The polysemic name of Matchroom’s Saturday bill in Glasgow, ‘Man of Steel’, refers to the titanium plate inserted into the jaw of Ricky Burns and, by extension, to the sheer toughness of his character exhibited through his perseverance to hear the final bell as he battled through ten rounds with a broken jaw, courtesy of Raymundo Beltran during their last September bout, and followed by the absolute determination to get back in the ring after the mending operation and healing.
Nobody need once again to point out the obvious that Burns was extremely fortunate to have retained his title against Beltran with the decision of a draw, but it is worth noting that the WBO appointed judges for Saturday’s defence against Crawford will have this in mind and are likely to score many of the potentially close rounds to the American in order to prevent any further stigma of controversy and/or accusations of ‘hometown favouritism’; this will surely prove a similar case in the upcoming April rematch between Pacquiao and Bradley.
In spite of this being his tenth world title fight and being the reigning WBO lightweight champion, Burns, 36-2-1 (KO 11), comes in as the underdog against Crawford, who for the first time competes for world honours. The regarded long-shot of a Burns victory is a view that the Scottish fighter both relishes and is well accustomed to.
In his first world title fight back in 2010 Burns was given little-to-no chance against defending WBO super-featherweight champion Roman Martinez, but he climbed off the canvas in the first round to battle to a UD and has remained a world champion since. It will take no less of a special performance if Burns is to remain champion by the end of Saturday night.
There has been much hype made of the slick American and Top Rank heavily expect their man to do the job and bring back the title to the States. Crawford, who brings with him an unblemished 22-0-0 (KO 16) record, maintains that a 10,000 strong boisterous Scottish crowd will have no effect on him and insists that the pressure is all on Ricky as he carries the weight of a nation on his shoulders.
Burns asserts that he feels no such pressure and, given how his last four fights have been in Glasgow with the masses behind him, it is difficult to argue against. Burns is indeed a fighter who feeds off the crowd’s energy, demonstrated for example in the way thousands of Scots raised his spirit to pull of the victory against the widely underrated Jose Gonzalez last May when he was well behind on all three scorecards.
Promoter Eddie Hearn has suggested that it took much finance for his fighter’s defence to be staged in Scotland, stating that he has taken a ‘financial risk’ and that Crawford has been paid ‘a lot of money’ to come over, as he also believes that Burns is a fighter who thrives on home-advantage.
It is yet to be seen by anyone how Crawford handles walking into the ring to an intense hostile crowd; if he thinks that ten thousand British fans sound the same as ten thousand Americans then he may be in for a rude awakening. However, Crawford is world class with a standout amateur background and so it would be a surprise if the crowd were to upset his mentality. Such was his pedigree as an amateur he defeated Danny Garcia, Carlos Molina and Mikey Garcia, and in March 2013 he announced himself as an elite professional when he stepped up to light-welterweight with less than a fortnight’s notice and won a convincing UD over ten rounds against hard-hitting Breidis Prescott.
It has been suggested that Crawford is unhappy with one or two things since arriving in Scotland, the miserable weather supposedly being one of them. His team rejected an offer from Eddie Hearn of a ten day stay in a city hotel leading up to the fight and did not arrive in Britain until Monday; to leave flying over the Atlantic Ocean so close to a fight is risky due to jet lag and fluid retention and consequently this could have some effect on Crawford’s weight come fight night.
On Tuesday Crawford said barely anything through an awkward press conference to the media, answering with mundane replies to the shocked assembled press and clearly expressing his disinterest with the formality. Perhaps the only form of an elaborate response was ‘he lost’ (referring to Burns) when asked his view on the Burns and Beltran fight.
By contrast two weight world champion Burns has been as amiable as ever to the media and was all smiles and pleasantries as he performed a public workout at the St. Enoch Centre. He has not given too much away regarding how preparations have gone but has said that some changes have been implemented to his training, such as the employing of a strength conditioner, and that world-class sparring will contribute to his triumph, which includes playing host to slick and tricky featherweight Lee Selby for a week.
Burns is ever the underdog and even Hearn recognises that Crawford is the favourite, but so far the Scot has always managed to come away with the win and so it is not easy to discount him. And you never know, the fight could echo the one with Gonzalez where Burns was made to look ordinary but ultimately his heart had won him the fight.