IT was inevitable that the subject of Ricky Burns' broken jaw would become a topic for detailed discussion in the build-up to tomorrow night's world championship fight against the undefeated American Terence Crawford.
Six months after suffering the injury at the hands of the Mexican Raymundo Beltran, Burns returns to the ring at the SECC in Glasgow for his 10th world title contest amid unanswered questions about his capacity to withstand further sustained punishment to the right side of his face.
If the WBO lightweight champion from Coatbridge is to be believed, the injury is not an issue, either in a physical sense or a mental one. But Crawford's trainer, Brian McIntyre disagreed at yesterday's head-to-head press conference.
"I'm sure the jaw is a weakness and I think it's more mental than anything," McIntyre said. "Ricky says he has tested it in camp but it's alright saying that when you have big gloves and headgear on.
"When you only have eight-ounce gloves on and nothing but skin on your jaw, with the power that Terence generates I believe it's going to be a lot bigger test than he expects.
"It's going to be a real shock, that first punch he takes from Terence. He's going to have to adjust and we all know what Burns does when he gets into trouble: he holds and he runs and I feel he might have to go back to his plan B or C."
But Burns moved quickly in an effort to dismiss suggestions that he has been scarred by the career- threatening injury, into which he had a titanium plate.
He 30-year-old said: "I've taken more than a few good skelps on [the jaw] sparring and all I am focusing on is the job at hand. I have no fears about my jaw.
"For six weeks I have had unbelievable quality of sparring, starting off with David Brophy, who is a big, big guy. Then I did a week in London sparring Kevin Mitchell, Martin Ward and Luke Campbell as well.
"I also did three weeks sparring with Lee Selby, Tyrone Nurse and Terry Flannigan, all of them very good. My jaw took plenty of punishment and it seems to be holding up.
"I didn't use full face headgear either, just the type with cheek protectors, and the jaw is there to be hit, so I've put it firmly to the back of my mind.
"I know what to expect [against Crawford] - a very hard fight. But I have everything covered for whatever's coming my way and I'll be ready to deal with it."
However, McIntyre is adamant Burns' reign is about to end in front of a 10,000 sell-out crowd. He added "Whatever business you're in, someone eventually comes and takes your spot. It's the cycle of boxing, like the cycle of life, and this is Terence's time now.
"I think Ricky will be surprised by just how elusive Terence is. He's hard to hit, he has fast hands, quick feet and quick, sudden movements.
"I feel like, if the knockout is there, Terence is definitely going to go for it. If not, he's prepared to go the 12 rounds, outbox him, stalk him down, counter-punch, take the lead, whatever he needs to do to win the fight."