Raymundo Beltran to pose biggest challenge to Ricky Burns

Sports Mole takes a look at whether Ricky Burns can defend his WBO lightweight title against Raymundo Beltran in Glasgow on Saturday night.

Scotland's WBO lightweight champion Ricky Burns returns to action on Saturday evening for the fourth defense of his world title against experienced Mexican Raymundo Beltran.

The likeable Scot had seen off the challenges of Paulus Moses and Kevin Mitchell during 2012, before being taken to the limit by South American combatant Jose Gonzalez in May.

It was a shaky performance from Burns, who did well to come through a gruelling seven rounds before fighting back against his opponent who retired from the bout through injury despite being ahead on the scorecards.

Burns admitted that he was far from his best against the Puerto Rican fighter, and while that might have been true, it exposed frailties in the Scot's style that will only encourage Beltran on Saturday evening.

Gonzalez had been deemed as a fringe contender by Burns's camp, but for the majority of the fight, he out-boxed someone who has relied on his boxing ability to pull him through many of the matches during his 38-fight career.

Beltran is a classy operator who, despite six professional losses, has only been stopped once since 2001, and that came almost five years ago.

The Mexican has established himself as one of the leading names in what is becoming a packed lightweight division, and his shot at a world title has long been in the pipeline.

Like Burns, he doesn't hold the greatest knockout record, but given he is likely to be able to avoid a stoppage due to Burns's lack of power, that should allow him to attack the Scot, like Gonzalez did before suffering a problem with his wrist.

Ricky Burns celebrates his victory over Jose Gonzalez during their World WBO Lightweight Championship bout on May 11, 2013© Getty Images

But the Lanarkshire man has built a livelihood with gutsy displays that have dug him out of the trenches when the going has got tough, and while Beltran will likely come out of the traps the faster of the two, a narrow points victory for Burns in front of his home crowd looks the most likely outcome.

If Burns comes though against Beltran, promoter Eddie Hearn has already talked up the possibility of potential unification clashes or an American debut against WBO mandatory Terrence Crawford.

Crawford has captured the imagination of Stateside supporters with a string of knockout successes, while recording a unanimous decision over Breidis Prescott, who famously defeated Amir Khan inside a minute in 2008.

Despite not holding a world title, the undefeated star is regarded by many as the top fighter at 135lbs, which would likely see Hearn push for a unification showdown with Miguel Vasquez in December.

That, too, would take Burns to the limit, but what it would do is provide the 30-year-old with further world-class opposition, and if he could beat Beltran and Vasquez, Crawford would lie ahead early in 2014.

Of course, it is all ifs and buts until we find out whether Burns can get the job done in Glasgow on Saturday night, and it's a certainty that he will have to improve on the performance that he delivered against Gonzalez.

But a composed showing from the Scot can open the door to the big-money fights that he has craved since becoming the WBO title holder in 2011, with a Madison Square Garden date with Crawford the ultimate goal.

Ricky Burns celebrates his victory over Jose Gonzalez during their World WBO Lightweight Championship bout on May 11, 2013
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