Boxing may not be the sport with the least amount of integrity worldwide but it’s not for lack of trying. On Saturday at the Scottish Exhibition Centre in Glasgow, Scotland, native son Ricky Burns retained his WBO lightweight title via disputed split draw over Ray Beltran. Burns has been bending of late, losing rounds to Jose Gonzalez in May before Gonzalez came up with a wrist injury that forced him to retire after the ninth.
Against Beltran, Burns’ jaw broke in the second, he was dropped in the eighth but threw enough leather to make the fight apparently close enough that judge Carlos Ortiz, Jr of Queens, New York had the fight 115-112 Burns, Richard James Davies scored it 114-114 and Andre Van Grootenbruel actually saw the fight and scored it 115-113 for Beltran. Conducting a special “Hometown Benefit of the Doubt” experiment, I scored the fight 114-113 Beltran. However, a score of 7-5, even 8-4 for Beltran is quite feasible. On no planet, in no dimension or in any reality besides the world of boxing did Ricky Burns earn a draw or a victory.
However, by Tuesday of this week, boxing media will be pulling at the Floyd Mayweather, Jr vs. Saul Alvarez teat with such zeal so as to get every last bit of traffic out of it, they will forget this outright robbery and all its implications. After all, this is boxing.
Burns came out in the first round looking sharp. It was as if he wanted to answer questions about his third defense in this fourth one. Beltran measured him with the jab but started slowly, cautiously. Burns let go with combos and Beltran, a long time sparring partner of knockout artist Manny Pacquiao, took the blows with nary a worry.
Beltran had seen enough to proceed by the second and took some chances getting his body attack going. The jab stayed steady from the Los Angeles resident. Burns answered the offense with a jab of his own and the odd flurry but the second felt like Beltran’s round punctuated by the emergence of his left hook to the body. Beltran caught Burns sitting on the ropes and he switched his body attack to the head and back again. It was a beautiful explosion that foreshadowed the remaining rounds’ action.
In this round, one of the left hooks badly damaged Burns’ jaw but it would not become clear until it swelled late. Burns said his fight plan, which consisted of a lot of holding for which he should have been penalized if we’re going by boxing rules (we are), became about protecting the jaw more than anything.
The counter left hook to the head and body was feeling good to Beltran in the third. You could see the veteran’s confidence rising. The threat of that left sweeping into the point of Burns’ chin kept the Scot honest and at bay. The WBO titleholder went to the jab then attacked the body. Beltran stayed calm and cautious, too often not answering immediately with offense of his own. Still, when he landed, Beltran’s blows seemed to do more damage throughout.
Round four showed the stark difference in skill level between the men. Inside, Beltran let his hands go while Burns clinched and hoped to eat the clock waiting for the ref to do his job. He seemed uneasy working out of clinches with his fists.
Referee Phil Edwards did part of his job. He broke the fighters and one time I even heard him tell Burns not to hold. What he should have done was warned Burns again and then taken points. The holding kept the fight from taking its natural course not to mention its against boxing’s rules.
Beltran took the fourth and fifth on my card as he pressed the action and took advantage of Burns’ discomfort in close and his willingness to sit n the ropes and be hit. Whenever this happened, Beltran mixed velocity and his punches very well; tapping with his left than coming back with the right hand hard or vice versa.
Burns changed tactics drastically in the sixth, boxing on his toes at long range and cutting down the amount of times Beltran trapped him on the ropes. It still happened but with less frequency. Beltran elected to box, as well, in the seventh, allowing both men to rest as they traded jabs and right hands from long range. Burns flurried late to perhaps sway the judges but Beltran also landed two body shots at the bell. The momentum had not quite shifted to Burns but certainly the crowd had been won back over by him.
That all changed when Beltran dropped Burns with a left hook as he pivoted out along the ropes to open the eighth. Burns got up at eight but had his wits about him and Beltran all over him. Burns fired a right hand moments after getting up and Beltran answered by landing a left hook. Burns went to the ropes again and Beltran was happy for it, banging on his ribs and firing between the guard. Burns would hold his ground, and Beltran, to survive the round.
The ninth and tenth were Beltran’s. He boxed smart, worked the body and kept Burns on the move or ropes.
Then came the eleventh and twelfth.
Beltran seemed to ease up on the gas, boxing in spots but not pushing Burns, whose swollen jaw and grappling techniques showed a hurt and desperate fighter. Instead, it was Burns who protected the narrative by closing strong enough to allow the judges to award him a split draw wherein he keeps his title.
On twitter post-fight, head of the WBO, Paco Valcarcel, tweeted that Burns will now have a mandatory defense due versus Terrence Crawford. He also stated that Team Beltran could file a protest of the decision, which they undoubtedly will.
After the bout, Burns said he would give a rematch to Beltran, Beltran declared himself the champion and stated that a rematch should be in the U.S.
As for Mayweather-Alvarez, I say bet the draw.