Crawford focused on Burns' title

Unbeaten lightweight contender poised for breakout performance in Glasgow

Originally Published: February 26, 2014
By Dan Rafael | ESPN.com

If Terence Crawford has any trepidation about the assignment in front of him, he sure doesn't sound like it.

"I'm ready. My weight is good, and I don't even feel the time difference. I'm just ready to fight," Crawford said Tuesday without a hint of unease.

Crawford is in Glasgow, Scotland -- a long way from his hometown of Omaha, Neb. -- on business, serious business, as he challenges lightweight titlist Ricky Burns on his home turf Saturday (AWE, 2 p.m. ET) at the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre, where Scotland's Burns regularly draws raucous crowds.

Crawford, the mandatory challenger, had no qualms about going to the lion's den for the fight.

"I've been to Canada and Venezuela as an amateur," he said. "I've been a lot of places to fight. The way I look at it, I've been on the road my whole career because I've never fought in my hometown. I'm not worried about the crowd. They won't play a part in what I do in the ring."

Crawford said he knew as soon as the mandatory bout was ordered that he would almost certainly have to go to Scotland for the fight, so he has been prepared for the scenario for months.

"When the potential of this fight came up and I knew I could be fighting Ricky Burns, I already knew he wouldn't come to the United States to fight me. All his fights are in Scotland," Crawford said. "He's the champion, and nobody makes him travel. But this is something I've always wanted. Fighting for the world title, it's a dream come true. Since I was a little kid, this is what I wanted. So to win it in his hometown, if that's what I have to do, that's fine."

The 26-year-old Crawford (22-0, 16 KOs) earned the title shot with a breakout year in 2013, winning all three of his fights on HBO and moving into the mandatory position for a title shot.

In March, as a late substitute, he moved up to junior welterweight and easily outboxed hard-punching Breidis Prescott before returning in June for a sixth-round knockout of Alejandro Sanabria in a one-sided fight. In October, Crawford scored a 10-round shutout decision against previously undefeated Andrey Klimov.

The slick, defensive-minded Crawford would appear to have the speed and overall skill advantage against Burns, who will be making his fifth title defense but has looked extremely vulnerable in his previous two bouts.

In May, Burns was trailing on all three scorecards through eight rounds and had looked entirely out of sorts when Jose Gonzalez, claiming a hand injury, suddenly retired on his stool after the ninth round.

The 30-year-old Burns (36-2-1, 11 KOs), who also won a junior lightweight world title before giving it up to rise in weight, looked lost in his next fight in September when Raymundo Beltran broke Burns' jaw in the second round, knocked him down in the eighth round and dominated long stretches of the fight only to be handed a heavily disputed draw.

Crawford, however, said he is not concerned with those fights or what the judges might do in Burns' hometown.

[+] EnlargeRicky Burns and Raymundo Beltran
Scott Heavey/Getty ImagesRicky Burns took a beating against Raymundo Beltran in September but was awarded a heavily disputed draw.

"I'm not going in there thinking about what happened in the previous fights with him," Crawford said. "I'm going in there to fight my fight and come out victorious. That's it. I'm not worrying about the judges. That's not my place to be worried. My place to be worried is just going in there and getting the job done. I'll handle my business and the judges handle theirs."

For Burns' part, he has admitted that his recent performances have lacked the spark he has shown in other bouts.

With his jaw healed, Burns said got superb sparring during his training for Saturday's fight. He tangled with lightweight contender Kevin Mitchell, whom he stopped in the fourth round in his second title defense in September 2012, European junior lightweight champion Lee Selby and prospects Martin J. Ward and Luke Campbell, the 2012 British Olympic gold medalist.

"Sparring with Kevin was brilliant," Burns said. "We did a good 30-plus rounds with him and Martin, who is a really talented boy. Luke was up in Scotland and was brilliant. He's a huge talent, and Lee came up for the last week and he's stylish and slick.

"I really think we have replicated what [Crawford] will bring. I felt as if for the last couple of fights we were doing too much sparring and circuits work, and although I was in great shape, it was getting a bit repetitive for 12 weeks before a fight. My good mate Matthew has come in as my strength and conditioner. We've known each other a long time, so that's helped, and we're really mixing it up so it never feels boring or stale. The 6 a.m. starts for the hill sprints haven't been great fun as I'm not a morning person, but I soon got into the routine and I've really loved this camp and I think it's going to benefit me on fight night.

"Crawford is a very slick boxer. He switch hits, and he's very good both orthodox and southpaw. We tried to get Jose Gonzalez over for sparring as he would have been ideal but sadly we couldn't get that to work, but we know what we're expecting and we've had plenty of variety in sparring."

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