By Sean Martin
Terence Crawford has won the WBO Lightweight title after toppling Ricky Burns via unanimous decision in the Scot’s hometown of Glasgow, Scotland.
The Crawford camp had insisted in the build-up to the fight that the hostile Glasgow crowd would not have any bearing on the 26-year-old’s ability to get the better of Burns.
And so it was proven. The still unbeaten American proved too strong and too clever for his 30-year-old opponent, whose next career step has been thrown into question following the surrender of his title.
While never really reaching the level of performance the hype surrounding him had suggested, Crawford nevertheless dominated the scorecards and emerged with a unanimous 116-112, 117-111, 116-112 victory.
After the bout both fighters reverted to type, with Crawford’s demeanour screaming out that this is but one step further on the road to superstardom and Burns as humble in defeat as in victory.
When asked if he simply lost to the better man, Burns replied: “That’s what it came down to. It was a tricky fight, very awkward, especially with his switch-hitting. The best man won on the night, but I’ll be back.”
Just what lies in store for the Scot is unclear, a rematch with Crawford was mooted post-fight, but the Omaha man seems the type to look forward rather than back. Besides, the manner of the victory left no real reason to fight Burns again anytime soon.
The famed Glasgow crowd were in full voice during the walk-ons. Crawford entered the SECC with his head bowed, singing his entrance song with a smile on his face as jeers rang out around him. His conduct screamed confidence, but there was an understandable nervousness about him. He tried his best to betray no emotion even as the ‘Star Spangled Banner’ was jeered.
Burns, as expected, arrived to an electric atmosphere. Yet the importance of the fight was written all over his face. Like his general attitude to his profession, his demeanour hid nothing. ‘Flower of Scotland’ was given a rousing rendition, though admittedly out of sync, but the crowd had another national anthem for the night: “Ricky, Ricky Burns”, they sang, to the tune of KC & the Sunshine Band’s ‘Baby Give It Up’.
But the fans don’t get in the ring. Both fighters started cautiously, trying to find their range. It was Burns who seemed to find it quicker in the opening exchanges, causing Crawford to swipe crazily a couple of times in quick succession. The American’s head and shoulder movements looked flashy, but there was little substance going forward.
It was a false dawn for the Scot. After a generally guarded opening four rounds from both fighters, with a lot of missed punches, Crawford started to shine.
His decision to adopt a southpaw stance had, until the mid-way point in the fight, seemed to be a bad one. However, coupled with a tiring Burns and a growing confidence, his counter-punching ability started to pay dividends and he damaged the Scot’s eye while targeting his supposed weak point: the jaw
he had broken against Raymundo Beltran last year.
The American hadn’t fought a 12-round bout before, much less one outside his home country, but as the fight wore on Crawford simply grew more comfortable.
Whenever Burns would land his jabs and attempt to commit, it served only to spur Crawford into action. Several times in the middle rounds Burns looked to have broken through his opponent’s defence only to find himself against the ropes seconds later.
And so it went on. Before the start of the eighth, Burns rose to find Crawford already on the balls of his feet and raring to go. The Scot’s reluctance to follow through with punches looked to be over when he landed a straight left to Crawford’s face, but the American’s expression was one of excitement as he let out a smile before unleashing another combination in response.
Burns was, by now, going long spells without throwing a punch. Crawford, by contrast, was making the switch from head to body easily, choosing his shots where Burns was forcing his.
After a decent round in the tenth, Burns was heard to be remonstrating with his corner before the eleventh, insisting: “Every time I’m hitting him to the body he’s countering!”
It was true, and Crawford knew it. By the last portion of the eleventh the American was already giving off the vibe that he’d won; a dangerous tactic, but not something anyone could call unwarranted on the night.
Nevertheless, as he was getting off his stool for the twelfth and final round his trainer, Brian McIntyre, made sure Crawford was ready to consolidate his advantage: “We need this round!” he told him.
And he got it. Crawford looked rejuvenated at the start of the last round, and at one point it looked like he wanted the big finish: the KO. Burns was obviously tired as Crawford once more drove him to the ropes and piled on the pressure.
In the end, Ricky Burns, true to form, was honest at the end: the better man had won on the night.