RICKY BURNS' return to the ring may have to be delayed after the world lightweight champion revealed he has had no feeling in the lower part of his right jaw since it was broken in his controversial points win over Raymundo Beltran three months ago.
Burns' promoter, Eddie Hearn, hopes the 30-year-old will be fit to make a mandatory defence of his WBO crown against undefeated American Terence Crawford at Glasgow's SSE Hydro Arena on February 8.
But Hearn has wisely taken the precaution of pencilling in three more dates prior to the March 7 WBO defence deadline. He may even seek to persuade the WBO to extend their deadline once the result of a fresh scan of Burns' shattered jaw is known later this week.
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"The bottom part of my jaw is still numb," Burns revealed. "I am told the feeling will eventually return but I don't know exactly when. But it's not causing me a problem.
"I have been back training for several weeks and I am feeling fit. But naturally I am keen to find out how my jaw stands up to sparring although I am confident that won't be an issue."
Burns had a titanium plate inserted in his jaw to assist the healing process, and that is likely to remain in place for the foreseeable future. The Coatbridge fighter displayed remarkable courage when he boxed for 10 rounds against Beltran in excruciating pain after the Mexican inflicted the damage early in their bout at the SECC in September.
But even Burns was forced to admit: "When I am standing in my corner just before the bell sounds I ask myself, 'what makes me do this?'
"But once the fights starts the doubts instantly disappear and I have only one thought in my mind: winning."