Fylde fighter Scotty Cardle's boxing career is at a crossroads after his emphatic defeat at the hands of Ricky Burns in Manchester, with former world champion Carl Froch advising the Lytham lightweight to give serious consideration to hanging up his gloves.
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A one-sided fight was stopped 2mins, 6secs into the third round after Cardle took a solid right to the left side of the head and crashed to the floor.
The bloodied 29-year-old was up as the count reached eight but was not allowed to continue and Burns was able to celebrate the 43rd win of a 51-fight professional career and another possible world title shot in 2019.
The step up in class was a gamble which did not pay off for Cardle, who was scheduled to face Joe Cordina for the Commonwealth title on Saturday night only for the Welshman to pull out through injury.
That left a gap on the undercard of Tony Bellew's unsuccessful attempt to take Olksandr Usyk's four world cruiserweight titles, and the 35-year-old Burns stepped in at a week's notice to deliver a devastating defeat for Cardle.
Sky Sports pundit Froch said: "I never like to tell a fighter enough's enough, but we spoke to Scotty yesterday and he was saying all the right things .... but he looked a bit of a shot fighter anda bit shopworn. His legs looked unsteady from the off and his timing was a bit off.
"For the fights he's had and the level he's been at you'd expect better. This was a big opportunity for him but he looks older before his time.
"He's taken a lot of shots over his career and when he went down heavy he was in bad trouble. I'd like to see him seriously consider hanging the gloves up."
Cardle had vowed to be patient and try to outbox Burns, rather than repeating the mistakes of his failed British title fight against Lewis Ritson in March, when he came out with all guns blazing but was quickly shot down.
Cardle did get through Burns' defences on several occasions but never troubled the Scot, who had height, weight and reach advantage.
Burns' shots were the more telling from the start and Cardle's nose was bloodied within the first minute.
It took no time for Burns to get the measure of Cardle's quick, jerky movements and the Fylde fighter was trapped on the ropes on several occasions in the first two rounds.
The end looked to be nigh 30 seconds into round three, when a heavy right cut Cardle above the right eye and he never looked stable on his feet from then on.
The decisive punch on 1min, 52secs saw Cardle fall backwards from the centre of the ring, landing heavily on his back.
For Burns, the only Scot to win world titles at three weights (super-feather, light and super-light), the prospect of another world challenge looms, with last year's defeat to Anthony Crolla (another Manchester winner on Saturday) firmly behind him.
Burns, who launched his career in 2001, said: "I felt good out there and jumped at the chance to fight on this show. I'm always just waiting on that phone call, so hopefully there are still some big fights out there for me.
"I treat every fight the same and train for every fight the same. I didn't feel I was getting my shots off well in there but I got the win and that's all that matters. Hopefully we can sit down now and get that big fight."
Promoter Eddie Hearn agreed. Referring to Burns as age-defying film character "Benjamin Button", Hearn said :"He has a big fight in him and we're here to deliver it. He has shown he is still a level above, well bey ond domestic level, and I believe he's still a world-class fighter
"If he'd struggled tonight there would have been concerns but he passed the test with ease.
"Respect to Scotty Cardle for jumping up but Ricky's ready to fight any of these guys. I'd love to get him a big fight because I think he's ready."
Just what the future holds for Cardle and whether he heeds Froch's advice remains to be seen.
This was only the third defeat in Cardle's 27-fight career but it looks a long road back to the top for a boxer who held the British title for two years (2015-17).
Having lost to Ritson in his bid to regain the crown, Cardle had a points win over Michael Mooney in Cardiff in August but Saturday's setback was huge.