By Cliff Rold
No matter the quality of a fight, location often makes the difference in whether there is an event at hand or not.
On Saturday, a pair of former lightweight titlists will lock horns in Manchester and that’s exactly where the fight should be. It isn’t going to move the masses anywhere else, but for the UK fan base it should be a fun Saturday. For US fans interested, it will be available in one of those afternoon marathons from overseas (AWE, 3 PM EST/12 PM PST).
After his last fight, Scotland’s three-division former titlist Ricky Burns (41-6-1, 14 KO) being back in the ring has its drawbacks. Burns has looked past his best for a few years. He couldn’t muster much competition in a unification bout at 140 lbs. with Julius Indongo earlier this year. Now he returns to 135 lbs. for the first time since 2015. At 34, a move down the scale is rarely the best of ideas.
It’s not hard to see what this fight is about on paper.
30-year old former WBA titlist Anthony Crolla (31-6-3, 13 KO) is looking to get back on the horse. He’ll have the crowd on his side chasing the next big opportunity. Consecutive losses lead to a search for wins; opponents who look like a path there with the chance to sell tickets are all the better.
His esteem was at its highest after consecutive wins over Daerlys Perez and Ismael Barroso and a competitive loss to Jorge Linares. The more lopsided rematch brought Crolla back down to earth a bit, reminding all of his limits. Limits are no sin. Crolla has shown tremendous professionalism, overachieving to a degree in recent vintage. He’s scrappy and makes good fights.
Against Burns, he has a UK rival whose name still has value even if his body is fading. It’s a solid fight for both men. If Burns falters here, it may be a chance to head to the exits. Even more than Crolla, his was an overachieving career that snuck in some classics. His wars with Roman Martinez and Omar Figueroa earned him a pint from any fan that saw them.
Will we get a good fight here?
If nothing else, we’ll get a fun crowd. Burns is sure to have some traveling support and the arena will be full of people who have invested in both men. They’ve seen ups, downs, and that’s part of the thrill of being a fan.
The journey of fighters, from a fan investment perspective, is different than following team sports. The vicarious connection, particularly for local favorites, is acute. Fans in Glasgow or Manchester, when they see the story of a Burns or Crolla play out, can inevitably find pieces of those stories to connect to. They know the streets they grew up on.
It’s what makes fights like this one easy to tune in for even if the outcome looks stacked in one direction.
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene and a member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]