Former WBA Lightweight Champion Ricky Burns returns to the ring this Friday, June 27th in Glasgow, Scotland, where he faces Dejan Zlaticanin in an eliminator for the WBC World Lightweight title. As we close in on the fight, Burns is a huge (-1000) favorite over Zlaticanin, who returns at (+650). Zlaticanin is a southpaw from Montenegro, and he brings a perfect 18-0 record to this contest. His record, which includes 13 stoppages, is exclusively against competitions from the Balkans (Serbia, Montenegro and Bosnia), so Burns is far and away the highest level opponent to date. Zlaticanin has held Mediterranean and International titles under the WBC flag before, but the level of competition on his resume cannot be compared to that of Burns, either and he does not have the overall ring experience of Burns. Marching into Scotland to take on Burns in his home is also going to be a disadvantage to Zlaticanin, who has not faced a true, fervent UK crowd like he will face this Friday. Burns would seem to have all the advantages in the fight. He is a long time world champion, having held both the WBO Super Featherweight and WBO Lightweight titles through multiple defenses before hitting a bump in his career with a draw to Ray Beltran that he followed up with a loss to Terrence Crawford. The Beltran fight saw him have his jaw broken and subsequently operated on, and Crawford simply outboxed him on his way to a UD in Scotland. Burns is not the type of fighter who wants to take time off, and he is healed and is reported to be working very hard and to have rekindled his motivations. But at 31, with a lot of ring time under his belt, is that enough? The World Title Burns once had has gone international with Crawford, who now faces Cuban Yuriorkis Gamboa. Despite his long reigns as a Champion, he has never fought outside the UK and he is going to need to find another level if he is going to ever compete with the real world champions. If his last two outings have been the sign of the inevitable decrease in skill and precision that comes with age and wear, Zlaticanin may have a chance. After all, in venturing out of his native Montenegro for this opportunity, Zlaticanin has taken a major step in his development, and it is notable it is one that Burns has never had the guts to make. Burns is just resorting to what has worked for him in the past, and does not appear to be showing progress. But can you bet on the ‘dog, here? We will know on Friday!
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