Weekend Preview – Crolla v Burns – Last Chance Saloon
By Paul Mason (@PaulMason1986)
This Saturday sees two fighters roll the dice one more time in search of World Title glory, as Manchester’s former WBA Lightweight Champion Anthony Crolla, and Coatbridge’s three weight World Champion Ricky Burns clash in a real crossroads fight in every sense of the word. The loser is surely left with little place to go, while the winner will hope to be in the World Title mix once again. Burns moves down to Lightweight, where he reigned as WBO Lightweight Champion from 2012 to 2014 Here I preview the card, Sky Sports televise live in the UK.
Anthony Crolla (31-6-3, KO13) v Ricky Burns (41-6-1, KO14) – 12 Rounds Lightweight
No Titles are on the line in the main event this Saturday, but the prize, in effect, is much greater, as Anthony Crolla and Ricky Burns fight for their very top level existence within the sport. Defeat for either man is unthinkable, and the expectation is that the winner will be cajoled into another shot at World honours thanks to the negotiation skills of Eddie Hearn and Matchroom.
Manchester’s Anthony Crolla is coming off back to back defeats, albeit in excellent company, to the Venezuelan pound for pound contecnder, Jorge Linares. He has battled for supremacy both in and out of the ring Crolla turned pro back in October 2006, and won eight straight contests, before suffering a points defeat over eight rounds to the extremely awkward journeyman, Youssef Al Hamidi in Bolton. Crolla bounced back with five straight points wins, but Gary Sykes outpointed him in a British Super Featherweight Title eliminator in Stoke in May 2009.
Crolla was forced to rebound again, and stopped former World Title challenger Michael Brodie in three rounds. Three fights later he picked up the English Title at Super Feather, before stopping Liverpool’s John Watson in nine to pick up the vacant British Lightweight Title. After two non-title fights, Crolla then widely outscored Willie Limond in Motherwell.
Crolla lost his grip on the belt, and his winning run came to shuddering halt in his next fight, when Crolla fought fire with fire and was knocked out by Derry Mathews. Crolla then entered Prizefighter, and was eliminated at the semi-final stage, again to Gary Sykes. Crolla challenged for the Commonwealth Lightweight title, but was held to a draw by old foe Mathews in a fight it appeared as though he had won. Following this Crolla defeated top class domestic and fringe world title opposition, outpointing former World Champion Gavin Rees, and stoppage wins over Stephen Foster Jnr and John Murray greatly improved his stock. He was then held to a technical draw with Gamaliel Diaz after an accidental head butt caused the fight to be stopped in round three.
What followed after this was a brutal attack in his home town after chasing burglars in December 2014. Crolla was hit with what was described as a concrete block, and suffered a fractured skull, and a broken ankle as a result. This forced his proposed challenge for the WBA Lightweight Title against Richar Abril to be cancelled, as well as his career to be thrown into jeopardy. But Crolla miraculously rebuilt his career to better than ever before. Firstly, he challenged for the WBA Title against Darleys Perez, just seven months after the attack, and was unfortunate to have to settle for only a majority draw. Four months later though, Crolla rendered the judges redundant in the rematch, crumpling Perez with a body shot to become World Champion. Crolla followed this up with a performance that superceded the title win, when he met Ismael Barroso, a man that came in with a fearsome reputation following a knockout win over Britain’s Kevin Mitchell, that forced the Dagenham man into retirement. Barroso came into the Crolla fight as favourite, but again, a sweetly timed body shot counted the Venezuelan out in the seventh round.
The two meetings with Linares followed the Barroso victory. Crolla had small pockets of success in the first fight, but ultimately, Linares’ superior world championship fight experience saw him dominate down the stretch and into the championship rounds to earn a deserved unanimous decision. A rematch followed due to popular demand and this time it was a masterclass from Linares. He won nearly every round and knocked the brave Crolla down to leave no doubt as to who the winner was.
Ricky Burns has literally been there and done it during his 15 and a half year career that began way back in October 2001in a points win over journeyman Woody Greenway. Burns built a 13-0 record before giving a good account of himself in a unanimous points loss to countryman Alex Arthur for the British, Commonwealth and European Super Featherweight belts. Two wins over non-descript opposition followed and Burns met Carl Johannsen for the British title, but was again outpointed unanimously. From there though, Burns went on a 22 fight unbeaten streak against good opposition. He captured the Commonwealth crown in 2008 against Osumanu Akaba (unanimous) and defended against Yakubu Amidu (TKO7), Michael Gomez (TKO7) and Kevin O’Hara (Unanimous). Burns made the step up to world level in September 2010 when he met Roman “Rocky” Martinez in Glasgow for the WBO Super Featherweight Title. Burns was floored in the very first round, but rebounded brilliantly to capture the title on points in front of a raucous Scottish crowd. Andreas Evensen and Joseph Laryea were both vanquished, and then followed a bizarre fight against former champion Nicky Cook. Cook suffered back spasms in the opening round and was knocked down three times and was unable to continue. Burns had at this time outgrown the weight, and moved up to Lightweight to tackle Michael Katsidis for the interim WBO title. Burns held off the Australian for a points victory. Burns was then upgraded to full champion and impressively outpointed the dangerous Paulus Moses in Glasgow. In September of 2012, he then followed this up with one of his best wins, a fourth round stoppage of perennial title contender Kevin Mitchell. This was to be his last fight under Frank Warren, and an acrimonious split between the two followed with Burns losing a court battle. “Rickster” then joined forces with Matchroom Boxing and Eddie Hearn, and made his debut with the stable in a tougher than expected battle with Jose A Gonzalez at the Emirates Arena in Glasgow. Gonzalez was ahead on all scorecards when he retired with a shoulder injury at the end of the ninth round. If that fight was bizarre, then the scoring in Burns next fight was even more puzzling. He took on Raymundo Beltran and broke his jaw in the second round. Burns was then knocked down in the eighth and the fight eventually went to the cards where, fortuitously, Burns was awarded a draw by way of a three way split in the scoring to hold onto his title. There were no doubts however in his next fight as now pound for pound star Terence Crawford travelled to Glasgow and ripped Burns’ title away from him with a wide points win.
Many felt this was the beginning of the end for Burns, and this was emphasized when Dejan Zlaticanin floored Burns in the first and outpointed him via split decision to hand him back to back losses. Burns then hovered between Lightweight and Super Lightweight, winning a comeback fight against Alex Lapelley before taking on Omar Figueroa Jr in Texas in May 2015 at Super Lightweight. Burns gave a good account of himself, but suffered a wider than it looked points defeat. He returned to the UK to beat Prince Ofotsu and Josh King, before being given a surprise shot at the vacant WBA Super Lightweight Title. He defeated the heavily padded 40-1-1 Italian Michele Di Rocco. Burns dominated from the start and stopped Di Rocco in the 8th following knockdowns in both rounds three and eight. In his first defence and last fight, Burns took on the unbeaten Belarussian, Kiryl Relikh in Glasgow. Burns won a wide points decision, but was troubled throughout, and the scores looked wider than they actually were. Many felt that Relikh had done enough to win. In Burns last outing, he attempted to unify his belt and add the IBF Strap against Namibia’s Julius Indongo. However, he looked out of sorts and shipped his Title meekly to Indongo, losing widely on the cards.
So Burns regroups and drops down to the Lightweight division this weekend for the first time since November 2015, and this can either go one of two ways. He is rejuvenated at the weight, or this really is the end, and the slide began way back at the Terence Crawford fight.
For me a defeat for Crolla may not yet spell the end. But for Burns, this really is the last chance saloon for him, and it’s hard to see what the 34 year old has left in a tank that has been active for sixteen years. I feel that Crolla is the fresher and younger man, and I expect him to beat Burns on points. However, a late stoppage also wouldn’t surprise me. Burns doesn’t owe anyone anything on the journey he has been on, and will retire as a Scottish and British boxing great if the result goes against him this Saturday.
|Anthony Crolla||Ricky Burns|
|Manchester, England||Hometown||Coatbridge, Scotland|
|31-6-3, KO13||Record||41-6-1, KO14|
|October 2006||Debut||October 2001|
|2-2-1||Last 5 Fights||4-1|
|5||World Title Fights||12|
|WBA Lightweight Champion
British Lightweight Champion
|Honours||WBA Super Lightweight Champion
WBO Lightweight Champion
WBO Super Featherweight Champion
Commonwealth Super Featherweight Champion
The undercard features rising Welterweight contender Sam Eggington (21-3, KO13)defend his European Title for the first time. His opponent is Mohamed Mimoune (18-2, KO2), who seems Taylor made for Eggington to look good against. An early to mid-stoppage win for “the savage” is the pick in this one.
Robbie Barrett (15-2-1, KO1) makes the first defence of the British Lightweight Title he took from Scott Cardle in April. He meets Newcastle’s Lewis Ritson (12-0, KO6).
The comeback trail continues for both Gavin McDonnell following his WBC Title defeat earlier this year, and Hosea Burton, who both feature in six rounders.
Prospects, Conor Benn, Charlie Flynn and Joe Ham also continue their education.
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