By Terence Dooley
IBF World bantamweight titlist Ryan Burnett (17-0, 9 KOs) has vowed to “break” WBA Super World counterpart Zhanat Zhakiyanov (27-1, 18 early) when they clash at the SEE Arena in Burnett’s home city of Belfast.
The two men used to be trained by former light-welterweight Champion and WBA welterweight holder Ricky Hatton, and sparred each other at his Hyde-based gym, but Burnett joined Adam Booth in 2015 after hooking up with promoter Eddie Hearn.
Although Zhakiyanov, 33, has said that the sessions will not reflect what happens when they meet for real, Burnett believes that he has the Kazakh’s number and aims to prove it on the night.
“I’ve seen him break,” he said when speaking to Neil Loughran of The Irish News. “I broke him in sparring...If you break once, you'll break twice. Back then I was 19-20, I hadn't matured yet. He was a mature man at the age of 27, fighting for a European title, so if that's going to play into anyone's hands it's going to be mine. I know what he's about, he doesn't know what I'm about. He doesn't know the skill-set that I've developed over the years. I haven't seen him change at all from when I used to spar him.”
The 25-year-old decisioned Lee Haskins in the same Arena to lift aloft the IBF belt in June and is facing a stiff task in his first defence, yet he believes it is the right fight to launch him into true world title territory. “It's not just a defence of my title, a route I could have taken but decided not to,” he added.
“I wanted to go for something bigger. I don't want to be just a world champion, I want to be a great world champion, and when I win this fight—in my eyes—it marks me out as a great world champion. It was definitely the right move to take.”
Please send news and views to @Terryboxing.