Michael Conlan and Ryan Burnett have pushed each other to new heights says trainer Adam Booth
RYAN Burnett was able to call upon a not-so-secret weapon during his preparations for tomorrow night’s World Boxing Super Series (WBSS) showdown with Nonito Donaire – fellow Belfast fighter Michael Conlan.
The 2012 Olympic silver medallist and 2015 World amateur champion, now a 9-0 pro, joined Adam Booth’s stable at the start of the year, where he has been working alongside WBA bantamweight champion Burnett.
With both gearing up for autumn fights - featherweight Conlan stopped Italian Nicola Cipolletta last month and will be in action again in December - the pair have been able to push each other on.
And those sparring sessions at Booth’s London base have clearly proved mutually beneficial.
“Michael’s improving now at an impressive rate, and it’s exciting times,” said Booth.
“Ryan has certainly had a clever, smart fighter in front of him who is bigger than him, testing him in the gym.”
Burnett couldn’t agree more as he gets ready to face a bigger man in Donaire, who is coming down two divisions from featherweight to box at bantamweight for the first time since 2011.
“Mick’s an amazing, amazing talent and he’s two weights bigger than me so he’s stronger than me and he puts that pressure on me, which is exactly what I needed for this fight,” said Burnett.
“Me working with Michael has been great preparation.”
Burnett certainly looked sharp on the pads during yesterday’s public workout at MTK Global’s Glasgow base, as he bids to set up a potentially mouth-watering WBSS semi-final clash with Zolani Tete in Belfast next year.
However, despite being nine years older than 26-year-old Burnett, Donaire still has plenty left in the tank – as he demonstrated during a highly competitive 12 rounds with another Belfast fighter, Carl Frampton, back in April.
Booth is a long-time fan of the ‘Filipino Flash’, and believes he is even more dangerous having dropped back down to 118lb.
“Let’s be absolutely clear,” he said, “Nonito Donaire is a bantamweight and has been a bantamweight for a long time.
“He was fighting at featherweight because he couldn’t get any opportunities at bantamweight – he buzzed Carl a couple of times, and he made him have to work for that points decision. He lost on points to Jessie Magdaleno, who is a big punching super-bantamweight, so I haven’t allowed anyone to diminish Nonito Donaire in my mind’s eye.
“I’ve used Donaire in past years to show fighters certain things to do with balance and hooking, set-ups, I have used him as a coaching example – that’s how much I respect Nonito Donaire as a fighter.
“You look at him this week and he looks young, fresh, motivated and full of good energy.”
Rumours swirled around last week that Donaire had been struggling with the weight - claims the 35-year-old laughed off at Wednesday’s press conference.
And Booth insists he would never entertain such speculation ahead of a fight of this magnitude.
“One thing I always say to my fighters; don’t ever go into a fight relying on the weakness of the other man.
“If you do, you’re going to come up short a lot sooner than you should do. Go into the fight imagining that he is better than he ever has been.”
Not that he needs to drill that message into Burnett. A renowned workaholic, the 10-week training camp for this fight has seen the Belfast man scale new heights.
And Booth says that, with Burnett, the drive and motivation comes purely from within.
“I didn’t, he did it,” said Booth when asked how he managed to get more out of the north Belfast man.
“I said, for example, ‘do this, on this speed, this many times, with this much recovery’. The speed was more, there were more sets, and there was less recovery. That’s where he has been through this. He has pushed more than ever.”
And tomorrow night, Booth believes, fight fans will see the best Ryan Burnett yet.
“That’s my hope and my plan,” he smiled.