Ricky Burns & Lee Selby are both very much aware that they face a must-win fight at The O2 this weekend.
The former sparring partners and world champions clash, on the Regis Prograis-Josh Taylor bill on Saturday, live on Sky Sports Box Office.
Burns, (43-7-1, KOs 16) has won world titles in three weight classes, while Selby previously held the IBF featherweight crown before moving up to 135lbs after losing his title to Josh Warrington in 2018.
Three years ago both were in the position where headlining a British card would have been widely accepted as a worthy main event for a standard Saturday night Sky Sports bill. Both were world champions but were competing three divisions apart making a clash between the pair seemingly unlikely to ever happen.
Now we are three years on, and at a genuine crossroads where defeat for either man could spell the beginning of the end for their storied careers.
On any other night, this fight would have been a headline act, but a sign of the times and their diminished status makes this bout the fourth on the list of what is a stacked card at the 02 arena.
Burns is the older and the naturally bigger man, and in his last outing against Scott Cardle looked as fresh as he did five years earlier stopping Cardle in three rounds. The resume of the Coatbridge native is unquestionable having shared the ring with some of boxing’s finest pugilists.
Selby is arguably closer to his prime but still has to prove himself at lightweight having only fought once at the weight beating Omar Douglas (19-3-0, 13 KOs) in February this year. In terms of experience, Selby has beaten some quality operators in his career down at featherweight, but no one that has the same consistent world level bouts as Ricky Burns has.
The fight is a difficult one to call, on one hand you have to ageing Burns who could quite possibly still have more than enough left to keep the younger man at bay, and on the other hand you have a younger and seemingly less shop worn fighter who could quite well make the older man look his age in the ring on fight night.
The final question remains for the outcome, does a defeat spell the end for either man?
Well they can certainly carry on their career, as Burns did after losing to Crolla. But any aspirations at capturing a world title at lightweight would appear over for the loser. The lightweight division is one of the most competitive weight classes in boxing right now, so much so that even the winner will struggle to secure, much less win, a world title shot.
Burns losing to Selby in the Welshman’s second fight at the weight would not bode well for any future plans, while Selby falling to a man even his supporters believe is not the force of old isn’t a sign of future glory.
By Sean Bastow