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Ryan Burnett aiming for greatness in Belfast World unification title bout

By Gareth Hanna

Belfast Boy Ryan Burnett is determined to seal his spot as a boxing great when he fights to become unified world champion in his home city in October.

The rumoured bout has now been confirmed as IBF bantamweight champion Burnett will take on WBA holder Zhanat Zhakiyanov live on Sky Sports in Belfast's SSE Arena on Saturday October 21.

A win would see Burnett become only the second Irish boxer, after a certain Carl Frampton, to unify world titles.

"I'm very, very excited!" he said. "This is the path I've always believed in and asked for - to be not just a world champion but a great world champion and this is exactly the fight that propels me into that position. I wouldn't have it any other way."

The pair will be familiar foes as Zhakiyanov belongs to Ricky Hatton's stable, in which Burnett began his career.

"I've done a lot of work with him in sparring, but back then I was a kid and hardly had any fights and he was fighting for the European title," said Burnett.

"I know what it's like to share a ring with him, but he doesn't know what it's like to share a ring with the current Ryan Burnett. A lot has changed since we last sparred for me but not with him. It's good to have that bit of knowledge, I know a few things about him. That can only work in my favour.

"The Belfast fans have really took a shine to me especially since my last fight, everything has taken off and I'm just looking forward to getting back to the SSE Arena with a packed house behind me."

However, Burnett's 33 year-old Khazakh opponent is confident he will add the fight to his list of 27 victories.

"I've won against all title holders that my management team put in front of me," said Zhakiyanov. "In Switzerland in 2011, in Sheffield in against Karim Guerfi, in Vraza against Hector Guzman, in Monaco against Yonfrez Parejo and in Ohio against Warren. Ryan Burnett will not be different from what I've always achieved."

Burnett was under pressure to make a mandatory title defence but has instead opted to attempt to replicate the feat Frampton completed against Scott Quigg in Manchester.

“I'm so proud firstly to be part of history in bringing this huge unification to Belfast but also of Ryan Burnett for taking on this huge challenge,” said promoter Eddie Hearn.

“Following his great win against Haskins for the title, it would have been so easy to come back to Belfast with a standard defence but Ryan wants to be great and make history and this fight against Zhakiyanov can do just that. It's a brilliant fight and it's going to be a special night on October 21 – fight fans can expect an epic main event and a stacked card whether watching in the SSE or live on Sky Sports.”

Belfast man Burnett landed the IBF title with a comprehensive points victory over veteran Lee Haskins at the SSE Arena in June in only his 17th fight.

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