Home Boxing News Terence Crawford delivers in Glasgow

Terence Crawford delivers in Glasgow

It was third strike and out for Scotland’s Ricky Burns on the Matchroom-promoted show in Glasgow tonight.  After close calls in his last two defences of the WBO lightweight title, when first Jose Gonzalez quit on his stool whilst miles ahead on points, and then a gift draw decision from the judges robbed Raymundo Beltran, on this occasion Terence Crawford finally wrenched the title from Burns’ grasp with a unanimous decision.  The fight was so dominated by Crawford that even the judges could not save Burns on this occasion.

Prior to the fight, the question marks over Crawford seemed to relate more to his character and attitude and to whether or not he would be able to overcome the hostile atmosphere that he would face in front of 11,000 home fans.  Of course, there were also some doubts raised over the quality of his opposition and also the fact that he had never boxed more than 10 rounds, whereas Burns was a veteran of nine major championship title fights in a row.  However, on his way to the ring Crawford looked anything but nervous and appeared to be full of confidence, as he had done throughout his stay in Scotland.  On the flip side it was Burns who appeared nervous in the ring as the preliminaries were taking place.  He had an unmistakeable look of anxiety on his face which, as it turned out, was an indicator of what was to come.

Crawford, 23-0 (16), with a reputation as a slow starter, lived up to this as the first two rounds were boxed in centre ring with both boxers exchanging jabs.  Despite a couple of flurries from Crawford, it seemed that Burns’ accurate jabs had stolen the first.  The renowned switch-hitter from Omaha was already changing stances from orthodox to southpaw.  The second round followed a similar pattern with Crawford now boxing almost exclusively in the southpaw style.  It was still the battle of the jabs and the round could have been scored either way.

From the third round onwards though, Burns, 36-3-1 (11), seemed to be having difficulties with Crawford in the southpaw stance.  The fight was yet to take off, but a few nice crisp straight lefts to the body pinched the third round for the American.  The fight began in earnest in the fourth round with Crawford going onto the attack for the first time, forcing Burns to the ropes and landing with solid shots, mostly to the body.  From this point on the fight gradually slipped further and further away from Burns as every round followed a similar pattern.  Crawford had found his stride, tasted the power of Burns, and realised he had nothing to fear.  He continued switching stances to the orthodox occasionally, but fought the vast majority of the fight as a southpaw.  Burns was to admit afterwards that he was never able to come to terms with this.

As each round passed, consisting of at least one big attack in every round from Crawford, it became apparent that Burns was not the same fighter that had locked horns with Roman Martinez, Michael Katsidis and Kevin Mitchell.  A huge deal of credit for this must go to Crawford as he is very adept at nullifying his opponents, but Burns seemed reluctant all night to stand and trade and just looked as though he did not want to get hit.  Perhaps the jaw injury sustained in his last fight was not “in the back of my mind”, as he often said, but was more to the front of his mind.  For whatever reason, Burns never looked like turning the tide.  Although Crawford’s work rate slowed in the tenth and eleventh rounds, he came out for the last with his corner instructing him he needed a big one – sure enough, he cut loose and chased Burns from one set of strands to another and then a third.  When he finally trapped his man, it looked for a couple of seconds as though he might be able to force a stoppage.  However, Burns weathered the storm and got through to the end.

Two of the judges had it for the American 116-112 with the other scoring 117-111 for a unanimous decision.  I am quite baffled as to how Burns won even four rounds.  There must be serious doubts now as to whether he can continue boxing at this level.  He has struggled in his last three fights and, to be honest, Gonzalez and Beltran are hardly world beaters.  Promoter Eddie Hearn spoke positively though after the fight, stating that he would be trying to get Burns a shot at one of the other beltholders, perhaps Miguel Vazquez or Richar Abril.  These are not television friendly fighters in the U.S. and if Burns wishes to continue, there is every likelihood that Eddie will be able to deliver one of those fights for him in Scotland.

As for Crawford, despite some unkind words about him from the Sky commentary team, he is a very fine fighter.  He has now completely shut down two very good fighters, Burns and Breidis Prescott, with his opponents being totally baffled as to how to deal with him.  He reminds this writer in some ways of Timothy Bradley, a similarly undemonstrative man who came to Britain in 2008 and won his first world title belt against home fighter Junior Witter.  The talk at the time was that Tim was efficient but not much more than that.  Bradley is now on virtually all of the pound-for-pound lists that pop up all over the place.  Crawford looks to have the right personality and attitude to start following in his footsteps.  There are currently no big names at lightweight, but perhaps fellow Top Rank fighter Mikey Garcia will be tempted to challenge for his third world title by stepping up to face Crawford.  That would be one for the boxing connoisseur and would surely interest HBO in the U.S.

A cracking little fight took place on the undercard and featured undefeated Matchroom fighter Scott Cardle, 14-0 (3), in his biggest test to date against former British featherweight champion Paul Appleby, 19-6 (11).  It was going to plan for Cardle in the first two rounds as his slightly faster and more accurate punches edged his opponent.  Appleby stepped up the pressure in the third round though and started forcing Cardle into close quarter exchanges.  With Cardle’s lack of power, it was this sort of fight that Appleby needed.  Appleby was now well in the fight and, although the action was quite sloppy with lots of missing, it held the attention throughout due to the uncertainty of the outcome.  

Indeed, after six rounds this writer had the fight level, with Cardle’s undefeated record under serious threat.  He got a roasting in the corner at the end of the sixth from trainer Joe Gallagher, who was urging his man throughout to throw the right uppercut.  The seventh was the pivotal round with Appleby putting in a big drive and Cardle fighting back fiercely.  Sure enough, it was a right uppercut from Cardle which landed towards the end of the round which seemed to drain all of the energy from Appleby.  The former champion came out for the last but his legs had gone.  Cardle jumped on him and a series of unanswered punches to the head put Appleby flat on his back.  His legs were shaky on rising and the referee rightly stopped the fight.  Appleby argued but he had nothing left.

It is quite sad to see Paul, still only 26, now being used as a “quality” opponent.  The former boxing writers’ young boxer of the year has never fulfilled his promise, despite winning that British title.  He surely never will now.  As for Cardle, although he scored a rare stoppage tonight, that was more down to Appleby’s exhaustion than anything else.  As he gradually steps up in class his lack of punch power will unfortunately count against him.  He has toned down his herky-jerky style and has definitely improved, but the lightweight division in the UK is as deep as it gets.  That being the case, it is hard to see Cardle even progressing to British title level.

Also on the card we had the heartwarming return to the big time of Manchester lightweight John Murray, 33-2 (20), who was forced out of the game for almost two years due to an irregularity in a scan following his fight with world champion Brandon Rios in December 2011.  John looked as good as ever in demolishing pumped up featherweight John Simpson, 25-11 (11), in two rounds.  The outcome was predictable as the smaller Simpson was never going to be able to trade with Murray, but to get Simpson out of there so quickly was highly impressive.  Murray seemed to hurt Simpson with every shot he landed, and Simpson went back to his corner after the first with his face reddened.  It was body shots though that brought the end in the second.  A crunching left hook to the liver scored the first knockdown and two further body shot knockdowns brought the referee’s intervention.

In the post-fight interview Murray called out former stablemate Anthony Crolla.  In subsequent interviews on the night, both Crolla and his promoter Hearn said that they wanted the fight and Hearn suggested it could even take place in April on his Manchester show.  I would state right now that with that fight Matchroom will provide us with yet another candidate for fight of the year.  There will also be the intrigue of the on again/off again relationship between Murray and trainer Joe Gallagher who, of course, still trains Crolla.

Also noteworthy on the card was the return of Martin Ward, 8-0 (4), following an incident in August of last year when he suffered gunshot wounds.  He boxed well tonight, stopping a useful opponent in Craig Woodruff, 5-3 (2), in the fourth round.  Ward plans to box at super-featherweight from this point onward.  Finally, it must be mentioned that heavyweight Anthony Joshua, 5-0 (5), scored a first round blow out of an overmatched Argentinian, Hector Avila, 22-16-1 (14).  In doing so, he made rival Dereck Chisora look a little silly, as the same Argentine had lasted into the ninth round with DelBoy last April, putting unfortunate viewers to sleep in the process.