Being world champion means everything, Ryan Burnett declares
Burnett passes bruising test despite judge's bad blunder
The blood was still trickling down the bridge of Ryan Burnett's nose even after he had been stitched up like the son of Frankenstein. Northern Ireland's fresh World champion will sport the scars of battle for a while, but taste his sweetest win for years to come.
Down the corridor at Belfast's SSE Arena, former champion Lee Haskins had similar bruises and stitching as he was consoled by family and friends and then finally by Burnett who with a touch of class brought back the IBF bantamweight belt to the beaten Bristol man who will take it home and reflect on a career he could hardly have dreamed of as young pro with little amateur pedigree.
Saturday night was one for youth and a skilled 25-year-old craftsman who made his 33-year-old opponent feel twice his age and the need to consider his future.
Haskins found himself outfoxed throughout, on the floor in the sixth and 11th rounds and with a damaged shoulder after the first knockdown.
"The first knockdown hurt me, it caught me in the neck and I seemed to pull a muscle because it sent a shock up my arm and I couldn't lift my right arm from then on, but I'm not saying that if I hadn't that, I would have won," said Haskins.
"I need to re-evaluate things, I need to think about my kids… I'll go back and talk to my manager and see whether I keep doing this. His timing and footwork was too good… I tried to bait him in to land my shots but he wouldn't take the bait."
It could hardly have been a more clinical victory for the Belfast challenger and yet it was only to be, officially, on a split decision. Judges Dave Parris and Jerome Jakubco had it 119-107 for Burnett, while in a bizarre case of mistaken identity the third official Clark Sammartino scored it 118-108 for Haskins.
A baffled and angry promoter Eddie Hearn said: "He was asking our photographer 'which one's Burnett?' and the rounds that Ryan dropped Haskins he gave it 10-8 for Haskins instead of Ryan! I've never seen anything like it."
Even the nasty cut he sustained in the second round after a clash of heads didn't cause the same panic as when MC John McDonald announced a split decision after such a one-sided 12 rounds.
"To be honest I almost fainted in the ring but thank God the decision went in the right direction," said Burnett, who joins John Caldwell and Wayne McCullough as bantamweight World champions from Belfast.
"It's something special to join the greats of Irish boxing by becoming world champion. I'm in a position now where I can go on to give myself and my family a good life… that's what it's all about.
"I promised my dad when I was 11 that I'd become World champion and here I am.
"This is a lifetime's work for me.
"Even when things were going bad for me I still believed that this moment will come. It means everything to me."
Those sentiments were echoed by experienced coach Adam Booth who has guided Burnett to this glorious moment, having taken David Haye and Andy Lee to world honours.
"Nothing that I've done before tops this. I've been fortunate to have three world champions now… the special thing about this is that he only had 16 fights going into this and the growth that he has had mentally having not had the fights to give him that just shows his absolute belief and conviction in what he does and it's a little bit scary for me because it makes me realise just how good he could be. He's probably 60 per cent of where he's going to end up," said Booth, who feared the fight would be stopped due to the cuts suffered by both men.
"I want to say immense respect to the referee Marcus McDonnell because he could easily have blown that fight my panicking, could have stopped it because of the cut. I said to Ryan after the second round, 'this fight is not going 12 rounds because you're both cut too badly, go out and win every moment of the next two rounds because it'll go to a technical decision.
"The referee did an immaculate job and he allowed Ryan to do what he wanted to do and that is to prove that he is a genuine world champion over 12 rounds."
Burnett had bridged the gap from British champion to IBF kingpin.
Haskins was the perfect avenue for the inexperienced challenger to become world champion and now he is relishing the opportunity to pave out a golden road of success at the highest level.