Anthony Crolla and Ricky Burns meet Saturday in a clash of boxing’s Mr. Nice Guys — neither of whom you will ever hear trash talking.
Neither boxer can afford to lose after suffering defeats in world title fights in their last outings and England versus Scotland sporting clashes are always emotional.
But despite the cross-border rivalry and what is at stake for both boxers, the pair have remained respectful ahead of their non-title lightweight bout at the Manchester Arena.
It has bucked a trend of pre-fight pantomimes of expletive-filled slanging matches between boxers. From Floyd Mayweather Jr against Conor McGregor to British heavyweights David Haye versus Tony Bellew, the pre-fight war of words has become increasingly frequent before big fights.
“Anyone who knows boxing knows this is a proper fight, it won’t take away from the atmosphere or the size of the fight that we don’t trash-talk,” Crolla told ESPN.
“It’s a trade fight and fans know that forget the trash talk, the pair of us will leave all of it in the ring and shake hands before and after the fight, rather than intimidating each other and trash talking and then cuddling each other in the ring after the fight.
“There’s too much trash-talk. Sure there are genuine grudge matches but it’s not my style and I think very few of the trash talk fights are genuine.
“Joshua-Klitschko was a proper fight and they were very respectful of each other before and after. Me and Ricky don’t need trash-talking, we are both above trash-talking and couldn’t do it if we tried.
“With Mayweather and McGregor, they were making you believe it was hatred. I went to the press conference in London because I’m a big fan of both of them and I sat there and watched the show from the front row.
“I’ve never done trash-talking myself and I wouldn’t be very good at it to be honest. I would get told off by my parents if I behaved like that.”
Despite the lack of hype, Crolla and Burns are popular figures among British boxing fans and have remained close to their roots.
Burns (41-6-1, 14 KOs) was still working part-time at a sports shop in Coatbridge despite being a world champion while Crolla (31-6-3, 13 KOs) suffered career-threatening injuries — a fractured skull and broken ankle in two places — when he interrupted burglars at a neighbour’s house and was then attacked in the street.
Their personalities have helped increase interest in their careers, but the loser of Saturday’s non-title fight faces an uncertain future.
“It’s a tough road back for the loser and I don’t know if the loser will retire or not, but I’m under no illusions,” Crolla said.
“You are only ever a few wins away from a title fight and for the loser of this fight, it would be much tougher for them to get a world title fight again.
“The pair of us could have fights back on the undercard if we lose this, but we’re not interested in that and we want to be in proper fights. I respect Ricky Burns for that and I think likewise.”
Crolla has lost his last two fights to Venezuela’s Jorge Linares, who beat another Briton Luke Campbell last month.
The 30-year-old made one defence of the WBA world lightweight title before losing the belt to Linares via a unanimous points decision, which was the same outcome when they met again on March 25.
“Win this fight and I will be back in world title contention,” Crolla said.
“I believe I can win a world title again and I would be happy to fight any of the world champions. Luke Campbell is a possibility in the future because we are both with the same promoter [Eddie Hearn] but first of all it’s Ricky Burns.”