By Terence Dooley
The IBF have denied rumours that they have blocked the partial unification fight between their World bantamweight holder Ryan Burnett (17-0, 9 KOs) and WBA Super World titlist Zhanat Zhakiyanov (27-1, 18 KOs), telling BoxingScene that ‘The fight has been tentatively approved while we await contracts’ to quash some online claims that 25-year-old may be forced to take a mandatory instead.
Burnett picked up the IBF belt by beating Lee Haskins by decision in Belfast in June after quickly rising through the ranks.
Zhakiyanov defeated Yonfrez Parejo for the interim WBA title in November then defeated Rau'shee Warren in Ohio in February—both by split decision—to annex the WBA and IBO titles. However, the Kazakhstan-based 33-year-old did not pay his sanctioning fee to the IBO and was stripped of that belt.
Burnett will enjoy home advantage against his nomadic opponent, but Zhakiyanov showed character by bouncing back from an early career loss to Sakhib Usarov then winning the EBU-EU and EBU titles away from home to fight his way into world title contention. Both his world title wins took place away from his homeland, in Monaco and America respectively, so he is no stranger to being in the away corner and has been on the road since 2012.
The fight will also make history as the Belfast-based Burnett will become the first unification fight to take place in Northern Ireland. “This is the path I’ve always believed in and asked for—to be not just a world champion but a great world champion and this is exactly the fight that propels me into that position,” he said when the fight was announced.
“I’ve done a lot of work with him in sparring but back then I was a kid and hardly had any fights and he was fighting for the European title. I know what it’s like to share a ring with him but he doesn’t know what it’s like to share a ring with the current Ryan Burnett. A lot has changed since we last sparred for me but not with him. It’s good to have that bit of knowledge, I know a few things about him. That can only work in my favour.”
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