IF there were belts handed out for unassuming modesty then Ricky Burns would be boxing’s perennial undisputed world champion.

In a sport where the biggest fights often go the way of those vainglorious attention-seekers who make the most noise, Burns has reached the very top on the back of an unstinting commitment to humility and quiet industry.  

There is still life in the 36 year-old yet – he plans on marking his upcoming birthday by running a marathon – but the temporary cessation of sporting combat feels like a good time to run an eye over the Coatbridge fighter’s achievements this far.

“An up-and-down career,” is his typically understated assessment of a boxing CV that includes becoming Scotland’s only world champion in three separate weight divisions.

Given his career longevity, stellar record and blemish-free reputation outside of the ring, Burns ought to be a name known in every Scottish household. That he isn’t he reckons is largely down to his own personal choice.

“Boxing fans always know who I am and if you’re out and about you do get people stopping you for a photo or whatever,” he reveals.

“But I get embarrassed by all that as I’m not really into that side of things. It’s always nice that folk want to say hello but I just feel a bit self-conscious.

“I just like to keep myself to myself. I’m always being told people are on Twitter calling me out or wanting a fight but I’ve never bothered with any of that stuff.”

Fellow world champion Josh Taylor recently hailed Burns as an inspiration for lighting the path that others like him have followed. Even then, though, the older man is wary of taking any credit for others’ success.

“Josh has done really well and I can see him stepping up to welterweight and becoming world champion at that weight too,” he says.

“It’s nice to hear other boxers saying they’ve been inspired by what I’ve done. But, even after I won my world titles, I was never one for showing off or putting my name out there. It wasn’t really my style.

“I would maybe go down to my old amateur club for a chat and a wee bit of sparring. It was just good to talk to them and let them see that if they put the work in then who knows where they can go.”

Not that Burns has been following his successors’ progress too closely. Boxing is a vocation and not a hobby so when he’s not working, he’s usually not watching.

“I don’t really watch a lot of boxing or any sport to be honest. I was more into football when I was younger but now I don’t really bother as much. If it’s a big fight or guys I train with I’ll maybe tune in. But apart from that I don’t really follow it that closely.

“To me it’s my job and I give it everything when I’m doing it. It’s just not something I pay a lot of attention to in my spare time.”

Instead, he keeps himself occupied with other pursuits. Motorbikes has been an enduring passion although at the moment his latest model isn’t getting much of a run-out.

“My missus, and my family and friends all say I’m off my nut but motorbikes are one of those things that if you like them it’s good fun. When I first got this one I was out and about everywhere. But now it’s just if we need anything from the shops. I’ll chuck a backpack on and head over.”

Escapism is a common theme in his leisure activities. A regular post-fight reward is a camping trip up north with a group of close pals.

“We’ll maybe go to Loch Carron, Loch Beinn Eighe or Lochearnhead. It’s not that far and it’s always a good laugh when we get away. When I’m with my pals I can relax and just be one of the boys.”

It’s approaching a decade since his breakthrough moment when he defeated the previously unbeaten Roman Martinez in September 2010 to claim his first world title. A partisan crowd at Glasgow’s Kelvin Hall feared the worst in the early stages before Burns doggedly battled on to claim the WBO super-featherweight belt.

“The thing I remember is in the first round I got clipped early on and went down. It was more of a flash knockdown. When I was on my arse I looked around the crowd and could just see everyone putting their heads in their hands thinking I was done! But I knew I was alright and could keep going. Everybody was writing me off before that fight saying I would get knocked out. It’s always good to prove people wrong.”

Burns wants at least one more big fight in Glasgow before he finally bows out with aspirations of opening a gym and training the next crop of talent coming through. He will do so harbouring few regrets.

“When I first started boxing I was about 11 or 12 and there was a gym 100 yards from my house. From the first day I went down there I knew that boxing was all that I wanted to do.

“I’ve just always loved fighting. I’ve never bothered with who it was against. All I’ve ever needed to know is the date and what weight. And then I was good to go.”