Ricky Burns lost out to Anthony Crolla on a unanimous points decision after going the distance at the Manchester Arena last night.

Burns fought bravely and gamely in Crolla’s backyard, but ultimately it wasn’t enough to prevent a second successive defeat and a seventh of his professional career from 49 fights, the judges scoring it 116-113, 117-112 and 116-114, all in favour of Crolla.

It was the fact that both fighters are so well-matched that made the contest so mouthwatering beforehand, and so it proved on the night. What was billed as a winner-takes-all battle descended into a captivating war of attrition that both men emerged from with their reputations intact. Whether Burns’ career also remains intact after the loss, remains to be seen.

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Burns was booed on his ring walk by Crolla’s hostile home crowd, but the Coatbridge fighter looked unfazed as he sauntered through the ropes in his Apollo Creed-inspired stars and stripes shorts.

Crolla’s emergence provoked a wave of noise that crashed down on the ring where Burns stood up to it alone, and you had the feeling it wouldn’t be the last time he would have to show such steely-eyed resilience in the course of the evening.

Burns was straight on the front foot, and managed to get his jab away well in a solid opening round. The second set the pattern though as Crolla tried to work the body of Burns while the jab of the Scotsman was starting to function. It was clear that Crolla wanted to get his opponent in close while Burns tried to keep the fight at range if possible.

Burns got two good shots away to the head of Crolla as he pushed him to the ropes in the fifth, and for the first time, the name of Ricky Burns was loud and clear above the home favourite as the Scots in attendance started to believe.

Crolla was certainly the busier fighter, but Burns landed an uppercut in the seventh that hushed the arena as he looked to gain ground on a scorecard that he had fallen behind on.

The fight was now a head-to-head scrap with neither man giving an inch, with blood leaking from the nose of Crolla and the sweat spraying from each fighter accentuating every punishing head-shot.

You sensed that Burns needed a big ending to the fight to counter Crolla’s more eye-catching offensive style, and he tried to provide it to the last, but it wasn’t enough to deny Crolla a crucial win.