By Paul Mason (@KOBoxingSets)
Big time Boxing returns to the Odyssey Arena in Belfast, Northern Ireland this Saturday, as highly regarded Belfast boy Ryan Burnett (16-0, KO9) takes the giant leap into World Class, by attempting to relieve the awkward switch hitting Bristolian, Lee Haskins (34-3, KO14) of his IBF Bantamweight Title. Sky Sports televise here in the UK and Eddie Hearn for Matchroom promotes.
The Adam Booth trained Burnett is a baby in boxing terms, having only turned professional in May 2013. As an amateur, he rose tonumber one in the World Youth amateur rankings and compiled a record of 94 wins and 4 losses. Burnett won seven All Ireland titles and four Ulster titles in that time, along with several multi-nations tournament medals. The highlights of his amateur career however, were his silver and gold medal wins, in the World Youth Championships and the Olympic Youth Games respectively. After winning those medals, Burnett suffered a back injury that ruled him out of competition for a year. Not long after regaining fitness, Burnett decided to turn professional under the Hatton Promotions banner.
He made his professional debut in Liverpool against Laszlo Nemesapati Jr, and won inside a round. Ten straight wins followed, eight by knockout, before Burnett met the old war horse Jason Booth for the vacant British Bantamweight Title. Booth was down in the first round and lost all twelve rounds on the card, in a changing of the guard fight. A ten round points win over Anthony Settoul for the WBC International belt followed. Cesar Ramirez was then beaten on points over ten in July 2016, and he was back out again in October, widely out scoring Ryan Farrag in defence of his British Title. Burnett’s last fight came in February in Hull, defeating Joseafat Reyes over eight rounds on points.
It’s fair to say, that although Burnett has looked impressive so far in his fledgling career, he hasn’t mixed anywhere near World class, and I’m pretty sure that he won’t have faced anyone as strange, style-wise, than the man he meets on Saturday.
Alternatively, Lee Haskins has a wealth of professional experience, having turned over in 2003. After campaigning at Flyweight, he captured the English Title in his ninth fight, as the well-travelled Delroy Spencer retired after three rounds. Five fights later, Haskins picked up the Commonwealth crown, stopping Anthony Mathias in two rounds in Plymouth. After one defence, Lee jumped two weight classes to challenge the dangerous South African, Tshifhiwa Munyai for the Commonwealth Bantamweight Title. Munyai had claimed the belt by stunning Martin Power, and he repeated the trick, stopping Haskins in six to hand him his first defeat. After a comeback six round points win, Haskins challenged Ian Napa for the British Bantamweight Title. Lee again suffered defeat, having to retire from the contest with an injured arm.
He rebounded extremely well following the Napa defeat. He beat future World Champion, Jamie McDonnell by a single point over eight, before then out pointing Andy Bell to win the British Super Flyweight Title. Ross Burkinshaw was halted in four before Haskins unified domestically by adding the Commonwealth crown to his British belt, as well as taking Birmingham’s Don Broadhurst’s unbeaten record in a terribly scrappy affair in Newport, Wales. That was 2009, and it would be well over a year before Haskins would fight again, due to his propsed European Title bout against Andrea Sarritzu being postponed four times during 2010. He shook off the ring rust in April 2011, with a six rounder, and he then travelled to the bizarre location of Marrakech, Morrocco, to relieve Mohamed Bouleghcha of his WBA Intercontinental Bantamweight Title, knocking him down twice, before winning widely on the cards.
Haskins stock rose even further when he won the first Super Flyweight Prizefighter tournament at the Liverpool Olympia in October 2011. He didn’t drop a round in beating Terry Broadbent, Ryan Farrag, and his old adversary Don Broadhurst in winning the trophy. Broadhurst was down twice in the final, in a much better clash than its predecessor. Next came the European strap, widely out pointing another future World Champion in Darlington’s Stuart Hall. Haskins lost the belt in his first defence, travelling to Belgium to take on home fighter Stephane Jamoye. Lee was stopped in eight in a classic. He bounced back immediately, beating Martin Ward, stopping him in the fifth, to become British Bantamweight Champion. After defending against Jason Booth and wins against Luke Wilton (TKO2) and Willy Velazquez, Haskins captured the European Bantamweight Crown in Monaco, beating Omar Lamiri on points (Technical Decision) in a bout stopped in the eighth following a cut to Haskins’ right eye. This catapulted Haskins into World class, and he met Japanese fighter Ryosuke Iwasa for the Interim IBF World Title at Bantamweight. Haskins was considered the underdog, but put in a great performance to stop Iwasa in six. He was upgraded to full champion in November 2015, as American, Randy Caballero, failed to make weight for their proposed contest. A routine first defence against Ivan Morales in Cardiff followed (Unanimous), before in his last fight on the Golovkin v Brook undercard last September, he went over old ground in handily beating Stuart Hall on points.
So Haskins comes to Belfast in good form and as a World Champion, and I don’t see this as a changing of the guard as some people do. Haskins is awkward to hit and hard to look good against, and this could possibly frustrate the green Burnett, while making his usual wild angles for effective, point scoring shots to land. I’m going to go with Haskins to retain on points, as I feel this opportunity may have come a touch early for Burnett.
It’s pretty slim pickings on the undercard. Cuban Mike Perez, was due to meet Tommy McCarthy in an interesting fight following Perez’ move down to Cruiserweight from Heavyweight. McCarthy has now pulled out through injury. Perez will still feature. James Tennyson and Paul Hyland Jr also appear.
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