RICKY BURNS says the ultimate proof of his ability to overcome the jaw injury which almost cost him his world title will come in sparring.
The WBO lightweight champion suffered a broken jaw in the second round of his last title defence against big-hitting Mexican-American Raymundo Beltran.
Burns now has no sensation in the part of his jaw where a titanium plate was inserted - especially when he is eating or shaving.
Although he has been cleared to continue boxing, Burns admits the first big punch to come his way in sparring will provide the acid test of his ability to carry on regardless at world title level and determine whether his projected re-match with Beltran will go ahead in Glasgow next February as planned.
The WBO lightweight champion said: "I have started light training, just to tick over, but it will be a few weeks before I am back in full sparring - maybe in December.
"I will break myself in by sparring lightly and maybe start with some guys who are not big hitters.
"Once I get the exact date for the re-match with Beltran we will look to step up the sparring. It will be then, when I take the first big shot, that I will know if all will be fine.
"I guess until that happens there will always be that bit of worry but I'm confident it will be okay and the doctors have assured me of that.
"I have another check up with a doctor coming shortly but basically it makes no difference if the titanium plate stays in or is taken out.
"If it has to come out I will require another operation and that is something I don't need, so we will just let it be."
THE necessity of having to box on the back foot - essentially in survival mode for 10 rounds after his jaw was broken - unsurprisingly hampered Burns' performance against Beltran in September.
It is to the Coatbridge fighter's great credit that he saw the fight through and even though the verdict of a draw was a surprise - a case of fortune favouring the brave - it meant few begrudged the champion holding on to his belt.
Burns' sense of what is right also came shining to the fore in his determination to give Beltran the chance to prove he is indeed the better man with a second bite at the world-title cherry.
The Scot insists that come February, Beltran will find himself in a completely different fight.
Burns said: "What happened to my jaw in the second round dictated the whole fight but it will be different this time round.
"I spent almost all of that fight thinking how can I get through this. Next time around, without an injury like that, Beltran will find me a totally different prospect."
Meanwhile Burns' manager Alex Morrison has thanked restaurateur Rai Singh - of the IvyIndia restaurant in Newton Mearns - for sponsoring his show at Kilmarnock Grand Hall, on Saturday. It sees former Commonwealth champion Craig Docherty launch his comeback.
Morrison said: "Sponsorship makes a real difference to provincial shows like this and we are delighted to welcome Rai on board and are very grateful for his help.
"It was a deal we didn't have to go looking for because Rai is obviously passionate about his boxing.
"We are looking at a 500 sell-out with some fine local talent involved - such as Ryan Collins and Michael Jameson.
"Showcasing local talent is what these shows are all about and the people of Kilmarnock are in for a treat."