially in the super-featherweight division, but the fighter from Nebraska is the new champion in the lightweight division.
Crawford will return to the U.S. with the belt and may well face Raymundo Beltran in his first defence, the fighter who was unlucky to only get a draw on the judges' cards in Burns' previous fight.
The scores were 116-112, 116-112 and 117-111, and whilst the right man won, there was maybe a little home bias there. I scored it 119-111 for Crawford.
Here are six things we learned from the action.
1. Crawford Deserves Great Praise
Crawford made a step up in class in his first world-title fight and took no time at all to look comfortable at a higher level.
The first three rounds were tentative, but past that, it was hard to argue a round that Crawford lost. He was able to dictate the rhythm of the fight with his quick movement and excellent judge of range and distance.
Burns could only land single shots, and Crawford was able to respond quickly whenever Burns did have success to deny him any opportunity to come into the fight.
Crawford hadn't fought a top-15 fighter before, and yet he made beating Burns look as easy as he'd made it look against guys at the lower end of the top 35.
Where Crawford really deserves praise is that he had the gumption to travel to Scotland to face the belt-holder, even though that put him on the other side of 11,000 passionate local fans.
Not many vaunted young Americans would take that kind of risk, and it tells you something about Crawford's inner belief and steeliness.
The last American to come to the U.K. and dethrone a champion was Timothy Bradley, who fought in Nottingham in 2008 and beat Junior Witter.
Bradley wasn't so highly thought of back then, but it was the first sign he was destined for great things.
Crawford is a former sparring partner of Bradley, another Top Rank fighter, and he has put down a marker that he might have the potential to emulate the extended success of the WBO welterweight champion.
2. Burns Is Too Tentative
Burns was poor in his two previous fights against Jose Gonzalez and Beltran, and he was disappointing again against Crawford.
Against Beltran, Burns had his jaw broken, and in his first fight back, he didn't look comfortable. It may have been anxiety about the injury or it may simply have been Crawford's power, but Burns covered up at the first sign of trouble and didn't engage Crawford enough.
Crawford had never been the distance before, and Burns has always had a good engine, so you would think he would want to set a fast pace and drag Crawford into waters deeper than he'd been to date.
However, Burns let Crawford dictate his own activity level and was unable, and seemingly unwilling, to change the rhythm of the fight.
Sky Sports commentator Jim Watt constantly questioned Burns' mentality, saying, "This is not Ricky Burns. There is something wrong."
After the fight, Burns did not report any physical discomfort from the jaw, but in terms of sharpness and aggression, he looked a shadow of the fighter who beat the likes of Roman Martinez and stopped Kevin Mitchell.
The jury is out on exactly what is holding Burns back psychologically, but he will struggle to rebuild his career boxing so tentatively.
3. A Rematch Would Be a Waste of Time
After the fight, Burns expressed his desire for a rematch and Crawford said he'd entertain the possibility, albeit perhaps more from politeness than sincerity, especially given he was sat alongside Burns at the time.
Given that Burns was an established champion and two of the scorecards were 116-112, you might think there was a case for another go at it.
But those scores don't accurately represent Crawford's dominance, and that, the longer the fight went, the more hapless Burns looked and the more Crawford seemed to be in total control.
It is very hard to see what Burns could do differently. Post fight, he suggested he gave rounds away through lack of activity—and that's certainly true.
However, after this fight, he's the former champ the wrong side of 30 and Crawford now has 12-round experience under his belt. The window of opportunity for him to stretch an inexperienced Crawford over his first full-distance fight has gone.
Burns was simply never able to hurt Crawford meaningfully, nor did he ever have him in any trouble or even have him needing to rethink his game plan. There were no positives where you could say if Burns did more of this or that, then he could turn a rematch in his favour.
If anything, it was the other way, and you might expect Crawford to win every round in a rematch, where maybe Burns won or split three rounds this time out.
Crawford simply seemed to have Burns' number, and Burns' call for a rematch should go unheeded.
4. There's More to Come from Crawford
Before the fight, there were questions as to whether Crawford was being overhyped on the basis of great-looking performances against mediocre opposition.
He put those doubts to one side by outclassing Burns just as easily as he had his previous ring foes.
Inevitably that leads to new questions as to just how good Crawford is and how he lines up against the other titleholders in the lightweight division.
It's too early to say he definitely beats the likes of IBF champ Miguel Vasquez or WBA man Richar Abril, but you can certainly make a case for him against anyone at 135.
The exciting part of it is that Crawford looked like he still had a couple of gears he could accelerate with, but which he didn't need to see off the Scot.
Crawford kept a steady pace without tiring himself, keeping on top with his speed, agility and eye-catching combinations.
What was telling was that whenever Burns did do anything, Crawford then upped his game to dispel any doubt as to who was in charge.
Burns simply wasn't able to extend the American, and until somebody can, we will not know just how good he is. Crawford has much more to offer, and it should be a good ride discovering just how much that is.
5. Burns' Corner Wasn't Good Enough
Billy Nelson, the head trainer of Burns, brought Tony Sims into the corner to add another experienced eye and source of advice. It was perhaps an acknowledgement that he wasn't 100 percent satisfied with his own recent performances from the apron.
But from what we saw of the corner work on the broadcast, Burns wasn't hearing the right things from his team.
The biggest lapse was simply a lack of energy. Burns was lacklustre throughout the fight and needed a rocket lit under him to raise the pace and push the fight to try to break Crawford's rhythm. Instead, he got very low-key input and hardly ever left his stool visibly pepped up.
Round after round went by with the fight slipping away from Burns, and yet that went unacknowledged and no real sense of urgency was communicated.
The worst example of advice from Nelson came early on when he told Burns that he had the superior speed to Crawford. That was contrary to the evidence, and if it was meant to boost his man's confidence, it was so obviously untrue that it could only have the opposite effect.
To be fair to Nelson, his game plan of trying to work behind the jab was sound, and it worked OK for three rounds before Crawford settled and started fighting his fight.
Nonetheless, Burns didn't get enough from his corner as the fight happened, and this might be something he could consider changing for the future.
6. Burns Is Not World-Class
Burns is one of the nicest guys in the sport of boxing, so it's no surprise that the Sky team were eager to defend him after the fight and to claim he has a future at the highest level of the sport.
Now, you could give Burns one off-night against Gonzalez, and then another against Beltran because of the serious injury he suffered in the second round of that one.
But three off-nights in a row? You have to start reappraising Burns on the basis of his recent run, and the only conclusion you can draw is that Burns is simply not world-class.
Gonzalez, Beltran and Crawford are all different types of fighters, so it's not even as though you can say it's just that there's one particular style that Burns struggles against.
The bigger debate, and one which could run far beyond Burns' eventual retirement—was he ever world-class?
People will say that Martinez was not a strong champion, that Michael Katsidis was over the hill and that Mitchell flatters to deceive. They'll add that other than those three, Burns' opponents were simply not good enough.
But that's a little unfair. Against Martinez, Katsidis and Mitchell on his best nights, Burns did look world-class. He has had a great career and has massively overachieved relative to his early fights.
All the same, there's no longer a reasonable case to argue that Burns is a world-class operator. Whether or not he can bounce back to his previous best form remains to be seen.
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