It was scary when I was rushed to hospital, says champ Ryan Burnett
Northern Ireland boxer Ryan Burnett admitted he feared serious injury after being taken away from Belfast's SSE Arena in an ambulance having just enjoyed the biggest win of his career against Zhanat Zhakiyanov.
The 25-year-old Belfast man added Zhakiyanov's WBA world title to his IBF belt in Saturday night's gruelling 12-rounder, which was the first world unification bout to be staged in Northern Ireland.
But moments after returning to his dressing room he was rushed to the Royal Victoria Hospital, before being released two hours later.
"It was a really tough battle and when I got back to the changing room I could feel my head swelling and I couldn't hear anything so the doctor said I needed to go to the hospital," said Burnett, speaking exclusively to the Belfast Telegraph.
"When I was in the ambulance it was scary because I was thinking about how other boxers had suffered, how they had become ill after fights.
"When you look at the number of boxers who have died this year, it just shows you what a dangerous, dangerous sport it is.
"So it wasn't a comfortable place to be, being in the back of an ambulance after such a tough fight.
"But these are the things that you have to face if you want to become a world champion, to fight at the top level.
"I had to have a brain scan, a CT scan, and I had my jaw looked at, my face looked at and my ears. But thankfully they came back, told me that everything was clear and I was able to leave so that was a big relief."
Bantamweight Burnett also revealed there were moments during the 12 rounds when he felt like going down such was the relentless pressure that Zhakiyanov was applying in what was by some distance the hardest fight of his career.
"I was hurt a few times in the fight from body and head shots and so badly hurt that I think a lot of people would have taken a knee at times - but I just had to bite down on my gumshield and keep going forward.
"I think that showed the character I have that I kept going and it's those little decisions that make the difference, that mean you get the title.
"If I had taken a knee I may not have got the decision. At the end of the fight when I heard the decision I was just so grateful. I had been given the perfect preparation by my coach Adam Booth - being in with big super-featherweights I was ready for such a tough fight.
"To have someone like Adam in the corner who has been there before, that was very important. I had wanted to box more at distance, but he was so aggressive that I had to beat him at his own game and that's what I did."
Burnett said he now wants to "switch off" from boxing and will turn his attention to spending time with his fiancee Lara Milner and the rest of his family. "What I've achieved hasn't really sunk in yet - I suppose it will in a few days time. I'm going to spend time with my family. I won't be going on holiday this time because all my money is going into the new house that Lara and I have bought," he added.