Belfast Telegraph

Dancer Lara waiting in the wings as Ryan Burnett eyes second world title

By Gareth Hanna

Since Belfast boxer Ryan Burnett became the champion of the world, Lara Milner's duties as a fiancee have taken a few twists.

More used to being centre stage in her job as lead dancer on Michael Flatley's world famous Lord of the Dance show, Lara's role on the sidelines has been expanded to include photographer, chef and dietitian.

Burnett (25) beat reigning champ Lee Haskins to snatch the IBF World Bantamweight belt back in June and is bidding to add the WBA crown when he takes on Zhanat Zhakiyanov at Belfast's SSE Arena on Saturday evening.

"Since I won this belt I pushed my fiancee to the side and the belt sleeps beside me now," joked Ryan at Thursday's press conference, with a cheeky, sideward glance in 23-year-old Lara's direction. "I'm looking forward to having another one to squeeze in beside me."

There's little doubting another victory would ramp Burnett's profile up another notch, making life in Belfast that little bit more busy.

"He does get recognised a lot more when we're out for dinner or just out for the day," said Lara, reflecting on how June's success altered their lives.

"We have to get used to people constantly stopping him, especially when he's in Belfast walking around the town.

"I have to stand waiting and waiting. Sometimes I get asked to take the pictures as well and I'm like, 'No I'm not your photographer now'. I don't mind. He enjoys that, so it's good to see."

Lara even gave up a trip to China to support her man during his training camp for Saturday's fight, leaving her mum and sister to look after her class at the Crawford Academy of Irish Dance.

"It's been good," she said. "I kind of come back and forth to home, making his meals and their juice and stuff.

"All his family and his friends are back in Belfast so if I'm over it gives him that normality." As well as her other new duties, the most important title change of 2017 came back in March when Ryan proposed and the Antrim town woman went from girlfriend to fiancee.

"It was just after one of his fights - he took me to the Galgorm," she said.

"I thought we were just going for a relaxing weekend to chill out but it was actually to propose.

"He had hired a private hot tub in the Galgorm with Champagne and everything and surprised me. I wasn't expecting anything at all."

With the wedding booked for May 23, 2020, planning can take a back seat for now.

That's just as well because come Saturday night, Lara will be much too focused on the, mercifully, temporary position of full-time nail-biter.

"I feel sick leading up to the fights," she said.

"There are just so many mixed emotions. I want him to do well but then I'm worried if he's hurt. I keep asking could he not have been a golfer or a tennis player or something but he loves it," she laughed.

As Lara waits in the wings to hopefully celebrate, Ryan will be centre stage, with a new title and belt not his only focus.

"After this fight I'm going to be in a position where I can buy a home," he said, in a grounded manner many world-class sports stars wouldn't consider.

"I'm not looking to buy supercars or anything, I'm looking to buy a home so my family's secure. That's my main goal. I want to have a roof over my head.

"And I've got a wedding to pay for as well," he concluded, with a roll of his eyes.

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