No-one can question Ricky Burns heart, desire or effort.
But the simple truth in boxing is that sometimes, regardless of how often you watch Rocky, heart, desire and effort alone aren’t enough.
American challenger Terence Crawford came to Scotland and ripped Burns’ WBO 135lbs title from his grasp with a performance that combined speed, slickness, skill and a surprising amount of aggression. It was a total performance from Crawford, the sort those who have been watching him for a while have been calling for and despite Burns’ best efforts he simply couldn’t match his opponent.
The first two rounds were a slow, tactical affair generally conducted at range and with single shots, both fighters trying to pick the other off with their jab. Perhaps going against pre-bout predictions that at range it would be Crawford dictating the bout Burns arguably got the better of this, able to avoid Crawford’s sharp jab and land his own although in truth both frequently fell short and missed.
It was from the third onwards that Crawford started to take control. As the pace and the intensity of the bout rose so did he, countering well, pushing Burns back and then unloading on him against the ropes, rocking the Scots head back with punches through his guard and then sucking the life out of him with body work. Far too often Burns would retreat the ropes put his hands up and simply try to survive Crawford’s onslaught but his defence wasn’t good enough and his counters not quick enough. Worse for Burns even when he did land a good punch it had no significant impact on Crawford and instead simply heralded another assault by the hyped American to seize back momentum. Burns may have never given up but round by round you could see the realisation that that he was not going to win the bout dawning in his eyes.
Crawford was simply the boss in this bout. At every range he eventually took control. On the outside he outjabbed Burns and landing lightning straights, in the pocket he slipped Burns offence and landed his own and in the pocket he bullied Burns out of the bout. At no time could Burns take him out of his comfort zone, disrupt his rhythm or do anything to really discourage Crawford. After those first few rounds Crawford was undoubtedly in control for the rest, the only sign of it slipping being perhaps the last two rounds where some tiredness crept in.
The future is undoubtedly bright for Crawford. Well promoted and with a mature performance like this behind him the world is pretty much his oyster. 135Lbs is a division still in flux and right now it seems Crawford has every tool necessary to stamp his authority on it. Even this early a unification bout with the awkward IBF champion Miguel Vazquez is a tempting prospect for boxing purists and a bout with the winner of the proposed Gamboa/Garcia bout would get some media attention.
As for Burns, it’s hard to say. He’s now 30, hasn’t looked the same since moving to Matchroom (although I can think of no good reason for this) and has only just recovered from a broken jaw. I can see him deciding that he’s done everything he wanted in boxing… world titles in two divisions, multiple defences and some high profile, high paying bouts in front of an adoring crowd. That said, he sounded positive (or as positive as he could) after the loss to boxing on. If he does then a rematch was already mooted as one option, as was another bout with previous opponent Beltran or a contest with one of the other title holders. If Burns wanted a bout that on paper was simpler then he could look to the British domestic scene which still contains some intriguing options.
Gold Medallist Anthony Joshua continued his development… sort of… with a quick and simple first round stoppage of Hector Alfredo Avila. This was by the numbers stuff… Joshua pinned Avila back, forced him to cover up, smashed some body shots in and then finished it with a left hook to the head that sent to Argentinian crashing to the canvas clutching his ear. Done in less than a round. Joshua clearly needs seasoning but we’re getting to the stage where it’s hard to see quite what he’s learning from bouts like this. It’s a good thing that he’s active but I think he’s got to the stage where he needs an opponent who can take him five or six rounds
Former world title challenger John Murray made a pretty impressive statement in the second bout of his return to boxing, dominating and then flattening a game but overmatched and undersized John Simpson. Simpson had found most of his success 10lbs lighter as a featherweight where he was always in or around British title contention and in this contest he was visibly smaller than Murray. With both walking forward and trading shots that told. From the first round Murray was landing straight rights that wobbled Simpson and he followed up by moving his attack to the body in the second round, dropping Simpson three times with hooks to the gut before the referee waved it off.
I think this is pretty much it for Simpson, at least at 135lbs. He’s simply too small for this weightclass and if he sticks around he’ll be little more than a stepping stone for boxers moving up to domestic level. As for Murray, this win and the manner of reinserts him into the 135lbs mix and shows he still has a fair amount left to offer. The talk is of a bout Anthony Crolla which is not only a good bout for both men but also should be a fun bout to watch. With Crolla verbally accepting the bout after the match it looks like British fans have something to look forward to later this year.
In a very brief preview I did of this weekend’s action I said that the bout between Scott Cardle and Paul Appleby was one to keep an eye on and so it proved. Appleby is pretty much the definition of a crude boxer, one who gets by due to aggression, determination and relentless pressure but if an opponent doesn’t keep their focus they can easily find themselves dragged into the sort of back and forth war that Appleby thrives on. Cardle, a slick former Team GB amateur, was clearly the more technically and athletically gifted boxer but in between his sharp counters he found himself having to deal with Appleby up close and personal. Cardle has a history of cuts and early on a trickle of blood from his right eye soon became a flood. The bout followed a fairly simple pattern. Appleby would wade forward throwing a wide punch (and occasionally landing), Cardle would counter and then the two would brawl on the inside with Cardle landing precise uppercuts and Appleby throwing punches at anything he could see.
The seventh round was a distinct turning point. It appeared the pace he had set was finally starting to tell on Appleby and Cardle began to push him back and punish him. The eighth Cardle was at his best, walking Cardle down, rocking him with punches and slashing him apart with combinations. Eventually dropping Appleby. Appleby returned to his feet and seemed to have fully recovered but in a somewhat stereotypical British stoppage, the ref halted it. I don’t think it was a good stoppage but at the same time Cardle was almost certainly up on the cards and Appleby looked like he didn’t have enough left to turn the bout around with less than a round left.
Cardle’s certainly one to watch in a busy British 135lbs scene. At 24 he should improve and while the fact he cuts so easily may be an issue he looks like he has all the tools one would want from this level. As for Appleby he may never rise beyond being a fringe domestic contender but at 26 he’s not exactly old and his heart, eagerness and willingness to engage in a “tear up” can’t be disputed. As long as he sticks around he’ll give a lot of guys a hard nights work even if he loses most of those bouts.
Scottish prospect Michael Roberts kept his undefeated record with a harder than expected decision over French journeyman Romain Peker. Roberts is now 14-0 but at 27 years old and without any depth on his record (Peker’s 5-7 mark is pretty typical of a Roberts opponent) he really does need to step up soon. He’s accurate and has fairly quick hands but he doesn’t seem to carry any power in his fists or box with any intensity; while it’s hard to say he does anything wrong it’s also hard to see anything to be excited by. Fro two rounds Roberts was in complete control but from the third onwards it was as if Peker realised that this was a winnable bout for him against someone without any real power or ability to up the pace and so the Frenchman stepped up his aggression and buzzed Roberts a few times with looping right hands and ugly punching on the side. While Roberts did enough to win I suspect he’ll start to struggle when put in with live opponents but without being put in with live opponents it’s hard to see how he’ll develop further.
British prospect Martin Ward came through some early struggles to eventually stop the awkward Craig Woodruff in four. At the start of the bout it appeared the talented Ward was having real difficulty with the height of Woodruff but as the rounds went on he worked out his range and timing and began to take over, particularly with a nasty looking hook. Ward’s one to keep an eye on although he does have a reputation for not quite knuckling down to his training in the way he should.
In the opening contest Olympic Bronze Medallist Anthony Ogogo won a decision over a game Greg O’Neill. It was hard to argue with an overall score of six rounds to nil for Ogogo but each round was somewhat competitive, with O’Neill making clear he wasn’t just there to make up the numbers…. and Ogogo will be the better for it. One could perhaps criticise the Lowestoft man for a lack of power but this was the sort of bout Ogogo needs as he develops and he looked quick, accurate and slick. There will be real tests to come and with Ogogo already talking about having 10 round bouts they may come fairly soon.