Lightweight titlist Ricky Burns was hoping to get Raymundo Beltran back in the ring for a rematch of their September encounter, but those plans have been derailed by the WBO, which has given the Scotsman’s team just 30 days to negotiate a deal with unbeaten American Terence Crawford.
A contentious draw allowed Burns to retain his title against Beltran in Glasgow, Scotland, but the public backlash – and the fighter’s own pride – made a return bout pertinent. As it stands, Crawford now looks set to challenge for the title, possibly in February, at a venue to be determined.
“Crawford is my mandatory,” said Burns. “I would have preferred to do the right thing and get the Beltran rematch in before that but I said to Eddie (Hearn) that I was happy to go ahead with the Crawford fight if things couldn’t be worked out.
“I might have to go to New York for that one and Madison Square Garden was mentioned. Who wouldn’t want to fight there? If it’s Crawford, so be it, but I fulfilled a mandatory against Gonzalez in May, and simply wanted Beltran first.”
So what does Burns make of Crawford, the talented 26-year-old from Omaha?
“He’s a very good technical boxer but it doesn’t matter who I’m in against. I read a story where Crawford’s trainer (Brian McIntyre) said I’ll get worse against his fighter than I did against Beltran, but that’s all just talk.
“These are the types of fights that I’m in the game for.”
It’s been a long haul for Burns. The two-weight world champion, habitually a gym rat, was unable to train for almost two months due to the broken jaw he suffered against Beltran. He has also been in close proximity with medical experts, who initially thought his injury could be career ending.
“The fight with Beltran was the longest fight ever,” said Burns. “I was in survival mode for most of it and I emphasize ‘survival mode.’ Anyone watching that, who knows my history, was shocked at my tactics, because I was mostly just running away and holding.
“When Jose Gonzalez quit against me (with an alleged broken wrist) I said that I would have fought on with two broken hands and I meant it. It’s not in me to quit but when the final bell rang against Beltran I didn’t care whether I’d won or lost (because of the pain).
“My game plan went completely out of the window, and that would have been a different fight if my jaw hadn’t been broken.”
Burns underwent surgery within hours of leaving the arena and a metal plate was installed to help mend the break. The memories of the physical pain he was forced to endure that night will never leave him.
“I was initially put on morphine but the pain was so severe that it didn’t work,” said Burns. “How I got through that fight is anyone’s guess but the surgeon told me it was complete stupidity to continue. There was bravery there but I understand the doctor’s concern.
“Because the break was across the way, on a main nerve, the sensation I have at the bottom of my jaw is identical to coming out of the dentist after being given anesthetic. It’s just completely numb and the odds are 50/50 whether I’ll get the feeling back.
“The doctor said I would just have to get used to it if it didn’t.”
The feeling may not be back in Burns’ jaw but the desire to fight again most definitely is. While Crawford is due his shot, promoter Eddie Hearn has disclosed that talks are ongoing with rival titlists Richar Abril (WBA) and Miguel Vazquez (IBF), and a unification bout would supersede a mandatory obligation.
A deal for such a fight would have to be struck inside a month.
Photos by Scott Heavey-Getty Images
Tom Gray is a member of the British Boxing Writers’ Association and has contributed to various publications. Follow him on Twitter: @Tom_Gray_Boxing