THE prospect of Ricky Burns having a rematch with Mexican Raymundo Beltran has diminished following the announcement that the World Boxing Organisation has ordered the lightweight champion's promoter, Eddie Hearn, to begin negotiations with mandatory challenger Terence Crawford.

Hearn yesterday confirmed that he has been given 30 days to contact Crawford's handlers with a view to Burns' next defence being against the 26-year-old undefeated American from Omaha. Hearn stressed that he has not closed the door on a rematch after Beltran was harshly treated in most people's eyes when he fought Burns in Glasgow in September. The bout was declared a draw despite the 30-year-old boxer from Coatbridge suffering a broken jaw in the second round.

Hearn also revealed that he has been in talks with IBF champion Miguel Vazquez and WBA title-holder Richar Abril about a possible unification bout. "It is correct that the WBO have ordered negotiations with Crawford," he said. "We received a letter on Friday to that effect, adding that we must get back to them within 30 days to see where we are at. But it's quite a complex situation. Top Rank represents both Beltran and Crawford and we made them an offer which Beltran's team was happy with but they were not.

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"In the meantime, I have asked the WBO for a voluntary defence against Beltran in February. I am also in talks with Vazquez and Abril regarding a unification bout that would supersede a mandatory defence. But Top Rank is trying to force our hand and have made their position very clear in that they would like Ricky to fight Crawford.

"If it has to be Crawford then we will fight him. The split is 75-25 in favour of the champion and I am very confident that I could bring that fight to Scotland. We are not looking to going to America to fight Crawford and it would take an incredible offer for that to happen. But the fight everyone wants to see is Beltran and it is the right fight for boxing after what happened last time.

"Crawford is tough but unproven to an extent. But whatever happens, Ricky will be fighting in February, either in a voluntary defence, a unification bout, or against Crawford."

Meanwhile, according to Hearn, Burns is making satisfactory progress after he underwent surgery immediately after his last fight to have a plate fitted in his damaged jaw in an effort to save his career.

He added: "When I last spoke with the doctors recently they said that it should be six to eight weeks after the operation before Ricky started full training and ideally 12 weeks before he sparred, purely as a safeguard."