Saturday, 7 September 2013

Ricky Burns v Raymundo Beltran

Over the past 12 months boxing has seen some really strange decisions, in fact, up until tonight by robbery of the year was Moises Fuentes being denied a clear victory over Donnie Nietes in a bout for the WBO Light Flyweight title. There was no way in my mind that Fuentes failed to win that contest.

Unfortunately this evening boxing threw us another curve ball, this time in the UK as Scotland's Ricky Burns (36-2-1, 11) retained his title in one of the truly controversial bouts of the year.

Entering as a clear favourite against US based Mexican Raymundo Beltran (28-6-1, 17), Burns was supposed to dominate Beltran, a man viewed by many as a glorified journeyman and merely the "sparring partner" of Manny Pacquiao. It was as if many had looked past Beltran actually being a fine fighter in his own right, and being on an excellent run which included victories over Hank Lundy and Ji-Hoon Kim as well as "losses", take that term lightly, to Luis Ramos Jr and Sharif Bogere in the last 30 months.

It appeared that almost everyone, other than Beltran himself, thought he was there to lose as Burns took a step towards an American showdown with HBO's new star in the making Terrance Crawford. What transpired however was a robbery that even Ronnie Biggs would have been proud of.

The opening round was a good one for Burns, I can't possibly take that away from him as he landed crisp, clean shots time after time. If you merely saw the first round then turned it off, the pre-fight idea of Burns winning with ease would have been a fair conclusion. Then however things began to turn, the second round, another round Burns likely won, saw the Scot given his first taste of Beltran's power as he tagged him to the body and attempted to break down the home town fighter.

At the end of round 2 it appeared that Beltran had damaged the jaw of Burns, with later reports suggesting it had been dislocated. This injury clearly bothered Burns though as it appeared to come from clean punches there was little he could do other than put up with it and fight, especially following comments made from him, and more specifically his team, following his last defense where Jose Gonzalez was forced to pull out of the bout with an injury.

With the damage done in the second round Beltran was spurred on and he moved up a gear landing body shots and bullying Burns around the ring. It wasn't obvious what the injury was to fans but it was clear that Beltran could smell blood as he went on the hunt and applied intelligent pressure round after round, looking to land sweeping shots up top and hurtful blows down low.

Through several of the following rounds Beltran really did all he could to claim the rounds on the scorecards. Unfortunately, despite clearly winning a number of rounds, the judges seemed to be dead set against giving him all the credit he deserved. In fact by the mid way point it seemed difficult to even make a case that Burns was level, never mind actually leading the bout.

Although Burns had fallen behind on almost every neutral's scorecard he did come out firing very impressively in round 7, a round in which it appeared Beltran was starting to tire. The shots from Burns had again looked smooth, snappy and sharp, something that had been absent for several rounds and it appeared the turn around was on.

With Burns claiming round 7 it appeared the momentum shift was on, this was flipped completely in round 8 however as Burns was dropped in the clearest round of the fight. Beltran, who had dropped Burns with a single sweeping shot went for the finish though Burns managed to see out the round and get to his stool unscathed.

Unfortunately for the Scot it was was then difficult to make a case for him winning too much afterwards. He was on his bike for most of rounds 9 and 10 as Beltran tried to drop him again, and although he fought back well in round 11 it was too close to call a clear Burns round with the twelfth being similarly close.

With Beltran having clearly won at least 6 rounds, if not 7, 8 or even 9 and scoring a knockdown it appeared that we had had an upset. Unfortunately the judges failed to see what everyone else seemed to see and in fact they managed to come up with a split decision, leaving many with little more than questions.

What did Beltran need to do to win? What was Carlos Ortiz Jr (115-112 Burns) watching? Was this a second successive "off night" for Burns? Is Burns that good? Will Beltran get a rematch? And, maybe more worryingly, will another world level boxer return to fight in Britain again?

Feel free to come up with your own answers, but I know mine, and I know my stomach is turning with anger towards this sport, at least in Britain, more and more this past year.

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