The death of welterweight contender Mike Towell last weekend provided some perspective, if it were required, for Ricky Burns as he prepares to make the first defence of his WBA light-welterweight title against Kyril Relikh at Glasgow’s SSE Hydro on Friday.
In the circumstances, defeat for the champion would be a disappointment rather than a tragedy, although it would still represent the biggest – and, possibly, final – setback of his career.
Should Burns retain his belt, his next fight will be in Las Vegas against former champion Adrian “The Problem” Broner. A £1 million purse awaits Burns but Relikh, from Belarus, also has his eyes on that prize.
“Burns will not be fighting Broner because, for that to take place, he would need to beat me first and that is not going to happen,” said the 26-year-old.
“So I will take Ricky’s title and then I will fight Broner and I will stop him as well. That is my destiny. I am not being disrespectful to the other fighters when I say this – I am just better than they are.”
Relikh is trained by former two-division world champion Ricky Hatton and he has an air of the Hitman about him. He was won all 21 of his contests, 19 of them by knockout and he believes he has the power to upset the odds this weekend.
“I’m very confident going into this fight but I have always believed in my own ability – the first time I met Ricky Hatton I wanted to get into the ring with him!” he claimed.
“Someone asked me yesterday who my favourite boxer is and I said: ‘Me.’ That’s how good I think I am.
“The only other boxer I believe to be on the same level as me at the moment is Gennady Golovkin and I want to emulate what he has done.
“He has had 33 KOs in 36 fights and that’s the type of fighter I am. I’ve come here not just to beat Ricky Burns but to stop him.
“I predict that I will end the fight in six rounds. I know that he is a tough man and that he boxed on with a broken jaw in an earlier fight so I will probably need to knock him out anyway.
“However, that’s what I intend to do every time I step into a ring so this will be no different. Ricky is in for a hard night.
“I know that he is a great fighter but I will prove that I am even greater. It isn’t possible for him to win this bout.”
An obvious caveat would be that Relikh’s opponents constitute a Who’s That of boxing, a fact he openly acknowledges.
“You might not recognise the names of the opponents I have fought and this will be the first time I have met a world champion but I will be leaving Glasgow with the belt,” he said.
“We have studied DVDs of Burns in his other fights and he likes to run. Unfortunately for him, I like to fight and that is what we will be doing on Friday.
“I want this bout to be a war and I will make it one. As a boxer, all you can do is beat the people they put in front of you and I have been doing that for the last five-and-a-half years, knocking everyone down.
“Burns is clearly a brave man but he won’t have experienced anything like the power I have in my fists, which is why he won’t be able to last the distance against me.
“Ricky Hatton pointed out that Burns has been in with better fighters than me and that is true, I can’t deny that. However, he will discover on Friday night that I am better than all of them.”
As for Burns, he is aware that, for his own sake, he cannot afford to think too far ahead.
“People keep asking me about Broner,” he said.
“That’s all that people want to talk about. I know if this goes well then it could be a possible next fight – and I know he’s coming over to Glasgow on Friday.
“I’ve always said I’d love to fight in Las Vegas. I’ve been there on holiday but not during a big fight week – I’ve only ever seen Garth Brooks.
“But there’s no point talking about America; I’ve got a hard fight ahead of me first against Relikh. Never mind all the Broner stuff – I need to deal with Relikh first.”