Ricky Burns rediscovers spark to join Scottish ring greats
In a sport beset by tiresome braggadocio, Ricky Burns seems like an impostor.
With three defeats in his previous six bouts, the Scottish boxer's career seemed to be on the wane.
But his power, timing and focus returned in a supremely confident display at Glasgow's Hydro on Saturday night as he clinched the vacant WBA World Super-Lightweight title - and entered the record books as the first Scot to win world titles at three weights.
Italy's Michele Di Rocco, at 34 a year older than Burns, hadn't lost a fight since September 2007.
He arrived with a record of 40 wins and a draw from 42 bouts. He left a lesser figure.
The referee deemed the man from Assisi to be in no state to continue in the eighth round, the result of a welter of blows to his head and body and made all the more unbearable by the hostile acoustic energy generated by 8,000 Scottish fans.
Surely, for Burns, this was time to shout about his record, the ideal moment to counter all those who had written him off and questioned the wisdom of him leaving trainer Billy Nelson two years ago to work with Tony Sims in Essex?
Instead, the champion spoke of his disbelief at the ease of his victory, his gratitude that he was safe, of his thanks to promoter Eddie Hearn, manager Alex Morrison and coach Sim for believing in him, and of his desire to celebrate with a fast-food burger and 20 chicken nuggets.
"When I got in the ring after the fight, I said, 'You've done it! You've done it!'," reported a beaming Hearn at the post-fight media conference.
"And you know what Ricky said? 'Can you get a picture with me and Michael Buffer [the legendary American boxing ring announcer]?'"
When he has time to reflect during a well-earned holiday, Burns will take immense satisfaction at being only the third British-born fighter, after Bob Fitzsimmons and Duke McKenzie, to be a three-weight world champion.
In Scottish terms, his achievements must mean that he is in the very top tier of boxing greats, comfortably mentioned in the same breath as former world champions Benny Lynch, Walter McGowan, Jackie Paterson, Ken Buchanan and Jim Watt, for example.
Burns' record stands at 40 wins from 46 bouts. Remarkably, 11 of those have been world title fights.
'Big fights out there'
Buchanan's exploits in the United States add lustre to his legacy, but while Burns may never have fought someone like Roberto Duran, should Hearn manage to set up a bout against Cincinnati's Adrien Broner, the four-time world champion stripped of the WBA title because he could not make the weight, then Burns could achieve little more in the sport.
"There are some big fights out there for me," said Burns.
"I want to fight the top names. I will fight anybody. I do super-lightweight comfortably and lightweight is still an option. I would fight Terence Crawford again if it came down to it.
"That's nearly two years I have been with Tony and things have just started clicking.
"I had a bit of a bad run in the last year with stuff. Who'd have thought I'd be sitting here world champion again?"
Hearn said suitors could "make all the offers they want, we'll listen".
"If they want to come with a sack-load of money for Ricky to defend his title against Broner in Vegas, I'm sure there are a few Scots who would like a trip there as well."
At that point Burns quipped: "I'd be one of them."
The lovely thing is, you suspect Burns was speaking in the guise of a fan rather than that of a three-weight world champion who could enjoy a profitable title defence.