A dream come true as Ryan Burnett takes centre stage with IBF world title glory
YOU might have expected champagne and singing in Ryan Burnett's dressingroom on Saturday night, but when Hugh Russell popped his head around the door he found the champ all alone with his belt.
The new IBF bantamweight king of the world was enjoying a moment of quiet reflection in the aftermath of dethroning Lee Haskins at a raucous Odyssey Arena.
“Well done son,” said Russell, British bantamweight champion back in his 1980s heyday.
“Thanks Hugh. It was my dream,” said Burnett, smiling.
The 25-year-old from north Belfast had flown under the radar for most of his 16-fight career, but he arrived on centre stage on Saturday night and on the evidence of his performance it looks like he's there to stay.
Cut on the forehead after a clash of heads in the second round, he fought through blood and sweat and choked back tears when the referee raised his hand after 12 engrossing rounds against experienced southpaw Haskins.
Stylish Burnett, who won despite US judge Clark Sammartino farcically scoring the fight for Haskins (it turns out he didn't know who was who), has always been good to watch but there was an added intensity to his work on Saturday night.
The lead right hands that thudded into Haskins' nose from early on proved that he and coach Adam Booth had done their homework and he carried out the gameplan to perfection by mixing stinging single shots with fluent combos thanks to precise footwork over the stained-red canvas.
“Everything went perfect,” he said.
“We had a great gameplan and it went perfect.”
Speaking yesterday, the 25-year-old admitted he was “definitely ready for a break” and he deserves one. He'll need time to rest and recover before he returns to action to defend his hard-won title – he wants to do it back in Belfast – later this year.
“I'm a bit sore,” he said.
“My face is starting to swell up and the bruising is starting to come out but I wouldn't have it any other way.”
He's come a long way from the days when he was forced to sleep in a borrowed car after he had split up with his first coach Ricky Hatton and travelled to London in the hope of linking up with Adam Booth.
Two years ago, Booth tipped Burnett to be “Ireland's next world champion” and his prediction came true on Saturday night.
“He was magnificent, because Lee Haskins is not easy to out-trick and out-box, and that's exactly what he did for 12 rounds,” said Booth.
“I haven't had a world champion after only 17 pro fights who's performed like that.
“Everything with David Haye, at cruiserweight, heavyweight, and Andy Lee at middleweight, it's all special, but there's something about what Ryan has achieved: I'm pretty sure I'll never see that again with a fighter after only 16 pro fights.”
Burnett's career began in a low key show at the Olympia in Liverpool when, with Hatton in his corner, he blew away a Hungarian journeyman in the first round.
Over the last three years he collected British and WBC International titles that paved the way for his stunning success on Saturday night.
“All my dreams came true at once if I'm honest,” he said.
“I was in Belfast, I won a world title, I had incredible support… The passion from the Belfast fans is second to none, it was incredible.”
The near 5,000-strong crowd made a serious din in the Odyssey and there'll be many more when Burnett returns in the Autumn. Before that his former Holy Family clubmate Carl Frampton returns to home soil on July 29 and in the winter Jamie Conlan could meet Rex Tso for a shot at the WBC super-flyweight belt.
Michael Conlan, currently operating at super-bantam, could make his home debut on that show but Burnett doesn't see a meeting between him and Top Rank's rising start happening in the future.
“I don't know what's next,” he said.
“I'm just going to play it by ear and see what my team comes up with.
“I can't really see me and Michael fighting – he's a featherweight and I'm a bantamweight and I make the weight really comfortable so I couldn't see that taking place.
“I'm quite comfortable and strong here, so I'll be staying at bantam for a while.”
Former sparring partner Frampton has moved on to featherweight too and Burnett said: “I've never even thought down those lines” when asked if he and ‘the Jackal' could ever share a ring for real.
Whoever he fights next, he wants it to be in his home city.
“I plan to have all my fights in Belfast – there's nowhere else I'd rather fight,” he said.
“If there's anywhere in the world I'd pick a place to fight, it's definitely in Belfast.”
As for the controversy over the scoring, Burnett says world governing bodies need to demand as much of their officials as they do of their fighters.
US judge Sammartino scored the fight 118-110 to Haskins even though the Welshman had been down in rounds six and 11. The other two judges, Jerry Jakubco and Dave Parris, both scored it 119-107.
“At this level you just don't expect anything like that to happen,” he said.
“The boxers are professional with their approach and how they go about their business.
“I did my part and as a professional I expect the people looking after the fight to do a professional job as well.
“I don't know how the IBF go about making sure it doesn't happen again – I wouldn't know much about that - but what I do know is that if they are going to be so tight on boxers making the weight and doing this and doing that exactly the way they want it, then I expect the same kind of professionalism to be done with the referees and the judges.
“I expect the judges to be exactly on point the way the boxers are.
“I haven't heard anything yet but it's early days so maybe I will.
“It wouldn't hurt. It's going to be interesting to see how they go about their business.”
Results from the Odyssey Arena
IBF World bantamweight title: Ryan Burnett (16-0) bt Lee Haskins (34-3) SD
IBF East/West Europe lightweight title: Paul Hyland jnr (15-0) bt Adam Dingsdale (16-3-1) TKO 1
WBA International super featherweight title: James Tennyson (18-2) bt Ryan Doyle (14-1-1) RTD 6
Cruiserweight: Luke Watkins (10-0) bt Ian Tims (13-3) KO4
Super-welterweight: Paddy Gallagher (10-3) bt Craig Kelly (9-10-1) TKO3
Super Featherweight: Feargal McCrory (5-0) bt Paul Holt (6-4) TKO2
Cruiserweight: Mike Perez (21-2-1) bt Viktor Biscak (10-0) KO1
Welterweight: Matthew Wilton (15-0) bt William Warburton (23-115-9) pts
Bantamweight: Sean McGoldrick (1-0) bt Ricky Starkey (2-1-1) pts
Featherweight: Tyrone McCullagh (6-0) bt Jose Aguilar (16-34-4) pts
Super-middleweight: Padraig McCrory (1-0) bt Jacob Lucas (0-8-2) pts
Featherweight: Sean Magee (1-0) bt Jules Phillips (1-7) TKO 1
PADDY Barnes steps up several levels when he takes on former world title contender Silvio Olteanu for the WBO European Lightweight title at the Waterfront Hall on Saturday night.
Spain-based Romanian Olteanu comes with a 16-11-1 record and Barnes, AKA ‘The Leprechaun', feels he has something to prove as he embarks on the toughest test of his fledging pro career.
“This time I'm not fighting a nobody, I'm fighting an ex European champion and somebody who has fought for the world title,” he said.
“So I'm not fooling anyone. I'm going into the deep-end to fight for a title in my third fight. People should come and see how good I really am and they'll see a more mature performance and a better Paddy Barnes.
“They haven't seen the best of me because I've been fighting against people who have come to survive and don't want to attack me. It's hard because you're fighting somebody so negative.”
Barnes expects Olteanu to come to win and says that will bring the best out of him.
“It's a challenge I'm really excited for and I'm really looking forward to,” he said.
“100 per cent it's a big step up in class – he has fought for the world title, he's won multiple European titles and he's obviously going to come to win against somebody who's only 2-0. That excites me and it'll make me train harder because I'll be more nervous. I'll be ready for this fight.”
Waterfront Hall card:
IBF East/West Europe super featherweight title: Jono Carroll (13-0) v John Quigley (14-0)
WBO European lightweight title: Craig Evans (16-1-2) v Stephen Ormond (24-3)
WBO European flyweight title: Paddy Barnes (2-0) v Silvio Olteanu (16-11-1)
Super-Lightweight: Tyrone McKenna (13-0-1) v Lukasz Gworek (6-1)
Light Heavyweight: Steven Ward (3-0) v Mitch Mitchell (7-61-3)
Lightweight: David Oliver Joyce (debut) v Gyula Tallosi (15-19)
Welterweight: Lewis Crocker (1-0) v Radoslav Mitev (9-31-1)
Super-middleweight: Sean McGlinchey (1-0) v Dan Blackwell (7-64)
Heavyweight: Alex Dickenson (debut) v Ferenc Zsalek (20-58-6)
Super-lightweight: Sam Maxwell (2-0) v Teodor Nikolov (4-23-2)
CARL Frampton will confirm the identity of his next opponent at a press conference tomorrow.
After negotiations with Leo Santa Cruz, Gary Russell jnr, Oscar Valdez and Lee Selby came to nothing, ‘the Jackal' has promised that he will face “a real threat” on July 29 and Christian Mijares, Abner Mares and ‘Jojo' Diaz have all been linked with a trip to Belfast.
There is also speculation that Frampton could move up to the super-featherweight limit of 130lbs and fight for the WBA Regular title – possibly against Argentine Jesus Cuellar who lost to Abner Mares (who has also been mentioned as a future Frampton opponent) last time out.
“The really huge names that I wanted just haven't played ball but we're not going to be short-changing my fans and the man I will face, who will be announced this week, is a real threat – someone who will guarantee and exciting fight and if I'm not at my best I won't get the win,” wrote Frampton in his newspaper column.
“I'm at a critical point in my career after coming off the loss to Santa Cruz and he's the guy I'm desperate to face, to make up for that defeat in Vegas but the path to him has got harder.
“It shows you that in this sport you can't take anything for granted.
“Now it's time to crank up my training and for the team to get working on a really exciting card for July 29.”