RICKY Burns may have gone to Las Vegas to lick his wounds following his disastrous defeat at the hands of Dejan Zlaticanin, but it looks like the chips are stacked high against his hopes of claiming a third world title.The Montenegrin had been expected to play the part of a stepping stone in Burns' bid to get back into world-title action, but instead the split margins of 115-113, 113-115, 115-113 gave Zlaticanin the biggest victory of his unbeaten career and paved his way to a challenge for Mexican Omar Figueroa's WBC title.
Now, should Burns elect to fight on following his sojourn in the Nevada sun, an all-Scottish battle against former WBO featherweight champion Scott Harrison - who should have his boxing licence restored this week - looks like being the best bet of reigniting his career.
The former two-weight WBO world champion was too distraught to talk in the aftermath of a defeat that was built on his inability to slip Zlaticanin's wrecking-ball left hook. A punch dropped the Scot just seconds into the opening round and repeatedly hurt Burns and neutralised any momentum he attempted to build in a full-bloodied affair at the Braehead Arena.
Now Burns' promoter Eddie Hearn has admitted that Harrison may be the only show in town for his charge.
"Should, as we expect, Scott Harrison have his licence re-granted, then that may be the only fight for Ricky in Scotland. It is a fight that would still sell-out any arena north of the border and one that has been talked about potentially for the last few years," said Hearn.
"But I also like the idea of taking Ricky away from Glasgow and the pressure of performing in Scotland. Every time he fights here the expectation is so high and maybe we will look to remove him from that.
"A fight with Harrison would be a great way back for Ricky as now he is probably three fights away from a world title and has to work his way back in. But there are other big domestic fights out there for him and realistically that is what we are now looking at for Ricky."
The most worrying aspect of Burns' defeat was his continued inability to slip the left hook, a shot that has done more to damage his career than any other.
Since day one of his professional career, Burns has always held his head high and carried his right hand low, a trait harking back to his decorated Amateur days.
In his last four fights he has successively been befuddled by Jose Gonzalez, had his jaw broken by Raymundo Beltran, been rocked by Terence Crawford and spectacularly dropped by Zlaticanin before being repeatedly buzzed by the Montenegrin, all from the left hook.
What makes Burns' inability to slip the shot all the more alarming is that he left long-term trainer Billy Nelson to join the vaunted stable of Essex trainer Tony Sims three months ago to try to remove such a glaring fallibility.
Hearn admitted he was baffled by his boxer's continued flaw.
"I can't expect him to change overnight. Ricky has only been working with Tony Sims for three months and it will take time to change a lifetime's habit.
"The minute the fight was over Ricky told me he was desperate to get back in the gym and fix it. But he will take a holiday and have time to reflect and when he gets back we will sit down with Alex Morrison and see where Ricky wants to go from here."