Sport

'Boxing brain' Ryan Burnett would be a brilliant coach says Caoimhin Agyarko

Caoimhin Agyarko takes on Robbie Chapman on Friday night. Picture by Hugh Russell.
Caoimhin Agyarko takes on Robbie Chapman on Friday night. Picture by Hugh Russell. Caoimhin Agyarko takes on Robbie Chapman on Friday night. Picture by Hugh Russell.

A BACK injury forced the end of Ryan Burnett’s professional career before the bantamweight had even reached his prime and Caomhin Agyarko says fighters would benefit if the former WBA and IBF world champion used his “unbelievable boxing brain” by switching from the ring to the corner.

Burnett’s injury first flared up when he fought Nonito Donaire in Glasgow back in November 2018. After three rounds, the north Belfast fighter looked to be getting on top but he was forced to retire from the fight – he left the ring on a stretcher – after suffering a suspected slipped disc. He regained sufficient fitness to return against Jelbirt Gomera at the Ulster Hall in May last year but in October he announced that – aged just 27 - he had been forced to hang up his gloves because of "injuries sustained during competition and in training".

Since then Burnett has opened a gym in Antrim and has worked with Agyarko and Tyrone McKenna. Unbeaten Belfast middleweight Agyarko enjoyed training with the former Ricky Hatton and Adam Booth fighter in the build-up to his duel with journeyman Robbie Chapman on Friday night.

“I’ve been training with Ryan every week because I needed a coach to keep me in shape while I’m out of camp,” said Agyarko (7-0).

“I still want to learn when I’m not in camp so I’ve been working with Ryan and I’ve been enjoying it. He has an unbelievable boxing brain and technically he was one of the best fighters I ever saw. So it’s been great to have someone so close to home who I can work with and he’s a friend of mine as well.

“I’m not too sure if he’ll ever go into boxing training full-time but I hope he does because he’s an unbelievable trainer. He’s a very good coach and it would be great to see him come into the professional ranks and train people.”

Agyarko was looking forward to an undercard slot on the Tyson Fury-headlined show in London on December 5. He was disappointed to learn that his fight had been pulled but the consolation was a short-notice rumble with Chapman at the BT Sport Studios on Friday night.

“I came over to London start camp for the December fight a couple of weeks ago but as soon as I got over here I was told I wasn’t fighting,” he explained.

“So I got a flight back home and then I was told: ‘Listen, we can get you out in two weeks’ time so I got a flight back over on the Friday.

“I’ve only had a two-week camp but I was training with Ryan when I was at home so I’m in decent-enough shape. It has been a bit disrupted, I haven’t had a full camp but I feel in good shape, I’ve put the work in and, as a professional athlete I’m always ready for the call and looking forward to putting in a decent performance.”

‘Camden Caretaker’ Chapman was the opponent when Armagh middleweight Fearghus Quinn made his debut in August. The Londoner is now 6-5 and Agyarko agrees that “it’s a fight that I should be winning” and he intends to sign off on 2020 with an eye-catching performance.

“Obviously I’ve got to be at my best on the night,” he said.

“That should be enough to beat him but I can’t take my eye off the ball. I know that he’s tough and game and he’ll come to fight.

“This will be my last fight before the end of the year and I’m looking to put on a good performance to end the year and go into 2021 being 8-0 and keep my sights set high.”

Ultimately, his sights are trained on becoming a world champion and Agyarko’s dream is to fight for the title at Casement Park when the west Belfast GAA stadium finally reopened. As a youngster he played hurling and football for his school and for the Gort na Mona club and went to the stadium to cheer on his native Antrim.

“I was okay at football, but I’m not a big fan of hurling – I never liked someone swinging a hurl at my head,” he said.

“I went to Casement when I was 12 or 13 when the Gaelic and hurling was on and I used to love it.

“I loved the atmosphere there and, growing up, I always thought it was somewhere I’d love to fight – I’d love to headline a show there and fight for a world title.

“Obviously, when it was closed down those dreams were lost but it’s going to be opening again and there’d be no better place to headline a show for a world title than Casement Park. I used to run about on the Andytown (Andersonstown) Road so I’ll set my sights on fighting at Casement.”

PADDY Donovan takes a step up in class against former Southern Area champion Jumanne Camero tomorrow night.

Andy Lee-trained Limerick native Donovan has three knockouts in four wins so far, with the most recent of those coming in August when he needed just 91 seconds to blast out Des Newton.

He now turns his attention to Camero, who won the Southern Area lightweight title back in 2017, and Donovan is pleased about the step up.

“I’m really excited to be back in the ring,” he said.

“Camero seems to be a decent fighter with 10 wins from 16 fights, and he will be my toughest challenge to date. My training is going really well, and I’m feeling perfect. I’m sure his style of fighting will bring the best out of me, and I’ll put on one hell of a show.”

Promoter Lee Eaton added: “We’re delighted to be working with our friends at Top Rank to get Paddy Donovan on our huge show next month. He’s had a perfect start to his career, and now faces a big test against Camero.

“Donovan looks destined for big things in the sport and has a great trainer in his corner in Andy Lee. Camero is a former Southern Area champion, though, so it’s set to be an inspiring fight.”

The bill also features Lee McGregor challenging Karim Guerfi for the EBU bantamweight title, plus Kazakh star Tursynbay Kulakhmet having his first fight in the UK.

Elsewhere on the card, Sultan Zaurbek takes on Jeff Ofori, Hassan Azim makes his professional debut, Inder Bassi faces Jack Martin and Sahir Iqbal returns.