BURNING THE BOOKS: Omar Figueroa vs Ricky Burns Prediction
Omar Figueroa vs Ricky Burns Prediction
Burning the books, it never appeared more conspicuous than it did on Saturday. Five years is a long time in boxing.
At approximately half-past ten on the 4th of September 2010, Coatbridge’s Ricky Burns was on the seat of his trunks, skull buzzing from a straight right hand which sailed seamlessly through his guard and floored him in front of twelve hundred of his own vociferous fans in Glasgow’s Kelvin Hall, from whom the momentary silence was deafening. Burns picked himself instantly and ruefully exhaled. There were eleven and a half rounds to go in his maiden world title tilt. He was, once again, battling the gradient in a career that, for all his momumental success, has always seemed hell-bent on achieving only his ruination.
At quarter-past eleven, Coatbridge, Glasgow and Scotland likely almost broke loose from Great Britain physically, such was the noise that greeted the three words Ricky Burns had always dreamt of hearing, but was never supposed to.
“And the NEW!”
Former WBC lightweight champion Omar Figueroa Jr is the six-to-one favourite to inflict a third defeat in five fights on his Scottish opponent on Saturday night – or a fourth, if you retained even 4% of your vision while watching Burns’ ‘draw’ with Raymundo Beltran in September 2013. ‘Panterita,’ an undefeated Texan switch-hitter is reeling off a 9th round stoppage of recent Kevin Mitchell victim Daniel Estrada, and is undefeated in 25 fights, with 18 of his 24 victories coming inside the distance. The power-puncher is, like many of his ilk, far from unhittable – a pint-sized Carl Froch who doesn’t necessarily carry with him the force in each hand capable of levelling opponents in one swing, but whose relentless flurries can overwhelm through sheer volume and velocity.
Figueroa is a boxing freight-train, but has never quite been forced to hit the breaks. For all the tumultuousness of Ricky Burns’ last two years – the broken jaw, the defeats, the loss of his belt, the financial debt – the fiery Scot still clings to edge of the world-level echelon. Now free of external inhibitions and personal turmoil, the two-time world champ may prove the first speed bump to manifest itself on Figueroa’s tracks in Hidalgo this Saturday night.
“As British boxing searched for its next Cinderella man, Burns went to war with his proverbial ugly sisters outside of the ring; His legal battle with former promoter Frank Warren left him close to £420,000 in the red, and worth just £228.”
For clarity, the Texas hometown hero is a favourite with good reason; Burns’ recent form is horrendous- the 32 year old has been discarded by the boxing public on either side of the Atlantic as a ‘has-been,’ a man who milked his unprecedented success with a series of ‘soft touch’ title defences on the back of one glorious night in 2010, and who was ultimately beaten back to the awkward boxing purgatory between European and world level, which has historically entrapped so many of his fellow British fighters.
He deserves better; he is, after all, a two-weight champion of the world, with six successful title defences to boot- this not including the controversial draw with Beltran where he kept his WBO lightweight belt for a fourth time. And yet, for all his successful wars, the draw with Beltran perhaps best encapsulates the Coatbridge Braveheart’s career; make no mistake about it- he lost the fight. But after having his jaw shattered in the second round, he once again proved himself a renegade to the narrative, grimacing and battling his way to an admittedly unjust result with an astonishing display of resilience in the face of excruciating pain. The following morning, Burns had a titanium plate screwed into his mandible. There remained a somewhat bitter taste in the mouths of fans and scribes alike, too, for many felt Burns had finally been ‘found out’; the slipper no longer fit.
As British boxing searched for its next Cinderella man, Burns went to war with his proverbial ugly sisters outside of the ring; His legal battle with former promoter Frank Warren left him close to £420,000 in the red, and worth just £228. Burns was forced to declare bankruptcy and yet still considered it a minor victory, in that the court ruled he did not owe Warren any profit from his subsequent fights under Matchroom. This alone should be considered an at least partial explanation for the conspicuously tortured Burns who just about survived against Beltran, Terrence Crawford and Dejan Zlaticanin with an ounce of his credibility remaining intact; his laboured victory over unheralded Frenchman Alexandre Lepelley stopping the rot as the likeable Scot teetered on the brink of falling off the world stage.
Now freed of the demonic shackles which plagued him as he finally forfeited his belt in Glasgow last year, Burns – bled dry both inside and outside of the ring – must start again. It will be his greatest battle to date, and this time there is no perceived easy route. At 32, and with 42 fights in the bag, ‘Rickster’ may have already emptied the tank; against a formidable opponent on Saturday, he’ll find out either way.
Burns and trainer Tony Simms will know what to expect from Omar Figueroa in Texas; roared on by a partisan hometown crowd, the switch-hitting slugger will look to charge at the Scot and expose any frailties or insecurities which hang over the former 2-weight champ from a turbulent two-year spell of setbacks and personal turmoil.
But in truth, for all his bullishness, Figueroa doesn’t exactly bring with him anything Burns hasn’t faced before.
For one thing, Burns will be familiar with Figueroa having presumably watched his stoppage of Daniel Estrada – this in order to prepare stablemate and former foe Kevin Mitchell for his own title eliminator against Estrada in January. And the Texan is also certainly comparable to former foe Michael Katsidis in his come-forward approach – an opponent with which Burns dealt with no shortage of class in 2011.
Figueroa might be a level above the Australian brawler at the respective junctures of each man’s career with relation to their facing of the Scot, but at 5’10, the rangy Rickster – despite giving up three inches of reach – will fancy his chances of fending Panterita off with his solid jab and straight right hand in the early stages.
Burns doesn’t possess the concussive power to hold Figueroa off for long enough to box his way to victory, however. This one is heading for the trenches, to which neither man is a stranger.
It remains to be seen whether Burns’ considerable frame will remain pertinent at a higher weight, but for all his front-foot aggression, Figueroa has on occasion been bullied backwards – namely against Japanese slugger Nihito Arakawa in 2013. The third stanza of the pair’s abrasive scrap was a round of the year contender, and perhaps offers some clues as to how Burns can find success against his heavily favoured opponent.
Figueroa will eat Burns’ shots for breakfast, and Burns has showed enough – even in defeat, and particularly against red hot, pound-for-pound operator Terrence Crawford – that he has the whiskers to stay in the kitchen when things heat up.
Ultimately, Omar Figueroa’s greater activity and hometown advantage should do enough to see him over the line in a war of attrition. But even should it end in defeat, a spirited performance certainly won’t spell the end for Burns, who may move back down to lightweight after this fight in search of an Indian summer finish to a roller-coaster career.
Official prediction: Omar Figueroa by Unanimous Decision
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