IF this was to be Ricky Burns’ last shot at the big time, it was a brutal way to sign off from the sport. The 36-year-old from Coatbridge is known for an approach to boxing which is miles removed from the machismo and posturing you see so frequently in this business but there was no more Mr Nice Guy as he went down in a bad tempered lightweight contest against his one-time sparring partner Lee Selby at the o2 in London last night. For all the supposed friendship between the two men, all the tricks in the book were deployed in this bout between these two world champions - late shots, head butts, elbowing and wrestling – and Burns was on the wrong end of most of it.

Now 36, and into his 52nd professional fight, a different side to this three-weight world champion from Coatbridge’s character came out here, not least at the end of the fifth round. Clearly unhappy with a few cheap shots from his Welsh opponent, not least a late blow towards the end of the round, he retaliated with an even later one of his own, catching Selby flush on the side of the head. With the o2 crowd on its feet in outrage, referee Bob Williams decided that a word with these two experienced pugilists would suffice and told them to get on with it. It is fair to say the official has had easier nights.

So too have the judges. Because this wasn’t an easy contest to score. Roared on by a huge Scottish contingent, Burns dominated the early running and rocked his opponent with a storming seventh round. But too often, the quicker, sharper fighter was Selby. There was a desperation in the Scot’s work in those last two rounds which suggested he knew he needed a big finish. When a majority decision came through, it was obvious that he didn’t quite get it. Of the judges, Steve Gray couldn’t separate the two men at 115-115, Howard Foster scoring it 116-112 to the Welshman and Scotland’s Victor Loughlin making it 116-113 to Selby.

As the crowd bayed their displeasure at the outcome, Burns typically admitted the result in good frace. But perhaps he was pondering his future again last night. Only he can decide whether it is approaching the time to hang up the gloves.

At times last night, no stranger to selling thousands of tickets in his own right, it seemed as though he had revelled in being back in the big time here, after a couple of low-key shows against Ivan Njegac or Scotty Cardle. He might have lived in London for five years now but he was roared into the ring by a sizeable, vocal contingent of his fellow Scots, raising his fist to acknowledge them before he setting about the task.

A previous world champion at super lightweight, lightweigh and super featherweight, he was certainly in pristine condition and doesn’t seem like a man who struggles unduly to make the weight even down a division. But this was a wounding eighth defeat to put on his resume, particularly given the circumstances. It is two years and counting since the defeat to Julius Indongo which saw him surrender the WBA Super Lightweight title and days like that seem further away than ever.

Elsewhere on the night, an emerging generation of young bucks were marking their territory. Lawrence Okolie, the 6ft 5in Rio Olympian, claimed the European cruiserweight title when the referee deemed that his Belgian opponent Yves Ngabu wasn’t fit to defend himself just two minutes and 28 seconds into round seven.

Connor Benn has been training with his 55-year-old father Nigel, who is back out of retirement, and it showed as the 23-year-old knocked Belgium’s Steve Jamoye out old to retain his WBA Continental welterweight title. Having had a point docked for persistent low blows, Benn continued to target his opponent’s body then felled him with a mighty blow as he finished affairs within regulation for the 14th time in his 16 pro fights to date. “I was angry, I was like it’s not my fault he is short, but the ref took a point off me.,” said Benn afterwards.