Ricky Burns is a man who is used to being written off. Saturday night in Manchester, once again it seems, was the night that it was all supposed to end.

A defeat, it was said in the build up to the bout against hometown favourite Anthony Crolla, would surely sound the final bell on a glittering career that has brought the Coatbridge fighter three world titles at three different weights. He is just the third Briton to have achieved that feat.

Now, it isn’t that the accomplishments of Burns are underappreciated, or that he is underrated in his homeland, but what may have been underestimated on this evidence are his seemingly bottomless reserves of courage, and importantly in terms of his future career prospects, the level of talent that he is still able to display at such a level.

Sure, the 34-year-old isn’t what he once was. Name me one who is. But there is still more than enough in the tank to suggest that the obituaries for the Rickster’s career can remain on hold for now.

The defeat to Julius Indongo in the Hydro in April was a damaging one for sure, and the comprehensive manner of it was the most jarring aspect. But in defeat here to another unanimous decision, which Burns questioned after the fight, he showed that there is life in those hands yet.

“Everyone wrote my off after the Indongo fight. They said I was finished, I had nothing left,” Burns said.

“I’ve always said I’d be the first to admit when it was time. If I felt it in the gym with all those youngsters, in sparring with top class fighters, if I was taking punishment or wasn’t keeping up on the runs then I’d know it wasn’t for me anymore.

“That’s definitely not the case though. I have got a good few fights left in me. My next fight is going to be number 50 but I keep saying to Tony Sims, I want to get to 60 or 70!”

On a huge weekend for Scottish sport, the night got off to a promising start. Comprehensive wins for Joe Ham and Charlie Flynn had the vastly outnumbered Tartan Army in the crowd fired up, and as the throaty strains of Flower of Scotland rang out from the defiant Scots to compete with the boos raining down on Burns as he made his way to the ring, there was a steely look about him that gave a sense that this lion was ready to roar.

With the battle between the Auld Enemy dynamic set, it was quite startling to see Burns disrobe to reveal a pair of sparkly stars and stripes shorts inspired by Sylvester Stallone’s attire in Rocky IV. The fight itself wasn’t quite as punishing as the toe-to-toe slugfest depicted in that movie between Balboa and Dolph Lundgren, but it wasn’t too far off.

The similar characteristics of the fighters on paper hinted that the 12,000-strong crowd were in for a treat, and neither boxer disappointed. The cagey opening where Crolla attempted to work at close quarters as Burns worked behind the jab to keep his opponent at arm’s length, gave way to a battle of wills as both men stood head-to-head and traded blows.

A crashing uppercut from Burns in the seventh not only drew the wind from Crolla, but sucked the air from the entire room. It also drew blood from the nose of the Mancunian, and for the first time on the night, you could sense real apprehension from the home crowd. Their man was in trouble, and they knew it.

Crolla was not to be found wanting in the courage stakes either though, and he soon regained his composure and his busier style that was catching the eye of the judges.

Burns’s work was all about quality over quantity, while Crolla’s greater balance of the two, particularly in front of his own crowd, was always likely to give him the advantage on the scorecards.

And so it proved as the sweat-soaked fighters stood exhausted to hear their fate. All three judges scored the fight for Crolla, with the 116-114 probably about right from one, and the 117-112 hopelessly wide of the mark from another.

Burns had lost the fight. But he had won not only the respect of everyone in the Manchester Arena, but the right to tell his doubters that he can live to fight another day. Possibly against Crolla again, but this time, in his own backyard.

Crolla, who seems a class act out of the ring as well as in it, backed up the assessment that this defeat will not signal the death knell for the career of his worthy adversary.

“Myself and Ricky could have taken easier fights, but we are both fighters,” Crolla said.

“You take a lesser fight and people say it’s the easy option. Take a hard one like this and everyone says your career is over if you lose.

“You can’t win sometimes.”

Very true. But even though Burns lost this battle, he may have won the war in proving his doubters wrong.