RICKY Burns, the world lightweight champion from Coatbridge, appears set to return to the ring early in the new year after being given an assurance that he will make a full recovery from the injury that threatened his career.
According to his surgeon, Burns has no obvious cause for concern after recent X-rays confirmed that the jaw bone that was shattered by Mexican Ray Beltran last month has knitted perfectly.
But the 30-year-old confessed: “Obviously I am going to get hit again and I won’t know for certain what effect that will have until it happens. But I will have another X-ray before I start sparring to put my mind at ease that the break has completely healed.”
Beltran inflicted the damage during the second round of the pair’s world title contest at the SECC in Glasgow where, amazingly, Burns survived for ten rounds to retain his title, by dint of a draw.
There were howls of protest from the challenger’s camp and general condemnation of the scoring after Beltran had appeared to prevail by at least two rounds.
Confirming that his surgeon has assured him that his jaw will eventually regain full strength, Burns also admitted for the first time yesterday that he feared his career might be over.
He said: “For a couple of days immediately after the fight I kept asking myself, ‘Am I going to be able to box again?’
“It was very much on my mind that fighting is my job and a broken jaw is the last thing a boxer wants.
“I was also asking myself, ‘Can I put myself through that again?’ The pain was excruciating and, looking back, I don’t know how I managed to get through it. It was the longest fight of my life and when they took me to hospital they gave me morphine but not even that dulled the pain.”
Surgeons had to insert a steel plate in Burns’ lower jaw and it was a further two weeks before he got the news he was praying for, that his injury was healing.
However, Burns knows that while he is over the worst, he has still to find out if his jaw is strong enough to withstand heavy punches.
He could also be left with a lasting legacy of numbness in his lower mouth and jaw. He added: “Due to the fact that I carried on boxing, the bone was rubbing on the main nerve and that caused damage.
“The area is numb as if I had been given an injection by the dentist to freeze that part of my face and I’ve been warned that there is only a 50-50 chance that the feeling will come back.
“I hope to start training in four or five weeks and once I have taken a couple of big shots, fingers crossed, I can forget about it knowing that if the same thing happens in a fight I’ll be alright.” The WBO has installed American Terrence Crawford as the mandatory challenger, but Burns is desperate to give Mexican Beltran a rematch in an effort to set the record straight.
He added: “Beltran deserves a rematch. I also want to put the doubts to rest after taking a lot of stick on Facebook and Twitter.
“People should remember it wasn’t me who judged the fight and from the second round on I had to do what was necessary to survive and it would have been a totally different fight if the injury hadn’t happened.”