By Sean Martin
Glasgow’s Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre (SECC) will play host to Saturday’s WBO Lightweight Title bout between Ricky Burns and Terence Crawford.
For the highly-rated Crawford (22-0, 16 KOs) this is undoubtedly the biggest fight of his career to date.
Nevertheless, the 26-year-old has been installed as the favorite to usurp Burns (36-2-1, 11 KOs) lightweight belt, something his trainer Brian McIntyre has not been shy about broadcasting.
“I’ve been in boxing over 35 years,” he said on Thursday. “And I’ve been with Terence since day one. I expect him to be victorious in this fight.”
Despite the confidence, edging on arrogance, of McIntyre – who earlier in the week called Burns a “golden glove, runner-up fighter” who brought nothing to the table besides fitness – saying that Crawford has what it takes to block out the hostile Glasgow crowd and defeat Burns, the Omaha native has yet to fight outside of the USA as a professional.
More than that, he has never fought a 12-round bout since turning professional either; though his impressive unanimous decision victories, against Breidis Prescott and Andrey Klimov in 2013 respectively, both went the 10-round distance.
Yet Crawford conducts himself with a quiet confidence during the run-up to the fight, simply smiling when his trainer would rather brag. He is a boxer who clearly possesses the belief that he deserves to not only challenge for the title, but win it.
“They can say the sparring has gone well [in Burns’ training camp] but we are here and ready to fight,” he said calmly.
“I’m ready for Saturday, so may the best man win.”
He has his physical advantages. Despite ceding around two inches in height to Burns (who is deceptively tall at 5’10″) Crawford actually has a three inch longer reach of 73′, something which could be of vital importance given Burns’ tendency to out-point, rather than try to KO, his opponents by relying on good footwork and a busy jab.
Crawford, whose impressive head movement, slick counter-punching and switch-hitting ability could represent a real threat to Burns’ usual game plan, has also competed at welterweight and light-welterweight a few times; a stark contrast to Burns, who has been competing at lightweight, his heaviest level to date, consistently since 2011.
Indeed, this will be his fifth defence of the lightweight title and the fact he has changed his training routine shows how important this particular fight is to his future.
A myriad of British talent has been drafted in to aid Burns during his sparring sessions – including Olympian Luke Campbell, unbeaten lightweight Martin J Ward and super middleweight David Brophy – and he has opted to research his opponent deliberately for the first time.
But the Scot, 30, goes into Saturday’s event off the back of two poor fights in succession, the second of which was a draw against Raymundo Beltran that allowed him to keep hold of his title amid accusations of crowd influence.
Ever the modest professional, Burns emerged from that episode with his honest reputation still somewhat intact after admitting he owed Beltran a rematch and that he had fought for 10 of the 12 rounds with a broken jaw.
On Thursday, the Scot kept to his status as an uncharacteristically humble champion in a sport where overconfidence is a major feature. Burns looked genuinely touched when the crowd gathered at the pre-fight press conference greeted his name with enthusiastic applause.
His trainer, Billy Nelson, however, told the crowd what they wanted to hear: “Ricky will win this fight”.
Burns himself, meanwhile, simply thanked the fans who would be attending the event and anyone who was involved in his 12-week training camp.
Promisingly for the fans, both Crawford and Burns seem content to let their boxing abilities do most of their talking for them this coming Saturday.
Burns v Crawford can be seen live in both the US and the UK.
US coverage begins at 2pm ET/11am PT on AWE and on the Playstation Network on PS3 pay-per-view, while UK viewers can watch on Sky Sports 2 from 7pm.