A draw. As soon as Michael Buffer read the final score -- 114-114, which was better than a 115-112 card for Ricky Burns he also had to read out loud with a straight face -- boxing fans felt it again. That old, familiar sting. We'd seen yet another nonsense decision.
Burns retained his WBO lightweight title via split draw, with the third card going to the rightful winner Raymundo Beltran on a score of 115-112. BLH had it 116-111 for Beltran (my card), and our own Ryan Bivins had it 117-110 for Beltran. Rare was the card any closer than 115-112 for the visiting challenger, at least among fans and media, and nobody had Burns winning this fight. Burns didn't win this fight. He didn't deserve the draw, either.
Burns (36-2-1, 11 KO) did start nicely in the first round, outboxing Beltran (28-6-1, 17 KO) and showing good form. But Beltran started storming back in the final minute of the second round, hurting Burns and busting his jaw, which Burns fought with for the remainder of the fight.
As Beltran seemed to take over with power and a dogged determination, it was commonplace to see the flustered Burns walking backwards, putting himself on the ropes, and incessantly holding, which referee Phil Edwards didn't even have the courtesy to pretend he cared about with a meaningless warning.
Burns was floored early in the eighth round, and if nothing else, it seems that should have been the difference in the end, if you could find it six rounds to six somehow, that extra point should have secured it for Beltran. But this is boxing. You know the drill.
After the fight, Burns, trainer Billy Nelson, and promoter Eddie Hearn basically deflected talk of scoring controversy or an immediate rematch, choosing instead to focus on Burns' toughness in fighting through the injured jaw. There is no doubt that Burns is a very tough guy, and I'm sure nobody sane blames him for what happened today. But the problem wasn't addressed. It likely won't be addressed. The WBO is highly unlikely to see cause to order an immediate rematch, and if they did, would Beltran even want to go back to Glasgow?
A despondent Beltran gave a somber post-fight interview with Sky Sports. Beltran has been fighting for 14 years, battling his way through the ranks, taking his lumps, learning his trade, sparring with top fighters, and then shaking the tag of just being a sparring partner. He received his first and possibly his last world title shot today at age 32. There is no guarantee he ever gets this opportunity again, even considering he fought very well.
"He fought very well, very brave, very defensive," Beltran said of Burns. "I think I did everything I had to do to get the win. It's politics. Always the same. It is what it is. I think it's disrespectful for the fighters, for the fans -- number one, for the fans -- and they just play with the business.
"They play the business because they have the power. It's just so frustrating, because it's so much hard work. Sacrifice. I put my life on the line. Time away from my family. They don't care."
Beltran also said of his opponent, "It's not Ricky's fault. He's just fighting. The referee was terrible, horrible. Burns was holding and he didn't even get a warning. To me, I'm a world champion."