By Paul Mason (@KOBoxingSets)
Eddie Hearn has announced that Belfast’s talented IBF Bantamweight Champion, will make his first defence, not against a pushover voluntary, but against Kazakhstan’s WBA (Super) and IBO Champion Zhanat Zhakiyanov in a unification match inside the cauldron of the Belfast Odyssey Arena on Saturday October 21st. Sky Sports will televise here in the UK.
This is an impressive match up, considering the Ricky Hatton trained Zhakiyanov’s recent positive television exposure in America after surviving two first round knockdowns to impressively outpoint Rau’Shee Warren to take his two belts in Ohio on a Premier Boxing Champions show in February of this year.
Burnett was last in action in June when he widely outpointed Bristol’s Lee Haskins (but only won via split decision, more on that later!) to relieve him of his IBF crown in Belfast.
Zhakiyanov has literally fought all over the world in his 28 fight career. In a career that began 2007, he has boxed in his native Kazakhstan, as well as Uzbekistan, Russia, Thailand, Switzerland, Belarus, Australia, Bulgaria, Monaco, USA and the UK. His only career defeat came in only his sixth fight, dropping a wide points decision to the then 9-0 Russian, Sakhib Usarov over eight rounds. He has since gone on a 21 fight unbeaten run, picking up the European Bantamweight Title in Sheffield by knocking out Karim Guerfi in five rounds in April 2014. After two knockout wins in Australia and Bulgaria, Zhakiyanov picked up the interim version of the WBA World Title with a split decision win over Venezuelan Yonfrez Perejo in Monaco. This win paved the way for a shot at the full Title against the decorated former World amateur champion and WBA (Super) and IBO champion Rau’shee Warren.
Ryan Burnett turned professional in May 2013. As an amateur, he rose to number 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 the fought in February in Hull, defeating Joseafat Reyes over eight rounds on points. This led him to a dream first World Title shot in front of his own fans in Belfast against Lee Haskins. Burnett was never in trouble and boxed well to instruction, knocking Haskins down in rounds six and eleven before winning widely on the cards, but only by split decision officially due to a truly horrific piece of judging by Clark Sammartino, who scored for Haskins, but got the boxers mixed up!
This is a great match up on paper, and represents a good bit of matchmaking all round by both fighters promotors. It’s always good to see unification matches, and they are even fewer and far between these days. Also with domestic World Champions like Jamie McDonnell (WBA Regular) and contenders like Paul Butler and Stuart Hall facing off, the division could soon be heavily dominated domestically, which is always good to see. I for one am looking forward to Burnett and Zhakiyanov facing off in just over two months’ time.
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