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Ricky Burns battles Anthony Crolla on October 7

Ricky Burns

By Scott Gilfoid: Former world champions Ricky Burns (41-6-1, 14 KOs) and Anthony Crolla (31-6-3, 13 KOs) will be facing each other on October 7 at the Manchester Arena in Manchester, England. This is a fight that has been kicked around for a couple of years now by promoter Eddie Hearn.

With both fighters coming off of defeats, this is clearly a last chance saloon type of fight for Crolla, 30, and Burns. Career-wise, they’re in a tough situation with the huge amount of talent in their respective divisions.

Burns, 34, and Crolla are both finesse type fighters with little power and not much in the way of hand speed. It’s surprising that the two were recently world champions, but you can argue that the only reason they held titles was due to careful match-making rather than them having the talent to hold belts.

Crolla and Burns must win this fight to keep their careers alive. I suppose that they’ll still be fine even if one of them loses, as they have Hearn to find the perfect match-ups to keep them winning. But it’s still going to be extremely difficult for the loser of this fight to continue on and be relevant in their divisions. Heck, even the winner of the Burns-Crolla fight is going to have a huge mountain to climb for them to try and win another world title.

The way that Burns was whipped by Julius Indongo in his last fight on April 15 suggests that he’s going to have it tough trying to ever win another world title unless Indongo moves up in weight. For his part, Crolla was recently out-boxed by Jorge Linares in losing a one-sided 12 round unanimous decision on March 25 in Manchester. I had a feeling that Crolla was going to be out of his league in that fight, and sure enough, I was right. Linares took Crolla to school, beating him badly in a fight that was not even slightly competitive.

Crolla had been a world champion just last year in holding down the WBA World lightweight title. Linares took the strap off Crolla by beating him by a 12 round unanimous decision in their first fight on September 24, 2016. Crolla had previously won the WBA belt after beating Darleys Perez by a 5th round knockout on November 21, 2015. When you look at the lightweight division right now, it’s hard to believe that just 2 years ago you had Perez as the WBA champion. The lightweight division has gotten so much better since then. Perez is not even a top 15 contender any longer. Crolla still has a top 4 ranking with the World Boxing Association at this present time. I expect that to change after he faces Burns on October 7.

“All I want to do is be involved in big fights and Ricky Burns is a three weight world champion. I’ve got a lot of respect for him. He’s a great fighter and only lost to the very best,” said Crolla to I’m not going to say the loser has nowhere to go, but it’s going to be a tough road back.”

This is a bad match-up for Crolla. Burns is a bigger, stronger and more elusive type of fighter. I don’t see the 5’8 ½” Crolla having much of a chance of winning this fight. Burns, 5’10” is on another level from Crolla. I’m not sure what Hearn thinks, but he’s kidding himself if he believes that Crolla will win. He’s made to order for Burns. The size difference alone is going to win the fight for Burns. He’s close to 2 inches taller than Crolla, and he has a 3 inch reach advantage. I’m betting that Burns will look to use his size advantage by jabbing Crolla from the outside and making it an easy fight.
Burns, a former 3 division world champion, has the much better pedigree than Crolla. Burns has accomplished much more in boxing than Crolla could ever dream to achieve. The two fighters are worlds apart in talent in my view.

Burns was one of the best at super featherweight and lightweight during his time as a champion in those divisions. I don’t think Burns belongs at 140 though. He’s not a big enough puncher for that division, and his size doesn’t go nearly as far in this weight class as it previously did when he was fighting at 130 and 135. If Burns was still fighting at 130, he’d likely be a world champion today. But unfortunately for him, he can’t melt down any longer to make weight for that division. It would be interesting though to see Burns go head to head with guys like Miguel Berchelt, Jezreel Corrales, Gervonta Davis and Vasyl Lomachenko. I’d favor Burns over Corrales and I think him and Berchelt would be a true 50-50 fight. Lomachenko and Davis might be too good for Burns in their own respective ways. Davis is too hard of a puncher, and Lomachenko’s boxing skills are out of this world good.

Burns was recently the WBA light welterweight champion after beating Michelle Di Rocco last year by an 8th round knockout to win the vacant WBA World 140lb champion on May 28, 2016. It was the perfect situation for Burns to win the WBA strap. Di Rocco was a guy that had done nothing to deserve to be rated No.1 by the WBA. It was a very, very weird ranking by the WBA. Burns took advantage of the WBA’s oddball ranking and easily beat Di Rocco to become the WBA champion. What’s interesting is when you look at the ratings today for the 140-lb. division, Di Rocco is nowhere to be seen. He’s not rated in the top 15 by any of the sanctioning bodies. He was only ranked by the WBA, but they’ve cleared him out. I never thought Di Rocco deserved to be in the top 15 in the first place given his weak resume of 2nd tier opposition. That’s how Burns won the WBA title, by beating Di Rocco.

I’m assuming that the Burns vs. Crolla fight will be taking place at 140, because I can’t see Burns melting down to 135 for this one. If the fight is at lightweight, then that would give Crolla a chance of winning, because Burns might be weight drained and weak from making the weight. Burns is ranked #5 by the WBA at this time. The good news for Burns is WBC/WBO light welterweight champion Terence Crawford is expected to move up to 147 if he beats Indongo in their fight on August 19 in Nebraska. Crawford would be the unified 140 lb. champion in holding all 4 titles in the weight class.

There would be no reason for Crawford to stay at light welterweight at that point. Once Crawford gives up his 4 titles, there will be a mad dash by the top contenders in the 140lb division to go after his vacated straps. Burns could figure into a part of that dash for the straps, and he might be able to snatch one of them if he gets past Crolla on October 7 and if he’s matched against the right guy. What Burns has going against him winning a one of the titles at 140 is the fact that he’s only ranked by the WBA, and he’s only rated #5. The top 2 contenders is #1 WBA Rances Barthelemy and #2 Kiryl Relikh. Those 2 will likely be the ones that swoop in to try and grab Crawford’s vacated WBA belt if he beats Indongo and decides he wants to vacate. Burns will need to wait for the smoke to clear before he can go after the winner of the Barthelemy-Relikh 2 fight. Of course, the WBA could always do something weird like letting Burns fight for the WBA strap and ignore Relikh, who recently lost a controversial decision to Barthelemy. I wouldn’t be surprised if that happens. In boxing anything is possible.

I wish I could give Crolla a chance of beating Burns, but I can’t. I see Burns is being WAY too good for Crolla. I’d be surprised if Crolla can even see the final bell in this one. Burns is going to turn this into a slugging match and he’s going to wear Crolla down. It’s been 5 years since Crolla was knocked out in the 6th round by Derry Mathews in 2012, but I think we’re going to see him get stopped for the second time in his career on October 7. It’s too bad this fight isn’t taking place in Glasgow, Scotland, because there would be fewer of Crolla’s fans to see him potentially lose. By fighting in front of his home fans in Manchester, Crolla would wind up being embarrassed in this one. I’m just saying. I think Burns is a bad match-up for Crolla, and he’s not the type of guy you want to fight after you’ve been beaten in back to back fights by Jorge Linares. Burns doesn’t have the same kind of power that Linares possesses, but he has a way of wearing you down just the same with his inside and outside brawling. Burns is one of those rare fighters that can fight equally good whether he’s in close or at a distance. That’s not good for Crolla.

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