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Crolla vs Burns: Fight preview and matchup

Anthony Crolla and Ricky Burns meet Saturday, and it’s must-win for each man.

Anthony Crolla

Boxing at Manchester Arena Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Record: 31-6-3 (13 KO) ... Streak: L2 ... Last 5: 2-2-1 ... Last 10: 6-2-2 ... Stance: Orthodox ... Height/Reach: 5'8½" / 67" ... Age: 30

Thoughts: Anthony Crolla won a world title at 135 pounds, beating Darleys Perez in their 2015 rematch, after arguably being robbed of a win in their first fight, which came back a draw. He defended once against Ismael Barroso, executing a risky but well-designed game plan meant to tire the slugger out, and then lost twice to Jorge Linares.

135 hasn’t been the deepest division the last few years, but Crolla has been a player at the weight, and he fought admirably against Linares, who was, frankly, a class above him in terms of skill. When you really look at it, he’s gone on a strong run since 2013, dating back to wins over Gavin Rees, Stephen Foster, and John Murray.

Crolla’s scrappiness has been his best quality in the ring. He’s a tough fighter who doesn’t give up against the odds, and generally makes for an entertaining fight. He’s got youth on his side in this matchup, but we’ll also have to see how he bounces back from the losses to Linares. Even though they’re nothing to be ashamed of, momentum isn’t going with Crolla right now. Was Burns the right choice of opponent? We’ll see.

Ricky Burns

Boxing at SSE Hydro Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

Record: 41-6-1 (14 KO) ... Streak: L1 ... Last 5: 4-1 ... Last 10: 5-4-1 ... Stance: Orthodox ... Height/Reach: 5'10" / 70" ... Age: 34

Thoughts: Burns has been up and down since 2013, fight at 135, 140, 135 again for one fight, and then back up to 140, now going to 135 again. And that’s not even counting the results of his fights. Let’s run it down.

  • def. Jose Gonzalez, May 2013: An odd fight, and an indication that after a really nice seven-fight run starting in 2010, things were catching up with Burns. Gonzalez led 87-84 on each scorecard before suddenly retiring from the fight with an injured wrist.
  • drew Ray Beltran, September 2013: A lousy decision, in a fight Beltran clearly won. Burns suffered a broken jaw early in the fight. It was a brave performance, but he was lucky to leave with his WBO belt.
  • lost to Terence Crawford, March 2014: Crawford’s true arrival, his first world title, won on the road in Glasgow. No shame in losing to Crawford, as we’ve seen ever since.
  • lost to Dejan Zlaticanin, June 2014: An upset loss, as Burns was facing someone no one knew much of anything about. And it was a surprise result, given it came in Glasgow via split decision. Zlaticanin can fight, but this was seen as a huge loss for Burns.
  • def. Alexandre Lepelley, October 2014: One thing you can say about Burns is he didn’t sit around crying about losses, he jumped right back into the fire. And this is where he moved up to 140, too. It wasn’t the best win of his career, or the best performance, but it got him off the schneid.
  • lost to Omar Figueroa, May 2015: A good showing from Burns, in a fight he arguably should have won, a really entertaining scrap. There was, rightfully, question if Burns really had much left in the tank, but this fight showed he wasn’t throwing in the towel.
  • def. Prince Ofotsu, August 2015: Another bounce-back win, this one strange, as Ofotsu’s corner just seemingly randomly threw in the towel in round five.
  • def. Josh King, November 2015: Burns moved back down to 135 for this one, which wound up a one-off at the time. He broke King down over the course of the fight and knocked him out in the 11th to secure a second straight win.
  • def. Michele Di Rocco, May 2016: This fight was billed as “history making,” as Burns won a world title in a third weight class at 140, claiming the vacant WBA title against the overmatched Italian. Burns looked good here, but the opponent was substandard for a world title fight.
  • def. Kiryl Relikh, October 2016: This was something of an unknown on the way in — similar to the Zlaticanin fight, in a way, and like that one, Burns wound up with his hands full. He got the decision victory, but Relikh was no pushover, and it was a reminder that Burns, though on a good run, was very beatable.
  • lost to Julius Indongo, April 2017: A game effort from Burns, but Indongo fought a brilliant fight, shutting out Burns on my scorecard (and one of the official cards) en route to unifying the IBF and WBA titles.

The loss to Indongo doesn’t mean Burns is cooked, though. Styles make fights, and Indongo fought a fight that Anthony Crolla will not, and more than that, cannot. Crolla’s not going to go out and use range the way Indongo did. It’s not his style, and he lacks the height and reach, anyway.

It’s easy to think Burns moving back to 135 and going after a solid fighter ends in another loss, and maybe it will, but I’m not counting Ricky Burns out. He’s bounced back before, and Crolla is no world-beater.

Matchup Grade: C+ or B-. I can’t decide, but I expect a fired up crowd and a pretty good fight here. It’s good matchmaking, at least if Burns doesn’t struggle moving back down in weight. Neither of these guys can afford a loss, so there are some stakes even without any titles on the line.


  • Sam Eggington vs Mohamed Mimoune: Eggington (21-3, 13 KO) is defending the European welterweight title, which he nabbed in May with a knockout win over Ceferino Rodriguez. He also knocked out Paulie Malignaggi in March, and beat Frankie Gavin last October, so he’s bounced back from his March 2016 loss to Bradley Skeete quite nicely. I won’t lie and say I know much of anything about France’s Mimoune (18-2, 2 KO), other than his record indicates he can’t punch and none of his wins exactly jump off the page.
  • Robbie Barrett vs Lewis Ritson: Barrett (15-2-1, 1 KO) upset Scotty Cardle in April to win the British lightweight title, and this is his first defense. Ritson (12-0, 6 KO) is an unbeaten prospect, a 24-year-old nicknamed “Sandman.” Barrett looked good beating Cardle, but he’s still a suspect champion. This one could be interesting, depending on how good Ritson really is.

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