Unbeaten American Terence Crawford lived up to the hype by wrenching the WBO lightweight title from Ricky Burns’ grasp in Glasgow tonight, and firmly announced his arrival on the world stage with a unanimous decision victory.
The official scores were 116-112 twice and 117-110.
Crawford, 23-0 (16 knockouts) used a variety of technical nuances to confuse the Scotsman, although he didn’t always have things his own way. The challenger was expected to switch hit and he did just that, playing the proverbial box of tricks, as Burns battled back bravely throughout the contest.
“Ricky Burns was really tough,” said Crawford. “I hit him with big shots and he hung in there until the end. It was a tremendous atmosphere out there and that’s what it’s all about. I’ll let my team decide my next move.
“I knew I was the best in the lightweight division.”
Burns, THE RING's No. 3-rated lightweight, appeared apprehensive during the introductions but, when the action commenced, he was able to match the crafty American at long range. Crawford looked dangerous with a right hand counter, but the Scotsman was quick with his own left hand and on point in terms of reflexes.
Both fighters were looking to counter the counterpuncher in Round 3 and there wasn’t much between them. At times there was a significant lack of action, and one felt the American had to do more in order to win the title away from home. That pattern was about to change.
Crawford, THE RING's No. 8-rated lightweight, switched almost exclusively to the southpaw stance in the middle rounds and Burns struggled to get off significant work. Big left hands were catching the champion and the challenger’s pendulum like head movement had Burns reluctant to fire at an increasingly elusive target.
It was competitive high speed chess between two fine athletes, but the champion was on the receiving end as the late rounds approached. A lateral cut to the right eye, sustained during a clash of heads, didn’t affect the Scotsman whatsoever, but Crawford was boxing beautifully and pulling away on the scorecards.
If there was a surprise in the fight it was Crawford’s physical strength. When Burns landed a good shot it triggered immediate aggression from the American, who came at his man with sustained two fisted assaults which backed the champion into the ropes.
A great right hand from the champion at the beginning of Round 9 was affirmation of his warrior heart and will to win, but the clock was ticking. Burns was far sharper than in previous outings, against Jose Gonzalez and Raymundo Beltran, however the opponent before him was far sharper than anyone he had ever encountered.
Another right hand snapped Crawford’s head back in Round 11 and the challenger’s volume suddenly appeared to be dropping. Unfortunately for Burns that was irrelevant because he needed the knockout to win.
A Crawford left hand hurt the champion badly at the beginning of the final round and although he gutted it out to survive the assault, his time as champion was coming to an end. Crawford displayed excellent poise and ring intelligence, with what was unarguably the finest performance of his career.
“I felt that some of the rounds were slipping away from me,” said Burns. “It was hard to fight against someone who was constantly looking to counterpunch. I was trying to draw the leads from him, but he was always waiting on me. If I can’t get a rematch with Terence, then we’ll go after the other world champions.
“Boxing is all I’ve ever wanted to do and I’ll be back. This is merely a setback that I will overcome.”
Crawford, despite being the out of town fighter, in his first world title bout, was a substantial favourite coming in. His unbeaten record, eye catching skills and knockout record were either going to be the products of hype or very real and, unfortunately for Burns, it was the latter.
The flashy American, who is promoted by Top Rank, has finally arrived and he has the potential to be a huge star. This victory over a two weight world titlist, who hadn’t lost in seven years, is a solid statement and Crawford’s next step will be eagerly anticipated by the boxing fraternity.
Burns, 36-3-1 (11 knockouts) has nothing to be ashamed of and will be back on the horse at the earliest opportunity. The super tough Scotsman is a natural fighter, who was born for the game, and several intriguing options lie ahead against foreign and domestic competition.
“There are still big fights ahead for Ricky Burns,” said Matchroom Promoter, Eddie Hearn. “Ricky immediately asked for a rematch, but I’m not sure that’s the best option for him at the moment. The other champions at 135 pounds are Richar Abril, Miguel Vazquez and Omar Figueroa, who would all present attractive matchups.
“A domestic fight is a possibility for Ricky Burns, but only if it leads to something at world level.”
Joshua impresses on Burns-Crawford undercard
Olympic gold medallist Anthony Joshua (238 pounds) disposed of Argentinian heavyweight Hector Avila with an almost perfect first round knockout. The British star backed up his prey with the jab, moved him to the ropes, and unloaded with a series of devastating hooks and uppercuts to head and body. Avila (230 pounds) survived the assault, but a whipping left hook lead to the head in ring centre sent him down heavily for the full count.
In April of last year Avila survived nine rounds with reigning European heavyweight champion Dereck Chisora, which is a barometer of Joshua’s impressive performance. This exciting new force improves to 5-0 (5 knockouts).
The official time was 2:14.
Photo / Mark Runnacles-Getty Images
Tom Gray is a member of the British Boxing Writers’ Association and has contributed to various publications. Follow him on Twitter: @Tom_Gray_Boxing