Danny Flexen looks at an intriguing lightweight contest between Ricky Burns and Lee Selby
Back in 2016, an unlikely fight between Ricky Burns and Lee Selby could have conceivably headlined a British show – perhaps not a pay-per-view but certainly a regular Sky Sports card. Back then the pair were world champions but competed three weight classes apart, making a showdown exceedingly unlikely.
Three years later, however, they meet at lightweight and at the metaphorical crossroads, where a defeat could theoretically spell the end for either veteran. A sign of their somewhat diminished status is that the showdown is listed as fourth down the pecking order of an admittedly stacked October 26 show, headlined, much to the chagrin of Dereck Chisora, by the WBSS final between Josh Taylor and Regis Prograis.
Who’s had the better career?
Burns is a three-weight world champion, the only one in Scotland’s history. The Coatbridge man achieved this through fitness, persistence and underrated ability, despite losing two of his first 17 pro bouts and both around domestic level. At 36 and a pro for a staggering 18 years by the time he steps in on October 26, his longevity and enduring enthusiasm are remarkable. Selby, on the other hand, enjoyed a lengthy but mostly underwhelming reign as IBF featherweight ruler after a dazzling display to unseat Evgeny Gradovich in 2015. Four of five successful defences went the distance before the rangy stylist was dethroned by Josh Warrington last year, and jumped up two weight divisions. At 32 and a pro for 11 years, it’s not too late to enhance his legacy.
Who is in the better form?
Both are coming off good wins. In his lightweight debut back in February, Selby outscored decent American Omar Douglas, overcoming two cuts in the process. He has not fought since, but looked strong enough at 135lbs. Burns suffered back-to-back losses, to Julius Indongo and Anthony Crolla in 2017, but went down a level and rebuilt well, hammering Scott Cardle to third-round defeat last November. He is the more inactive, then, and Selby’s last victory, while less explosive, was arguably against a superior opponent.
Can either survive a defeat?
They can certainly carry on their career, as Burns did after losing to Crolla. But any world-level aspirations at lightweight would appear over for the loser. 135lbs is one of the most competitive weight classes in boxing right now, so much so that even the winner will struggle to nail down, much less win, a world title shot. Burns losing to Selby in the Welshman’s second fight at the weight is not a great look, while Selby falling to a man even his supporters believe is not the force of old isn’t a sign of future prosperity.