RICKY Burns will have three big question marks hanging over his head when he climbs into the ring to face unbeaten Montenegrin Dejan Zlaticanin at the Braehead Arena on Friday night in a final eliminator for the WBC lightweight title.
How the former world champion at two weights answers those questions will determine whether he still has a career at the top level of championship boxing.
At 31, Burns is coming off a three- fight downward spiral that has left many questioning if a career that has over achieved has plateaued and started on the descent, so a good display is essential.
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The Scot badly under-performed 13 months ago against the elusive Puerto Rican Jose Gonzalez before winning on a late stoppage by sheer willpower. This was followed by a badly broken jaw and a fortunate draw against Mexican Raymundo Beltran in October before he was convincingly outpointed and outboxed by American Terence Crawford in March, a defeat that cost him his WBO lightweight title.
After those brutal encounters, Burns must also prove that the change of trainer that saw long-term coach Billy Nelson jettisoned in favour of Essex ring man Tony Sims offers signs that his boxing has only needed rejuvenation rather than complete resuscitation.
And, finally, Burns must deliver a crowd-pleasing performance that shows he is capable of dealing with the southpaw bête noir that has haunted his 13-year professional career. The good news is that the former WBO lightweight champion is determined to provide the right answers as he looks to negotiate a dangerous and unbeaten foe in order to gain a crack at Omar Figueroa's WBC title in the autumn.
"I have absolute belief that my best years are still ahead of me and I am determined to prove that point by winning a third world title," said Burns. "I know there are questions hanging over me and I know that I have to come up with the answers to them.
"What I want to do against Zlaticanin is provide a performance that makes a statement and really underlines the point that I still have a lot more to give.
"The main thing for me is that I have a point to prove to myself. I know there was criticism after the Gonzalez fight, also that the draw with Beltran was fortunate, and I admit I disappointed myself against Crawford. But no one is a bigger critic of me than I am and the determination to show that I can come again is what has been driving me on ahead of Friday night."
While Burns is adamant he still has plenty left, he is not down playing the importance of his change of trainer. It was a decision that was not made lightly, with Nelson having been ringside for all 10 of the Coatbridge boxer's world title bouts, only one of which had been lost.
He said: "The change of trainer was, in all honesty, maybe a year overdue. Tony Sims has come in with fresh eyes and different methods and the change has done me the world of good," Burns said. "But Tony has not looked to make massive changes, instead he has tweaked my style here and there and added little things. I feel a new sharpness to my work that has not been there for a couple of years.
"But I also think that being away from home at Tony's camp and working with people like Kevin Mitchell has been fantastic for me. There have been no distractions and although it has been tough being away from my family, it has allowed me to absorb what Tony has been trying to teach me that bit better. I think what you will see at Braehead will show that."
Yet, in Zlaticanin, Burns will face an unbeaten southpaw who knows that defeating the Scot will not only hand him his biggest scalp but also pave the way to a crack at a world title.
Burns has always found the southpaw riddle the toughest mystery to solve. His recent travails against the switch-hitting Crawford and Gonzalez showed that an unorthodox fighter badly upsets the rhythm of the rapier left jab which is Burns' most potent weapon.
But the former champion says it will be all right on fight night.
"I have had great sparring with some very big and powerful southpaws and I am 100% confident that the refinements I have made will allow me to take care of Zlaticanin. He may be an unbeaten fighter, but he has not fought at the level I have over the last four years and on Friday he will find out just what the difference is."