By Edward Chaykovsky
WBO lightweight champion Ricky Burns (36-2-1, 11KOs) will not be forced into a fight with mandatory challenger Terence Crawford, according to Burns' promoter Eddie Hearn. Last Friday the WBO ordered Hearn and Top Rank to negotiate a potential Burns-Crawford clash. The first option for Burns is a rematch with Raymundo Beltran (28-6-1, 17KOs). During their September fight, which ended in a draw, Burns was dropped and suffered a badly broken jaw. Nearly every ringside observer felt Beltran should have won. Burns wants to set things straight against Beltran in February.
Besides Beltran, Hearn is also trying to line up a unification bout with either IBF champion Miguel Vazquez or WBA champion Richar Abril.
If the only option comes down to Crawford, Hearn is confident of winning a purse bid that will send the fight to Burns' backyard of Scotland.
Hearn told The Scotsman: “We received a letter from the WBO on Friday to the effect that we must begin negotiations with Crawford’s people, adding that we should get back to them within 30 days stating 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 Top Rank was not.
“In the meantime, I have asked the WBO for a voluntary defence against Beltran in February. I am also in talks with Miguel Vazquez and Richar Abril regarding a unification bout that would supersede a mandatory defence so there are lots going on. But Top Rank is trying to force our hand and they 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 favor 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.
“I am not saying that fight is completely dead but we have done everything we can to try to make it happen, as Crawford would not hold the same attraction for Scottish fights fans. Despite the fact he is very good, he is not particularly well known over here.
“He is tough but also unproven to an extent. But whatever happens, Ricky will be fighting in February, either in a voluntary defence, a unification bout or against Crawford. Ricky is disappointed about what happened in his last fight and that he didn’t have the chance to perform like he can. So he wants the chance to set the record straight against Beltran although that is now dependent on several factors”