UNBEATEN Belfast bantamweight Ryan Burnett hopes to have a world title fight with IBF champion Lee Haskins signed and sealed within the next fortnight.
Burnett recently vacated his British title to chase “bigger things” and The Irish News understands that he could take on Bristol’s Haskins (34-3) at the Odyssey Arena on Saturday, June 17.
The north Belfast native, who began his career with Ricky Hatton before moving to London to link up with Adam Booth, is close to realising his life-long dream of becoming a world champion.
“I’ve been working towards this all my life,” said Burnett.
“We’re very close to something big and we should know within two weeks.”
Haskins won the world title with a shutout points win over Ivan Morales last year and went on to a successful first defence against Stuart Hall in September.
“It’s a fight I know I can win,” said Burnett.
“He’s tricky, but I know that I can out-trick him. He definitely wouldn’t be as hungry as I am and I think he suits me. If the fight comes off it’ll be nice for me.”
He added: “I’m keeping myself ticking over.
“I was helping Charlie Edwards get ready for his British title win so I’ve been in sparring and I’ll keep myself busy until I get the news.”
Burnett has fought at the Odyssey Arena before, back in 2013 when he beat Reynaldo Cajina deep on the undercard of Carl Frampton’s EBU super-bantamweight title win against Jeremy Parodi. However, he hasn’t fought on home soil for the best part of two years and is anxious to operate in front of Belfast fight fans.
“My goal for a while now is to get back to Belfast,” he said.
“Now I’ve established myself in England I want to come back to Belfast and that’s definitely something that I’ll be pushing Eddie (Hearn) for. Eddie’s very keen on coming back to Belfast as well so I just need the correct fight and I know he’ll be bringing it to the Odyssey.”
Burnett trained with Frampton regularly in their early days. ‘The Jackal’ has out-grown the Odyssey thanks to a string of on-the-road wins and Burnett could fill the void he has left behind.
“That’s my plan, I plan to do exactly what Carl has done,” he said.
“I look up to Carl and if I can emulate what he has done then I’ll be very happy.
“We trained together, we used to go out running together. He’s a couple of years together and he was always doing things that I was about to be doing. I’ve always looked up to him.”
ANTHONY Cacace’s British super-featherweight title fight looks likely to happen at Belfast’s Odyssey Arena on June 17.
Cacace has lined up a long-awaited title shot against belt holder Martin J Ward and predicts he can put the unbeaten Leeds native (17-0-2) “to sleep”. His manager Pat Magee announced last week that he had outbid Eddie Hearn to take control of the fight and was keen to bring it to Belfast. It is understood that Ward has not yet signed the fight contract but Cacace (15-0) has his fingers crossed that the negotiations will be completed.
“I’m buzzing and hoping to get everything finalised,” said ‘Anto’.
“It’s never simple but I believe I can beat him and I’m trying now to get a good camp in and try and get as fit as I can – it all comes down to fitness.
“He’s a 12-round fighter and I haven’t done 12 rounds yet so I think that’s what it all comes down to. He’s a nice boxer but if I catch him once it’s a different story.
“He’s there to get hit. Ronnie Clark put him over so, if he put him down, I can put him to sleep.”
After spells in the USA and in London with Shane McGuigan, Cacace returned to Belfast to link up with Brian Magee. However, since then he has returned to training with Sean McCullough, his first professional coach.
“There’s no-one else I would like to train with over here,” he said.
“Everything is going well, we’re getting back to where we left off basically.
“I’ve been training away but we’re getting into proper camp now.
“It’s hard to move forward and know what to do when you don’t have a date – as soon as it’s all finalised that’s when the real hard work starts.”
Former stablemate Carl Frampton recently described the Andersonstown stylist as one of the most talented fighters he had come across. Cacace says the words of the two-weight world champion have inspired him to push on in his career.
“For a world champion like Carl –one of Ireland’s greatest - to say something like that gives you a boost in your confidence,” he said.
“It would be nice to win this British title and move on, I think it has been long overdue. Boxing is a hard sport, a hard sport – not the fighting aspect of it, more the business aspect…
“Sometimes you feel ‘Ah to hell with it, I’m away to get a job’ but right now it’s falling into place for me so it’s really up to myself whether I’m going to take this opportunity or not. And I will.
“I have a path now and I know what I’m doing.”
AS boxing legends go, they don’t come much bigger than Roberto Duran and Belfast fight fans have the chance to meet ‘Hands of Stone’ when he visits the Europa Hotel on April 25.
Born into poverty in Panama in 1951, Duran fought his way out of the street to win world titles in four weight classes in a career that ran over five decades, from 1968 to 2001.
A fearsome hitter in his early days, his all-action/Tasmanian Devil approach gave way to a more patient boxing style that showcased top-drawer ability as his career developed. He played his part in unforgettable rumbles with Tommy Hearns, Marvin Hagler and ‘Sugar’ Ray Leonard and was elected to the World Boxing Hall of Fame in 2006 and the International Boxing Hall of Fame a year later.
Outside the ring he infamously knocked out a horse for a bet, but manager Mark Peters says his fearsome reputation conceals a warm and humble people-person who has never forgotten his roots.
“He’s a great guy, a lovely man, very funny and very exciting,” he said.
“His English isn’t great but he loves meeting people and we try and make it a party atmosphere – a party to celebrate the life of a great fighter. That’s what the night is going to be about.
“He’s one of the greatest ever to lace up a pair of gloves – the first man to beat ‘Sugar’ Ray Leonard’ but there’s much more to him.
“When he first won the world title he gave the money to poor people on the streets of Panama City, he gave his belt to the man that trained him…”
Duran has never been to Ireland before and Peters says he is looking forward to visiting Belfast.
“He’s very excited about coming over to Belfast and meeting the Irish fans,” he said.
“He’s aware that Irish people love boxing and they’ve always given fighters a very warm welcome – I know that from my experience of doing tours over there with Leonard and Mike Tyson. There’s a real passion for the sport in Ireland on all levels.”
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