Can Ricky Burns win another world title? (A look at potential title shots)

Becoming a triple World Champion will inscribe any boxer’s name into the history books and being one of only three fighters from the UK to achieve this feat affords the achievement even greater respect.

Ricky Burns has been the flag-bearer for Scottish boxing for many years now but, sadly, his dominance seems to be drawing to an end.

After 48 bouts and 16 years as a paid puncher, the Coatbridge man’s skills are visibly declining and, as the losses on his record increase, questions are being asked as to whether he can claim further world titles at this late stage of his career.

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At the age of 34 and with many miles on the clock – he has been in close to 400 professional rounds – Burns is resolutely in his twilight years.

The Scot is slated to tackle Anthony Crolla next on October 7 in Manchester in what is a make-or-break fight for both former world titleholders involved.

The crucial contest set at lightweight will likely see the victor go on to a world title fight and the fallen hero seriously considering retirement.

The winner will be able to realistically push for the top whereas the loser will have a long road back, probably too long to be pragmatic.

Both come into the bout off the back of a loss in a world title fight.

Burns conceded his WBA super-lightweight crown to Namibian Julius Indongo, who was unbeaten at the time, but subsequently defeated by Terence Crawford in a rare unification bout involving all four of the major titles at 140lbs.

Crolla lost in his last outing to the classy Jorge Linares for a second time, via unanimous decision.

The Venezuelan “Golden Boy” took the Mancunian’s WBA lightweight title in their first meeting in September 2016 and didn’t have to give it back after they had met again six months later.

Both share the same number of losses – six – and a similar knockout count, so it makes for a real pick’em fight.

Burns is arguably Scotland’s most successful boxer, but looked very unlikely to ever recapture a world title at 10st while former conqueror, and pound-for-pound contender, Crawford reigned supreme.

However, the Omaha star has already declared his intentions to move up to welterweight with firm plans to face the winner of the rematch between six-weight world champion Manny Pacquiao and his recent surprise conqueror, the rugged Australian, Jeff Horn.

In order to secure a crack at the WBO welterweight crown, “Bud” Crawford would probably have to vacate some or all of the belts he holds in the lighter division, depending on the urgency of his mandatory obligations and willingness to meet them.

That would create a wealth of potential fights for the WBC, WBA, IBF and WBO super-lightweight crowns.

With a mandatory defence already due and no intention of defending the title, Crawford has already vacated the IBF belt.

There are also three different world titleholders at lightweight and some winnable fights out there for Burns, who plans to make 135lbs for the Crolla clash.

WBC 135lbs

Diamond Champion: Jorge Linares

Champion: Mikey Garcia

#1 Ray Beltran

#2 Javier Fortuna

WBC 140lbs

Champion: Terence Crawford

#1 Amir Imam

#2 Regis Prograis


WBA 135-pounds

Champion: Jorge Linares

#1 Luke Campbell

#2 Daud Cino Yordan

WBA 140-pounds

Champion: Terence Crawford

#1 Rances Barthemely

#2 Kiryl Relikh

IBF 135-pounds   

Champion: Robert Easter Jr.


#2 Ray Beltran

IBF 140-pounds

Champion: Terence Crawford

#1 Sergey Lipinets


WBO 135-pounds   

Champion: Terry Flanagan

#1 Felix Verdejo

#2 Raymundo Beltran

WBO 140-pounds

Champion: Terence Crawford

#1 Antonio Orozco

#2 Maurice Hooker


Surveying the above, there are several attractive options open to Burns and potential paths back to the top.

WBC champions Jorge Linares and Mikey Garcia are a step too far for Burns at this time in his career and may always have been.

His draw back in 2013 with perennial contender Ray Beltran, although controversial, suggests that a match-up with the Mexican could be a real chance to get back to world honours, with the Mexican highly-ranked by both the IBF and WBO, and himself ageing at 36.

Ricky’s forthcoming foe, Crolla, has been eyeing the grudge fight with WBO world titleholder Terry Flanagan for some time and it makes sense as the rivalry will be further bolstered by the Manchester City (Flanagan) v Manchester United (Crolla) theme, and the fact the pair attended the same school.

The winner of Burns v Crolla may be in a strong position to land a future WBO lightweight title fight with Flanagan, but the champion is expected to be out until at least December with a leg injury and must still accommodate dangerous mandatory challenger Felix Verdejo, whose scheduled September shot was postponed. The rivalry between promoters Eddie Hearn (Burns and Crolla) and Frank Warren (Flanagan) is a further difficulty in making these contests materialise.

A victory over Crolla, currently ranked at No.4 with the WBA, could also place Burns in line for the winner of Jorge Linares v Luke Campbell, taking place on September 23 in America.

There’s also a genuine possibility with Crolla’s lofty ranking and Burns being a very recent WBA champion that their approaching autumn clash could become a WBA eliminator.

There’s certainly a credible chance for the decorated Scot to challenge for another world title but the difficulty will be getting into the right position.

First, there’s the extremely tricky obstacle of Crolla to get past and then, realistically, another big name to tackle before an opportunity at any strap will materialise.

Beating Crolla could ultimately lead to Flanagan next year and that’s where the Scot’s best shot lies.

Burns’s name is forever emblazoned in the history books as one of the greatest fighters to come from our shores – that’s indisputable.

Here’s hoping that the next fight with Crolla will provide both combatants with a healthy payday to ease the vanquished party into a comfortable retirement, and fingers crossed for the winner to get a further crack at a world crown.

It’s the last roll of the dice for each, but, for one of them, quite possibly one battle too many.


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