It may not be the biggest fight British boxing can offer, but Anthony Crolla vs Ricky Burns this weekend has a ton of promise.
You won’t find many matchups as perfect as this one. With six professional defeats apiece, both men have tried and failed to establish themselves as elite boxers. However, their respective work ethics cannot be disputed, and they are equally capable of providing in-ring entertainment.
Two former world champions, they each find themselves at a career crossroads having lost world title unification bouts in their last outings (though Crolla’s champ vs champ loss to Jorge Linares was followed by a rematch as challenger in which he came up short again). Neither can really afford to lose on Saturday at Manchester Arena.
And it’s these conditions which make the contest as intriguing as any given bout featuring one or more superstar fighters.
“I look at every fight as a must-win fight,” said Burns during the fight week media tour. “The incentive has been put in front of us with the possibility of challenging for the world title again, I need to make sure that I go out and win this which I am confident of doing.
READ MORE: Eubank Jr would consider switch to MMA
READ MORE: WBC order Golovkin/Canelo rematch
“This is my first time fighting in Manchester so I am sure it’s going to be a great night for the fans. I’ve got so much respect for Anthony, he’s a brilliant fighter and this is going to be a cracking fight.
“We’re both in the same boat now, coming back after a loss and looking to get our names back amongst the big boys. There were a few names mentioned for my next fight but this was the only fight that I wanted once I knew it could be made.
“I know that there’s a good crowd coming down from Glasgow but any boxing fan is going to win with this fight, you know what you are going to get when we fight, we’ll lay it all on the line and the best man will win.”
Though neither can really afford to lose, there is more speculation that Burns could hang up his gloves if he is defeated than there is surrounding Crolla.
“People are saying to me now ‘if you lose this what are you going to do?’ but that thought hasn’t crossed my mind,” Burns explained.
“I know this is a hard fight but the carrot of a possible world title fight means that the rewards are massive, but I didn’t need any more incentive for this fight, that just topped it off for me.
“Over the last year everyone has asked when I am going to retire over the last year. I’ve had 48 fights but I’ve never come out of the ring with my face in a state, I still enjoying training and the sparring and fighting side of it are the best parts in my eyes.
“If there ever came a point that I was coming out hurt fight after fight, or in the gym sparring these young hungry kids and taking too many punches, I’d know myself that it’d be time to call it a day, but I know that I’ve got lots of big nights left in me and I am confident that Saturday is going to be one of them.
“I may have over-achieved in some people’s eyes, but I’ve worked my arse off to get to where I have. People see you turn up and fight but only those closest to you see what I do two or three times a day, seven days a week for 12 weeks before a fight, I knock my pan in.
“Look who Anthony has boxed over the last two years, he’s only boxed the best. He’s lost to Linares but he went 24 rounds and he wasn’t knocked out or badly hurt at all.
“I’ve always admitted that I’m not the best boxer ever, but if you are going to beat me, you’re going to have to be really good or you will have to work for it because the way I train I am confident I will be there at a great pace for the full 12 rounds and my mental toughness is one of my best attributes.”
Crolla wasted no time admitting that neither man is in a position to weather a second successive failure at this level.
“Win this fight on Saturday night and I’m right back in world title contention,” he said.
“The fights against Linares didn’t go my way; I know I’ve got to rebuild. But I don’t want to be dropping down a level after being at this level for a good few years.
“I’m expecting a very tough fight but if I fight my fight, I come through.”
Sometimes, the fight can exceed the level of its contestants. Both Crolla and Burns are great, but this battle has all the makings of reaching levels their individual careers may never quite enjoy. Fingers crossed these two British battlers provide a sleeper treat for diehard boxing fans.