By Thomas Lyons
WBA ‘Super’ Bantamweight champion Ryan Burnett (19-0, 9KOs) successfully defended his title at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff, outclassing mandatory challenger Yonfrez Parejo, despite sustaining a hand injury early on in the fight. The brilliance of the Belfast man shone through with the superior, sharp reflexes and timing, outmanoeuvring the Venezuelan from start to finish. Coming off the back of two tough world title fights with Lee Haskins and then unifying the division with Zhanit Zhakiyanov, Burnett was able to box with speed and finesse to a comprehensive deficit on two of the three judges scorecards, 120-108, with the other judge seeing the contest much closer, a surprise tally of 116-112.
Despite the injury to Burnett’s right hand, Parejo was just not able to get to grips with the slippery style of Burnett, able to switch from orthodox to southpaw and incorporate a variety of angles to confuse his opponent. Without being able to use the overhand to full effect, Burnett continued to use his snappy jab to gauge the distance and prevent Parejo getting onto the inside. Dropping his arms considerably low, relying on his upper body movement and reactions to dodge punches, Burnett started to enjoy himself in there as the rounds ticked over and produced another dominant performance with little firing back from Parejo.
Forced to relinquish the IBF belt in order to proceed with the WBA mandatory in Parejo, with the governing body ordering Emmanuel Rodriguez to fight Haskins for the vacant title, Burnett showed exactly why he unified the division in just his 18th fight and sets his sights on some massive fights in another thriving 118lbs mix. With rumours of a World Boxing Super Series taking place, with the Bantamweights thrown into the hat, one would assume that Burnett has to feature in the tournament, being top of the pecking order. A fight the boxing fans are desperate to see is a unification between Burnett and WBO king Zolani Tete, and maybe with the new format of the best fighting the best, this fight could materialise at some stage if both fighters enter. However, with the broadcaster clash and differences between the two promoters, it’s hard to think of any other way the fight can be made.
Meanwhile, stablemate Josh Kelly also impressed the Cardiff crowd with a convincing points win over former world champion Carlos Molina, picking up the WBA International belt. It was the first time the unbeaten prospect had been taken the full ten rounds, and Kelly passed with flying colours, demonstrating dazzling hand speed to outpoint the durable Molina, who’d never been stopped previously.
On paper, it seemed a tough assignment with raised eyebrows about the calibre of opponent in just Kelly’s sixth fight and the decision to be moved quickly was justified, with this masterclass over a 38-fight veteran. Molina had racked up an impressive resume with some elite names on his record and despite having far more experience than Kelly in the paid ranks, it was the North East star who showed levels on the night. Kelly will be looking to add more titles to his collection and continue to step up the ladder in 2018.
Alarm bells will be ringing across the Welterweight division domestically and Kelly, under the tutelage and guidance of Adam Booth will be looking to clean up before moving onto world level.