RICKY BURNS jokes he is young for his age of not-quite 30, but the World Boxing Organisation lightweight champion from Coatbridge is displaying a growing maturity in and out of the ring.

He demonstrated one side of this with his gracious manner and unwavering patience during two hours of relentless questioning by the media yesterday.

Pancho Villa's Mexican restaurant in the heart of Glasgow's Merchant City was an appropriate setting, given that Burns' third title defence, at Wembley Arena on March 16, will be against Miguel Vazquez, the 26-year-old International Boxing Federation champion from Guadalajara.

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According to Burns, his target of 100 fights before he hangs up his gloves is still achievable, albeit he is 63 short of that ambitious number just two months shy of his 30th birthday. "I turned pro when I was 19 and it feels like I have been fighting for ever," Burns said. "My pals wind me up when I talk about having 100 fights, but I don't feel any different now than I did back then.

"As far as I'm concerned age is just a number and I will keep on boxing as long as I am not getting hurt, so 100 is still on the cards. I regard myself as an immature 30."

Fitness will clearly be a factor in determining the outcome of next month's potentially explosive unification bout but Burns has no fears on that score and neither does he fear any of his lightweight rivals, declaring: "I have never been afraid of losing so long as I give 100% in the ring.

"If I get beaten by the better man, so be it. However, I will be doing everything in my power from the first bell to make sure that doesn't happen. But I don't want to talk about making history because that sort of chat only increases the pressure."

Burns has already spent a week training in temperatures of -16˚C in Norway to help his former ring rival Andreas Evensen prepare for a forthcoming European title bout.

"According to the locals, it was colder than usual and I had to go running with a scarf over my face because even the condensation iced up straight away," Burns said. "But it was an ideal start to my training camp."

Burns last fought in September when he destroyed Kevin Mitchell inside four rounds but he is adamant he has not lost any of his sharpness.

He added: "My fight being called off in December was disappointing, but this one more than makes up for it because I want to fight the big names and I've got my wish. After having a wee break, which my body needed, I have left myself plenty of time to prepare properly.

"The next six weeks will be torture, sparring with welterweights to begin with before we bring in lightweights who are similar in style to Vazquez, but I set the bar higher, fitness-wise, training for Mitchell and I am maintaining the same levels."