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Boxing: Burns content to be counted out

Ricky Burns has been written off by pundits and bookies alike as he prepares for his fifth defence of the WBO lightweight title against the hyped and unbeaten American, Terence Crawford, on Saturday, but the champion is taking inspiration from one of the most famous chapters in Scottish boxing history.

Ricky Burns receives the count during his fight against Raymundo BeltranPhotograph: Getty
Ricky Burns receives the count during his fight against Raymundo BeltranPhotograph: Getty

It was on June 7, 1980 that Burns' predecessor, Jim Watt, defended his WBC lightweight title against the then poster boy of American boxing, Howard Davis jnr, at Ibrox. An Olympic gold medallist in Montreal four years earlier, 24-year-old Davis was unbeaten after 13 fights and expected to destroy 31-year-old Watt.

But Davis did not enjoy the ferocious welcome of the Glasgow crowd or Watt's gnarled ring nous and suffered a unanimous points defeat on one of Scottish boxing's great nights.

Now Burns is hoping history will repeat itself as he takes on the current hottest new kid on the American block at the SECC. The Scot's encounter with his mandatory challenger will be his 10th world title fight of an illustrious career (while it is 26-year-old's Crawford's first at this level), so he is experienced enough to withstand the verbal onslaught.

"The Americans always hype their own," the 30-year-old said. "Before Terence Crawford, it was Adrien Broner and I never bought into the hype surrounding him. Then you can go all the way back to Jim Watt and Howard Davis jnr and no one gave Jim a prayer either but it didn't turn out like that.

"Maybe there are a good few comparisons between Crawford and Howard Davis jnr. They were both great amateurs and obviously very skilful and fine boxers. Davis was unbeaten, just like Crawford is, when he came over here and like Davis it will be Crawford's first world title challenge. Again, just like Davis, everybody has been saying Crawford's the next big star at lightweight, although Terence is a switch hitter and Davis was orthodox. On Saturday I'm going to find out myself just how good he is."

Being the underdog doesn't faze Burns; in fact, it has been a great source of motivation.

"Of course I have been on the boxing forums and the social media sites and everyone is writing me off - again," he said. "But you know I like being the underdog. Nobody puts more pressure on me than I do myself. I've been written off all of my career. So I read all of that and I just use it as motivation, it's nothing new and I deal with it as part and parcel of boxing."

In his determination to get the best out of himself, Burns has dispensed with the tried and tested in training camp to combat a staleness he believes had set in for his two previous below-par outings against Jose A Gonzalez and Raymundo Beltran.

"I have changed everything for this fight," he said. "In my training camps for the two previous fights with Gonzalez and Beltran, I just felt that things had been getting really stale for me. When you are doing the same things over a 12-week period, fight after fight, you can switch off, so everything has been changed.

"I have added a strength-and-conditioning coach for the first time and I have really felt the benefit of it. I have also watched a couple of DVDs of Crawford and that is the first time I have done that for an opponent.

"The fact that Crawford is a switch hitter has also helped in that it has meant we have had to bring in both orthodox and southpaw sparring. That has really kept things fresh. I have had the likes of Ashley Theophane down in London, Tyrone Nurse and Lee Selby up the road and David Brophy too. But it has all meant that everything has been that bit different. I feel energised ahead of this fight in a way I haven't for a few fights now."

The exalted status enjoyed by Crawford as one of the leading lights of the all-powerful Top Rank fighting stable means the Scot's purse of about £250,000 will be dwarfed by any future pay days that come following a victory over the Nebraskan. Yet money is clearly the last thing on the champion's mind.

Burns said: "There has been a frustration for me with how the last two fights have gone. Against Gonzalez I did not perform the way I would have liked. Although I still got the job done, it was an off night, for whatever reason.

"Obviously against Beltran things were taken out of my hands by the fractured jaw happening so early in the second round. That completely dictated the way I had to fight for the remaining 10 rounds. So for Crawford I am just determined to go out there and put a complete performance together."

Burns v Crawford, Saturday, SECC. Tickets are still available on 0141 554 7777.

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