Can Ricky Burns fully recover from a broken jaw?

After breaking his jaw against Raymundo Beltran last month, Sports Mole assesses whether WBO lightweight champion Ricky Burns can fully recover from the injury.

Last month WBO lightweight champion Ricky Burns managed to earn a controversial draw with Mexican challenger Raymundo Beltran, with the decision to deny the latter a deserved victory soon hitting the boxing headlines around the world.

However, the real story emerged after the conclusion of their encounter in Glasgow as it was revealed that Burns had fought for over 10 rounds with a badly broken jaw that required surgery in the immediate aftermath of the fight.

It appears as though the 30-year-old will be cleared to return to the ring early in 2014 to defend his world title, but will the Scot ever be able to compete in the same fashion again after being taken to the limit by Beltran?

Earlier this week, Burns spoke openly about fearing for his career when the pain of the injury failed to subside after being giving morphine in hospital, but it's those kind of revelations that throw open the suggestion that Burns will be required to overcome a psychological battle in order to perform to his potential.

It's a natural instinct that Burns will be wary of the injury when he begins sparring again, but it will reach a point where it will need to come through some significant punishment. At what point do you test his jaw, or do you test it at all before fight night? And if it hasn't been tested, how does Burns approach his next fight?

Ricky Burns stands in the ring after his fight with Raymundo Beltran on September 7, 2013© Getty Images

Burns is indicating that he will only know if he can remain in the sport after sparring sessions, but even if his jaw doesn't react well, the two-weight world champion possesses the kind of character that will be eager to go out at the top, rather than be forced to walk away in such circumstances.

Despite taking the severe injury into account, Burns looked a shadow of his normal self against Beltran, and it was coming on the back of a hard-earned win over Jose Gonzalez, who was ahead of the scorecards before retiring on his stool with a hand injury.

But what both encounters displayed was that neither opponent was scared of Burns's punching power. Beltran and Gonzalez both displayed a willingness to remain on the attack in order to knock the Scot out.

Burns was not particularly bad in either fight, but now that it has been seen that his punches can be withstood by two boxers who have yet to become a world champion, it is only going to encourage future opponents to come forward and that brings his broken jaw into play.

While it is not ideal in a professional career that has already spanned 38 bouts, Burns may have to re-model his fighting style in order to protect what will fast become the target area of his opponents. Protecting getting hit in boxing is almost a thankless task, but what option does Burns have if there is any weakness to the restructured bone?

Ricky Burns celebrates his victory over Jose Gonzalez during their World WBO Lightweight Championship bout on May 11, 2013© Getty Images

The fact that Burns is still the world champion is almost a hindrance because it ensures that he will have no option but to be thrown into the deep end upon his return. It's rare that you see a fighter having to contend with a world title bout after such an injury.

Burns's bravery last month was commendable and it deservedly earned him a new-found respect from the boxing fraternity, but such bravery could very well limit his time remaining in the sport.

A rematch with Beltran in Glasgow or an American date with highly-rated mandatory challenger Terence Crawford looks to be on the cards, and it's likely that Burns will be considered as the underdog for either fight.

It's going to take a huge effort for the former super-featherweight winner to survive against either man, with Beltran's power already being proven and Crawford only ever being taken the distance six times in 22 matches.

Burns has never been stopped and has not lost a fight since 2007, but if the Lanarkshire man is thrown in with Beltran or Crawford when he has not fully recovered from the sickening injury suffered last month, then an early stoppage-loss could bring a permanent end to the Scot's career.

Ricky Burns celebrates his victory over Jose Gonzalez during their World WBO Lightweight Championship bout on May 11, 2013
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