Terence “Bud” Crawford would eventually fully unify the 140-pound division, then move up to 147 and win another world title, and today, he’s considered one of boxing’s best pound-for-pound fighters.
But like everyone, he was once a prospect who had to find his first title shot. And it came on Mar. 1, 2014, with the Nebraska native traveling to Glasgow, Scotland, to face Scottish hero and reigning WBO lightweight titleholder Ricky Burns.
Burns, then 30 with a 36-2-1 (11 KO) record, had been an unlikely star. Earlier on in his pro career, he’d come up short in regional title fights against Alex Arthur (2006 for the European, British, and Commonwealth 130-pound titles) and Carl Johanneson (2007 for the British 130-pound title).
He did eventually claim the Commonwealth junior lightweight title, beating Osumanu Akaba for the vacant belt in 2008, and making defenses against Yakubu Amidu, Michael Gomez, and Kevin O’Hara, before a world title shot came calling in 2010.
That fight, against WBO titlist Roman “Rocky” Martinez, saw Burns get home field in Glasgow, but he was still expected to lose. And he went down in the first round, but battled back and claimed a legitimate win in a solid upset. He never lost that title, instead moving up to 135 in 2011, where he beat Michael Katsidis for the interim WBO lightweight title. When Juan Manuel Marquez moved up in weight, Burns was promoted to full titlist status, and scored wins over Paulus Moses, Kevin Mitchell, and Jose Gonzalez, before a controversial draw with Ray Beltran in 2013, a fight most observers thought Beltran deserved to win.
No rematch with Beltran would come. Instead, Top Rank sent over a younger fighter, a rising star named Terence Crawford. Then 26, the switch-hitting Crawford (22-0, 16 KO coming in) had started making some waves on HBO cards, with wins over Breidis Prescott, Alejandro Sanabria, and Andrey Klimov, none of those fights competitive.
Burns hadn’t fought since the draw with Beltran, and he’d also suffered a broken jaw in that fight. There was concern about how he’d respond in his first fight back against a young guy with power and skills, and Crawford was a solid but not overwhelming betting favorite going in, around -300, with Burns listed around +250 to retain.
This time, Burns would pull no upset, and Terence Crawford would claim his first world title, convincingly winning on the cards and starting on the path to where he is today, a three-division champion at age 32, and one of the cornerstones of the ESPN and Top Rank boxing brands.