Ricky Burns, Scotland's WBO lightweight champion
Ricky Burns suffered a broken jaw during the second round of his World Boxing Organisation lightweight title fight against a rampaging Raymundo Beltran of Mexico in Glasgow on Saturday night. Beltran would soon be left a broken man, his very essence rendered dejected, dispirited and disillusioned by the sheer rawness of the outrage yet to befall him.
Beltran - a hardy 32-year-old from Los Mochis with 28 wins and six losses from 34 bouts - had coped admirably with everything his opponent had offered during 12 hectic rounds at the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre, which was not a great deal of anything memorable, but was left dazed by the sort of verdict that does boxing no favours as a credible sport.
To cut a fairly harrowing story short, certainly if you are Mexican, Beltran landed one on Burns in the second round to dislodge his jaw and floored the game Scot with a trademark left hook in the eighth round amid a dominant performance that illustrated why he once sparred with Manny Pacquiao. He should have been rewarded with the title.
Instead, Burns, from Coatbridge near Glasgow, was wheeled to hospital to have a titanium plate fitted in his broken jaw, bruised, battered but not bowed as three judges somehow contrived to piece together a 'draw' that enabled the Scotsman to retain his belt. A rotten hometown decision it is called in boxing parlance.
A decision comparable to FIFA awarding Qatar and its oppressive summer temperatures football's World Cup finals in 2022. Something stinks somewhere.
One judge Andre Van Grootenbruel of Belgium saw what the rest of the crowd in the SECC had witnessed calling it 115-113 for Beltran, but British judge Richie Davis opted to score it a 114-114 draw. Goodness knows what he was smoking.
American judge Carlos Ortiz Jr scored the fight 115-112 for Burns that left the Scotsman retaining his belt courtesy of a draw.
Ortiz Jr is clearly an unsuitable person to judge such a prestigious fight, and should judge amateurs because his was a call reeking of amateurishness. The irony being that he is from the same neck of the woods as the 'loser'.
The vocal announcer Michael Buffer had bellowed his trademark "lets get ready to rumble" on a night of general grumble. It seems boxing will never learn from its soiled past about bowing to the wants of voracious home fans. Not that the majority of the seven thousand fans inside the SECC will thank you for such favouritism.
The decision did not make you wonder how judges see the technical aspects of this bout or who was the busier fighter. Rather how much money, promises and politics had been discussed beforehand.
It used to be said that British fighters visiting America or Mexico would have to knock out the home favourite to earn a draw, but it is difficult to complain about corruption elsewhere when these sorts of decisions are being doled out in the UK.
Was it corruption? Who knows? Was it right? Clearly not.
WWE wrestling has as much credibility. Both camps and officials appeared stunned after hearing the verdict. Some of the crowd began to sober up. Most sensible Scots have a sense of fair play about them in sport: Beltran was done a huge wrong here.
Picture of a disillusioned Raymundo Beltran during his interview with Sky Sports
As a passionate Scotsman who admires Burns, his character, his work ethic and his terrific attitude to his aptitude, one could not feel anything other than heartfelt sympathy for Beltran as he discussed the fight on Sky Sports afterwards. He hit the main topic as much as he clocked Burns during the fight of a decision that stank out the SECC more than any smell of Tennent's lager emanating from the locals.
"I think I did everything I had to do to win the fight,” said an emotional Beltran, looking close to tears.
"Politics. Always the same thing in boxing," he said. "I think it's disrespectful for the fighter and the fans. They play the business because they have the power. If I got beat, I got beat. But I didn't.”
"It's so frustrating. So much hard work, sacrifice. We put our lives on the line. They don't care. I don’t blame Ricky. It's not his fault. It's business. To me, I'm a world champion. It's bull****. That belt is mine."
Little wonder Burns and his promoter Eddie Hearn were quickly talking about a rematch, but that too may disappear in time because money talks. And it shouts loudly in boxing.
The decision was not the fault of Burns, who had displayed astonishing tenacity amid horrendous pain to somehow stay upright for most of the night despite the intensity of his broken jaw. He hung in there, and got a "result", but it was not an outcome anyone in boxing should deem palatable.
Beltran is unlikely to return to these parts. Little wonder. What is the point of staging a rematch in Glasgow if this is going to be the kind of sporting inequality such visitors have to live with? After this particular Burns Night in Scotland, what is the point of boxing?
Beltran would have felt better if he had been mugged walking down Sauchiehall Street later on. At least his attackers would not have called for a verdict.
If you want any sense of realism relating to boxing, stick to the Rocky movies. Balboa's win over Apollo Creed at the end of the second film was more believable than this.
"Yeah, Ray was robbed but so was boxing, " said Beltran's manager Steve Feder. "This is killing the game. Okay, you get some odd decisions but this is one of the worst...sadly, after a week or two, nobody else will give a damn that Ray was robbed."
To the loser, the spoils.
Burns will not fight again this year with doubts over his future in the sport due to his injury. He has made the most of limited powers to go far in the sport with a big heart, but Saturday night should have signalled a third defeat from 39 fights. His pride and jaw will recover. If Burns fights on, he may move up to light-welterweight to chase a third world title at a different weight.
A new father during the week, he will be left holding the baby. Continuing to hold the WBO belt is an affront to boxing, a sense of fair play and those who seek out the Corinthian spirit in professional sport.
- Sports & Recreation
- Ricky Burns
- Raymundo Beltran
- World Boxing Organisation