By Terence Dooley
Ricky Hatton takes WBA Super World bantamweight titlist Zhanat Zhakiyanov (27-1, 18 KOs) into a unification showdown with IBF World holder Ryan Burnett (17-0, 9 early) at Belfast's SSE Arena later today and “The Hitman” believes that his man is the more battle hardened of the two, which he feels could give him the edge on the night despite Burnett enjoying home advantage.
“Ryan isn’t short in the heart department but he hasn’t had to show it yet as a pro,” said Hatton when speaking to the Irish News. “He might have to on Saturday.”
“Sometimes fighters can diffuse your talent by using certain gameplans and tactics,” he added. “I can’t help but see it 50-50 but at some stage the winner will have to bite down on his gumshield and I don’t think we’ve seen Ryan do that yet as a pro because he’s been too good, he’s not had to show it yet and my lad has.”
Burnett won the title via a decision over former Lee Haskins in June and is fighting at home in a first defence that also doubles up as a unification. Zhakiyanov, though, won his title on the road with a over Rau'shee Warren in Toledo in February so will not be fazed by the hostile Belfast crowd as he also makes the maiden defence of his crown.
Zhakiyanov’s clash with Burnett tops a huge night of boxing in Belfast as Paul Hyland Jnr defends his IBF European Lightweight title against Stephen Ormond and James Tennyson puts his WBA International Super-Featherweight title against Darren Traynor.
Burnett’s Adam Booth gym mate Josh Kelly fights for the fourth time in the paid ranks, as is his Team GB Rio Olympic teammate Anthony Fowler.
A host of local and Irish talents appear on the bill with Cruiserweight Tommy McCarthy, Super-Lightweight Tyrone McKenna, Lightweights Joe Fitzpatrick and Gary Cully and Super-Featherweight Feargal McCrory.
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