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Burns cleared to resume sparring

ANY lingering doubts about the future of world champion Ricky Burns would appear to have been removed with the announcement that the World Boxing Organisation lightweight title-holder has been given the go-ahead to resume sparring.

Burns, from Coatbridge, suffered a broken right jaw in the most recent defence of his crown, when he fought against Mexican Raymundo Beltran at the SECC in September.

Such was the extent of the injury, inflicted in the second round that the 30-year-old Scot had to undergo surgery to have a titanium plate fitted to hold his jaw in place. Doctors have since reassured the boxer that his jaw is healing after studying fresh scans of the injury, albeit he still has no feeling in the lower right-hand area of his face.

Burns - who would retain his title against Beltran after the bout was controversially ruled a draw - is now waiting to find out exactly when he will make a mandatory title defence against undefeated American Terence Crawford.

"Ricky has been given the all-clear by his doctors and everything seems fine," said Alex Morrison, Burns' manager. "His jaw has more or less fully healed although the plate will probably stay in place permanently. We are just waiting for confirmation of a date for the Crawford fight. It looks likely to be the middle of February or maybe the end of that month."

Promoter Eddie Hearn has provisionally booked the 12,000-capacity SSE Hydro Arena in Glasgow for February 8 but has wisely taken the precaution of also pencilling in three more dates on successive Saturdays prior to the WBO's March 7 deadline.

"I won't know how my jaw will react until I get hit, but I am now focused on beginning my preparations," said Burns. "As soon as a date is confirmed, we'll know when to start sparring so I can test my jaw. But the longer I can leave it the better, although I won't be happy until my jaw has been hit a couple of times.

"Sparring-wise, things won't change, although I'll maybe start off against some lighter guys for the first week or so. But the hard sparring five or six weeks before the fight will be the same as always. There will be no holding back."

One boxer who has altered the parameters of his next bout is Vitali Klitchko, with the World Boxing Council heavyweight champion last night announcing that he is to step away from the sport in order to fight for the presidency in Ukraine. The 42-year-old - whose boxing record stands at 45-2 with 41 knockouts - has been appointed 'champion emeritus' by the WBC following the decision.

That has left the WBC heavyweight title vacant, but Klitschko will be able to return to the ring to fight for it in the future. The Ukrainian last night acknowledged that his political ambitions makes that unlikely.

As leader of the Ukrainian Democratic Alliance for Reform and a member of his county's parliament, he has been involved in the ongoing political crisis in his home country, where pro-European demonstrators have staged large-scale protests in Kiev against president Viktor Yanukovych's refusal to sign a deal for closer integration with the European Union.

Klitschko has confirmed that he intends to run for presidency. "Right now, my full concentration is on politics in Ukraine, and I feel that the people need me there," he said.

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