Since then the Scot has been involved in 14 world title fights, winning the WBO lightweight belt and the WBA’s light-welterweight crown.
He also lost four of those contests, most recently when Namibian Julius Ibdongo comprehensively outpointed him to take the latter title from him in a worryingly one-sided bout at Braehead six months ago.
On Saturday, the 34-year-old will meet Anthony Crolla, another opponent raging against the dying of the light, at the Manchester Arena.
There will be no belts on the line but the stakes could not be higher, with both men fighting for their futures on the global stage.
Crolla, four years younger than Burns, was the WBA lightweight champion until he lost to Venezuelan Jorge Linares 13 months ago and he was outclassed again in their rematch in March, with all three judges scoring the contest 118-109 for Linares.
Burns’ manager, Alex Morrison, concedes that this is an all-or-nothing fight for his man.
“It’s quite straightforward,” he said. “Ricky needs to win this fight. If he does – and I expect that he will – then he can have another world title shot.
“However, if he were to lose then he’d have nowhere left to go. I’m not sure what fights we could make for him if that was to happen.”
That, though, is a quandary Morrison does not anticipate having to deal with just yet, drawing succour from the thoroughness of his fighter’s preparations.
“He’s doing really well,” he said. “Ricky’s been down at trainer Tony Sims’ gym for the last three weeks and he’s already down to 139lbs – just 4lbs above the limit.
“That’s a good sign because, in some of his other fights when he’s had to move down a division, he’s tried to take the weight off in the last couple of days and that just drains you.
“Crolla’s camp insisted that this fight would take place at lightweight and I believe they think Ricky will be dead at the weight. But he’s trained properly and he’s feeling strong so I’m confident he can get the win.
“A plus for us is that, while Crolla throws a lot of punches, there’s no real power behind them. He’s never really been a big puncher.”
Morrison insists that victory would catapult Burns back up the ratings and provide him with the opportunity to become a world champion for the fourth time.
“Without a doubt, a win would put him in line for that,” he said. “I would imagine Ricky will want to move back up to light-welterweight but that choice will be his.”
Crolla, though, is determined to make home advantage count next weekend. Like his rival, he realises that the loser may never regain the momentum necessary to challenge again at the highest level.
“We’ve both been fighting at the highest level for a number of years now and, while whoever wins will go on to fight for world titles again, it’ll be a long, hard road back for the loser,” he said. “I’m not even thinking about that, though. I’m confident that, if I do everything right, I’ll be the winner. There’s been talk about me going in against Ricky since about 2011 so this is a fight fans have been waiting for.”
Crolla is so confident that he has published on Twitter details of an invitation-only post-fight celebration, complete with “celebrity guests”, at a local night club. Burns, though, intends to spoil that particular party.