The second feature of the Fighters Profile series will focus on former IBF and WBA Bantamweight champion Ryan Burnett.
Belfast’s own Ryan Burnett first took up boxing at the age of four. After starting out in Belfast’s Kronk Gym Burnett moved to the renowned Holy Family Boxing Club.
The Belfast man racked up an amateur record of 94 wins and just 4 losses. He also reached number one in the AIBA World Youth amateur rankings.
Burnett won seven All Ireland titles and four Ulster titles, along with multiple multi-nations tournament medals. The highlights of his amateur career came in 2010 where silver and gold medals were secured at the World Youth Championships in Singapore and the Olympic Youth Games at Baku.
With a hugely successful amateur career under his belt, Burnett turned professional in January 2012. He joined coach Ricky Hatton in Manchester.
When his coach ran upon hard times, Burnett was forced to move camps. In September 2014 the Irish-man joined up with Adam Booth in London to kick-start his career.
Picking up four more wins to take his record to 11-0, the Irishman would get a shot at Robert Kanalas for the vacant WBO European Bantamweight title in October 2015. Burnett knocked his opponent out in the second round to hold his first ever title.
Just one month later, Burnett would get a shot at the vacant British Bantamweight title against Jason Booth. Despite managing a first round knockdown over the Brit, Burnett was taken the distance and won via unanimous decision.
In his next bout against Anthony Settoul, Burnett won the WBC International Bantamweight title in February 2016 defending the title twice against Cesar Ramirez and Ryan Farrag.
In June 2017, the fighter would return home to the SSE Arena at the Odyssey taking on IBF Bantamweight title holder Lee Haskins for his first chance at a world title unified belt.
Burnett dropped Haskins twice in the fight, knocking him down once in round 6 and again in round 11. That night in Belfast Burnett won his first world title with an unbeaten 17-0 record at the age of 25.
Despite being called out by WBO title holder Zolani Tete Burnett and his team already had their eyes set on their next target.
Burnett would face former coach Ricky Hatton’s WBA champion Zhanat Zhakiyanov in October 2017. The SSE Arena was the venue and a chance to fight in front of a home-town crowd for a second world title.
Burnett won via unanimous decision to become the unified IBF and WBA Bantamweight champion.
Burnett and promoter Eddie Hearn set their sights of a first title defense of the WBA title. The IBF governing body wanted Burnett to face the interim IBF winner between Emmanuel Rodriguez and Lee Haskins, who he already beat.
At the time Eddie Hearn was already in talks with Venezuelan boxer Yonfrez Parejo who was the WBA mandatory, to hold a fight on the Joshua v Parker undercard on the 31 March 2018 at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff.
Burnett and his team decided to move on from their IBF title in a bid to box on bigger occasions.
Burnett dominated Parejo over 12 rounds retaining his WBA title and took his record to an impressive 19-0. Featuring on the Heavyweight bill between Joshua and Joseph Parker was the highlight of the 25-year old’s career so far. But what would be next?
As the top seed he would enter the World Boxing Super Series tournament in a Bantamweight match-up with former world champion Nonito Donaire in November 2018.
Burnett looked to have taken the first 2 rounds as his opponent reset in round 3 and began to box smarter. During round 4, Burnett reached for his lower back after throwing a combination of punches. He was unable to make it out of his corner for the fifth round.
Burnett suffered a freak injury where he tore muscle fibres in his back, resulting in loosing his WBA title and was knocked out of the WBSS tournament in Glasgow.
In April 2019 Burnett announced that he would be returning to action on the MTK Global show at the iconic Ulster Hall in May. He signed a multi-fight deal with Top Rank Promotions and the card aired live on ESPN. This would be the road to recovery for the Bantamweight prospect’s career.
His scheduled opponent was Filipino boxer Jelbrit Gomera for the vacant WBC International Super-Bantamweight title. Burnett went back and forth with the Filipino in the opening five rounds.
The experience of the home-town hero shone through however. A sixth round knock-out victory was the result of a well-placed body shot.
After the fight Burnett later noted that he was looking to become a two-weight world champion again, exploring possible fights at Super-Bantam as well as dropping back down to Bantamweight.
The Irish boxer suffered a suspected broken hand after his contest with Gomera. It’s hard to know what could be next for Burnett but I wouldn’t expect him to fight the rest of the year.
I’d expect another tune-up fight with a top 5 contender while moving back down to Bantamweight where he has fought most of his career. There is no real clear fight for him as of yet, healing up his injuries should be Burnett’s main focus.
Fighting at the SSE Arena in Belfast could be possible against WBA Bantamweight champions Nonito Donaire in a rematch sometime next year.
The WBC International Super-Bantamweight title could be used as bait for his next opponent, but a move up to that division will be put on hold until he gets his redemption….
Check out our previous Fighters Profile featured article on former UFC Middleweight champion Michael Bisping.
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