WATCH: "Ryan Burnett has the heart of a lion"
RYAN Burnett’s ability to adapt and his lion-hearted approach were the keys behind his win over Zhanat Zhakiyanov that saw the north Belfast man unify the IBF and WBA bantamweight titles.
Burnett struggled initially to deal with Zhakiyanov’s advances in the opening rounds before he found his feet and changed tact to take control and ultimately claim a comprehensive points win.
Two judges went for 118-110 and 119-109 in Burnett’s favour, though the third had it 116-112. Despite Burnett needing hospital treatment after the fight, Andy Watters and Neil Loughran were both impressed with his performance.
"He switched it up after a couple of rounds when he realised it wasn't going to happen and he'd have to stand a lot more with Zhakiyanov,” said Loughran.
“He was getting backed on to the ropes a lot early on. Zhakiyanov was picking up a few rounds, Sky had him two or three rounds up, so he had to switch it up.
“Burnett just seemed to be the one who was able to stand back, find a bit of distance and land the eye-catching shot when he needed to. In such close rounds, that makes all the difference.”
Andy Watters agreed, praising Burnett’s fearlessness in the heat of “an uncompromising battle”.
“Burnett really has the heart of a lion, there's no doubt about it. His plan was to box and move but Zhakiyanov was rumbling forward the whole time and he really had to stand and fight, and he did that.
“He took everything Zhakiyanov threw at him, which was a lot, but he had that little bit extra sparkle in his movement and his thinking.”