Terence Crawford, a sharp American with a scathing left jab, reduced Burns to a sense of despair, and even before the scores were announced at Glasgow's SECC last night, Burns knew he had been beaten.
Crawford took the WBO lightweight title, having won the fight 116-112, 117-111, 116-112, and Burns was left only with an understanding that he had come up short. Gracious in defeat - this was his 10th world title fight - Burns immediately signalled he was not yet ready to hang up his gloves and hopes his opponent will offer him a money-spinning rematch, possibly in his American homeland where he is touted as The Next Big Thing.
Burns, whose jaw was badly broken in his last fight against Raymundo Beltran, refused to hide behind psychological excuses and said: "The best man won on the night. It was a tricky fight, very awkward. I felt it was hard to get my shots off. But I proved I can take a punch. This is not the end. There are some good fights out there for me at world level, but my first thought is the rematch with Terence."
No one in the 10,000 crowd could have disagreed with the judges. The final rounds especially were a mixture of desperation and hope. Burns sought the telling blow that would stop an opponent who had steadily, decisively, racked up enough points to feel confident. They exhanged pleasantries at the start of the final round, but tellingly it was Crawford who took the ascendancy, attacking with power and intent. Burns, as he often had been, was forced on to the defensive.
Burns had walked to the ring seeking redemption. In the dark recess of the back of the hall, he would have felt again the surging, raucous support of a home crowd. They were willing him to prevail, out of a sense of kinship, but also recognising that his previous two fights had been disappointing, the Beltran draw in particular over generous.
Crawford brought with him a hype that was based on an unbeaten 22-fight career. This was his first fight outside America, though, and hostility poured on to him from the 10,000 crowd, in which the handful of small America flags looked helplessly futile in response.
They sized each other up in the opening rounds, as if both eager and anxious. Crawford carried a potent left jab, but Burns landed body shots, too. One jab prompted a grin from the American. But the contest was balanced on a thin edge that often fell in the American's favour.
By the third round, Crawford was beginning to relish the bout, fighting with a wide grin. Burns was working behind his jab, measured, controlled, while the American was more lithe, less predictable, quick and dangerous.
When Burns landed a clean right hand, it was the precursor to a series of heavy blows from his opponent. A flurry pushed Burns back on to the ropes and briefly into survival mode. The danger of Crawford was apparent.
By the middle of the fight, Crawford had the lead on points. Burns was methodical, dogged, but his opponent was wily and elusive, with quick, fierce hands. Not for the first time, Burns needed to dredge up something devastating, something full-blooded, from a moment of doubt. This time, though, he fell short.
A contrast preceded Burns. Anthony Joshua, the Olympic gold medallist, stood tall, broad, muscular and imposing. His heavyweight opponent, the Argentinean Hector Alfredo Avila, lolled around the ring, overweight and lumbering.
There was no contest once the fight began. Joshua found his range, Avila never landed a meaningful blow, and one heavy left hand rocked the Argentinean, and seemed to confirm the anxiety that he carried into the ring. After a barrage on the ropes, Joshua stepped back before landing a thudding blow to Avila's head, collapsing him in a heap, where he was counted out.
The crowd were able to loosen up their patriotism before then, when John Simpson came out to face John Murray. Yet even the home support could not limit the disparity between the Greenock boxer and his opponent from Manchester, and the contest was quickly exposed as a mis-match for Simpson, who was floored three times by body blows in the second round before the referee stopped the contest.
Paul Appleby showed some of the old grit and spikiness that once marked him out as a boxer of some potential. He drew Scott Cardle, considered one of the rising lightweight talents, into a fight that was often scrappy, sometimes bloody, and always intriguing. As the bout progressed, though, it was Cardle who grew stronger. Aggressive in the eighth and final round, he floored Appleby who was already behind on points, and the referee called a halt.