Having taken up boxing aged 12, Burnham looked primed for a successful professional career in the ring. But that all changed one day when he had a brain scan while applying to renew his licence.
“I was told that I was in danger if I received even one more punch to the head,” says Burnham, who last fought in 2016. He was given this news on the eve of a scheduled third pro bout after breaking a hand in training.
Burnham, 24, from Bushey, took time away from the ring after becoming a dad, with a second child expected next month. He recently linked up with Tony Milch, another Jewish boxer, and together with trainer Daryl Spalter, they are preparing for Milch’s next professional fight at York Hall on February 10.
“It has all been a bit of a whirlwind,” says Burnham, who is also a personal trainer and a former U16 Junior national light middleweight champion.
“I’m still not over the news but hope that, by working together with Tony and a group of other professional and amateur fighters, I can still fulfil my dream of winning a world title.
“I’m enjoying training Tony and have taken little bits of what I learned when I was coached. We go out for runs together and I still get into the ring for body sparring. I get as involved as I can.
“Tony and I were always on each other’s radars,” Burnham reveals, “while Daryl also knew I was looking for a new fighter. He has helped me a lot during my career.”
Milch won his first 13 pro fights but he was unsure where to turn following a defeat in the Southern Area Super welterweight title against Matt McCarthy last October. Now Milch believes working with Burnham and Spalter is the perfect formula.
And, after only a couple of months together with Burnham, he can feel the improvement. “Josh doesn’t want to take away my strengths,” said Milch. “He knows how much I still want to win titles. We’ve been working on doing things that weren’t coming to me naturally.” Milch trains at the BOXR gym in Mill Hill and explains: “I’ve always had the power for my weight class but I was just sticking to what I knew. Now I’m punching harder.
“Josh and Daryl are my eyes in the ring. I’ve been fighting for 20 years and have still got the hunger.”
Milch will return to action for a six-round light-middleweight contest against Danny Little in Bethnal Green’s York Hall.
Burnham argues: “I believe Tony’s defeat last year did him the world of good, as we may not have come together otherwise.
“He always had the ability to do it. Now it’s about him unleashing his potential. He’s a lovely bloke but he’s got a spiteful side in him.
“That said, I’m not trying to turn him into the next Mike Tyson.
“It will be a tough test as Danny is an experienced fighter who won his last bout with a fifth-round knockout. He’s strong and dangerous. We wanted an opponent who will open up so we can look to exploit any weaknesses. It’s a good comeback fight. We’re looking for an improved display and I want Tony to put into play everything we’ve been working on.”
Spalter, 55, is perhaps better known for his footballing prowess from his days playing at Wingate & Finchley. But he also has a long association with boxing — his uncle, Adrian Whiteson, is a former Boxing Board of Control doctor. Spalter — who will serve as Milch’s corner-man and himself had 14 amateur fights — remarks: “You’ll see a new Tony Milch. We’re confident of that.”
Tickets to see Tony on the Mickey Helliet's Hellraiser Boxing show at the York Hall are available from www.superset.london/tickets