RICKY BURNS has admitted that his first defence of the WBO lightweight title against ring rival Kevin Mitchell will be the toughest fight of his career.
The duo have had a long running domestic feud over the years that has occasionally come to boiling point.
The fighters have even sparred – with Burns, by Mitchell's own admission, coming out on top – but when they meet for real at the SECC on September 22, Burns knows that he will face a gruelling examination of his credentials as a formidable two-weight world champion.
The Coatbridge-based boxer said: "I am preparing for 12 gruelling rounds. When you look at Kevin's record then you see he has 23 knock-outs on it.
"So no one can say he is not a big puncher but I will need to deal with that.
"I am coming off back-to-back world title wins and at a stage in my career where there is no such thing as an easy fight.
"But with Kevin we have known each other for so long and there is the whole domestic rivalry bit as well, so I expect this to be the toughest test of the lot.
"But this is what world championship boxing is all about and I can't wait to get it on."
One of the most eagerly-awaited fights in British boxing in recent years had originally been slated for the undercard of the David Haye versus Dereck Chisora heavyweight grudge fight at Upton Park on Saturday week.
However, Burns' spring wedding and subsequent honeymoon saw that option fall by the wayside and afforded the champion a home advantage he admits will be vital.
Burns said: "It is fantastic to have another fight in Glasgow and great that it is at the bigger venue of the SECC.
"The demand for tickets at the last fight at Braehead was unbelievable and it was a sell out so it is great we have the bigger venue.
"It would have been great to have had it on at Upton Park in front of 40,000 fans but it is even better that it is going ahead in Glasgow in front of my fans.
"Hopefully it will be a fight to remember."
Burns is planning a trip to Las Vegas ahead of the all-Brit bust up as he bids to take his level of preparation to a new high.
The 29-year-old said: "The plan is to have two weeks sparring in Scotland at the Fighting Scots Gym and then head out to Vegas for four weeks.
"I have always wanted to spar over there and what we will do is make sure that the best guys out there in Vegas are available.
"Billy Nelson my trainer will come out with me and I guess it will be a learning experience for both of us. But it is about making sure I am in the best possible condition I can be."
For his part Mitchell was respectful of the champion but dismissive that one infamous sparring session would have any significance when the pair lace-up in September while also acutely aware of the ramifications of defeat for himself.
The Dagenham Destroyer said: "Ricky was too strong for me. I had just come back and I wasn't fit or strong enough.
"However, I don't have any problems with that and we both know that will have no bearing on our world title fight.
"I think this will be a long distance fight and I think there could be spells in it when we are toe-to-toe and when we are boxing at distance.
"Basically this is win-or-bust for me. I don't want to go back to square one and I am determined not to do that."
Indeed, the true level of expectancy and excitement surrounding a Burns versus Mitchell bout in fight circles was clear for everyone to hear in the voice of promoter Frank Warren.
He said: "For me this is not only the best fight in British boxing but one of the best out there anywhere in the world right now.
"It is a real tough call to make between two world class fighters."
The fight will be covered live on Box Nation and tickets are available priced £50, £75, £100, £150 and £200 ringside on 0844 249 1000.