Boxing

Ryan Burnett will enjoy headline buzz in April bill

Ryan Burnett and Anthony Settoul during their vacant WBC International Bantamweight Championship bout at Manchester Arena
Andy Watters

WHEN he ducked through the ropes and saluted fight fans at Manchester Arena, the roar that greeted Ryan Burnett from the travelling support made the hairs stand up on the back of his neck.

Burnett had never felt a buzz like it and, now, Belfast’s next big thing wants to experience the same in his home city: “Soon, I’ll be taking over Belfast,” said the stylish, skilful bantam with the quick feet and fast hands, who could be the headline act at the Odyssey Arena on April 30.

That bill is due to be confirmed this week and Burnett looks likely to top it in a British title defence, with Tommy McCarthy providing chief support in an eliminator for the British cruiserweight crown.

After his third consecutive title fight on his third consecutive appearance at the Manchester Arena, Burnett moved to 13-0 with a points win against Anthony Settoul last Saturday night.

“I’m very happy,” he said.

“Three fights in-a-row, all title fights in the same place, so this is starting to become my new favourite place. To come into this arena tonight and get a taste of Belfast… as soon as I got in the ring and raised up my arms, the crowd roared and I’ve never felt anything like that before. It just makes me want to jump back into the ring and raise my arms again.”

Surprisingly, Burnett admitted he doesn’t know who the world champions at bantamweight are and says there isn’t anybody out there he particularly wants to fight, but he’ll take on whoever is put in front of him.

“I’m at the stage now of my career where the opponents are getting better and I’m proving I’m able to box at that level,” he said.

“That was only my 13th fight and I still consider myself a bit of a novice when it comes to it. The opponents are getting stronger and I’m performing each time. I think it’s just going to keep going up.

“To be honest, I don’t even know the world champions in my weight. I never look and I don’t even know who’s in my weight. I don’t care and I don’t really look at the boxers - I don’t have anyone that I want to fight. I just focus on myself, make sure I’m 100 per cent and anyone that I go in with, I will beat.”

Just over a month after he won the WBO European bantamweight, Burnett out-boxed Jason in November to collect the British title. He added the WBC International bantamweight strap to his growing list of belts when he out-pointed Settoul.

“It was a step up in class for me,” he said.

“I think I handled it well and it was exactly what I needed, a fighter like that. Adam [Booth, his trainer] was very happy with me and the way I boxed and if Adam is happy, then I’m happy.

“I didn’t think he went into survival mode, I think his experience played a part. He knew he had to box safe or else he’d get knocked out. I think that’s what he done. He was here to win, he wanted to win and that’s exactly what I needed.

“I was comfortable with a guy who wanted to put it on me and I felt as if I dealt with his ability very well. I wanted to finish him, but I was in with a guy who was no mug. He knew exactly what to do, he was hurt, but he didn’t show nothing to it.

“If I could’ve finished him, of course I would’ve finished him, but I was in with a good guy and he proved that he was a good guy because I couldn’t finish him.”

 

AMIR KHAN says he wants to beat “the best Saul Alvarez” when he meets Mexican ‘Canelo’ in Las Vegas on May 7.

Khan says he hasn’t insisted on a rehydration clause for the fight with Alvarez because he wants to make the biggest possible statement. The former world champion will fight above welterweight for the first time in his career at a catch weight 155lbs, officially middleweight, to challenge Alvarez for the Mexican's WBC title at the T-Mobile Arena.

There was a significant difference in size between challenger and champion when they appeared together in London on Monday, so it appeared a risky oversight that Khan did not demand a restriction on Alvarez's weight on fight night. The Mexican's frame means there is little to stop him gaining a further 20lbs after weighing in to effectively compete at light-heavyweight and therefore leaving Khan, who turned professional as a lightweight (135lbs), at an even greater disadvantage.

There is little question Khan's best chance comes in using his superior speed and mobility against his stronger opponent, so asked why he took such an unnecessary risk, he said: “I wanted to do everything naturally because, when I beat him, I wanted to beat him fair and square and I don’t want people thinking: ‘He was too dehydrated, he was too small, he couldn't put weight on’.

“I want to beat the best Alvarez, fight the best Alvarez. The fights I've been watching, he was really hydrated and normal, where he was happy making the weight. Yeah [we considered a clause], I spoke to Virgil [Hunter, trainer] and Virgil is the one who said to me ‘Look, if you’re happy with the fight, it’s a good fight for us’.

“He's been watching videos [of Alvarez] as well. What I have to do is stick to the gameplan. I can’t make any mistakes or be a guy who loses focus or makes mistakes because I can get hurt for that. I saw the videos and they gave me so much confidence I thought ‘This is the right fight for now’. I saw him being slow - being a big puncher but, for him to land, he has to catch me.”

Khan has made no secret of his frustration at repeatedly failing to secure what would be defining fights against Floyd Mayweather or Manny Pacquiao, but in the 25-year-old Alvarez - perhaps the sport's biggest attraction after those two names - he finally has the opportunity he has long sought.

His trainer Virgil Hunter - widely respected for his work in guiding the masterful Andre Ward - has a reputation as a disciplinarian, so it surprised many that he agreed to a fight few believe Khan will win, but the 2004 Olympic silver medallist explained Hunter needed persuading and also spoke of a belief his trainer could be his greatest asset come May.

“Yeah, he did [take persuading], but obviously he believes in me a lot,” he said.

“When we sat down and spoke about it, he said he thought it was a great idea to take this fight. Virgil Hunter’s the one who’s going to be the biggest help in this fight."

Alvarez is in Britain for the first time to promote his date with Khan. It says much about his profile in Mexico and the US that his first middleweight title defence is being used to open Vegas' new 20,000 capacity T-Mobile Arena, in which many expected Mayweather to be the first to feature.

“Amir Khan’s a great fighter, a serious fighter, a serious threat,” he said.

“On May 7, this is going to be a great fight.”

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