Burnett can become one of the world's top 10 pound for pound fighters, says Ricky Hatton
British boxing legend Ricky Hatton says he expects Ryan Burnett to kick on from his World unification title triumph, become a two weight title holder and be recognised as one of the true elite fighters on the planet.
Belfast man Burnett demonstrated heart and guile to outpoint Kazakhstan's Zhanat Zhakiyanov at the SSE Arena on Saturday night, adding the WBA title to the IBF belt he won back in June.
Hatton, who once trained Burnett, accepted the defeat of Zhakiyanov with good grace even if two of the scores in Burnett's favour were a little wide. Furthermore, the former two-weight world champion believes the 25-year-old proved he is one of the best in the world across all the divisions.
"Ryan will be better for this. He's fought in a unification fight in his 18th fight and that's an achievement in itself. Even if he'd lost he could have come back," said Hatton.
"Unified champion in 18 fights - you would think he should also get awarded the prestigious Ring Magazine belt and he also must be knocking on the door of the top 10 pound for pound fighters in the world list. If he's not put in there now then he's not far off because there are not that many unified champions out there. If he's doing this after only 18 fights and he's only 25 then you have to say that the world is his oyster.
"You don't want to be having too many fights like those in your career, but Ryan has years left in him. He will go down as an Irish boxing great and he's probably achieved that already."
Indeed, having followed in the footsteps of Carl Frampton by becoming a unified world champion, Hatton feels Burnett can also replicate the Jackal's achievement of becoming a world title holder at two different weights.
"To be honest, I thought Ryan looked dreadful at the weigh-in, he looked bone dry and I know because I used to struggle with my weight," added Hatton.
"I could see him sitting there not making conversation with anyone, I thought 'yeah it's hard work making the weight Ryan'. But super-bantamweight is 8st 10lb, that's only four pounds up so there's no reason he can't go up and he's proved his strength because of the way he had it out with Zhanat.
"I was the over the moon at the start of the fight because I thought Ryan would try and move and use his speed to catch Zhanat coming in but, right from the outset, he went into the trenches. I thought 'lovely, he's playing into our hands here, this is our kind of fight' and after about six rounds I thought he looked shattered.
"So, whatever his coach Adam Booth did in the corner he did a wonderful job because he seemed to really come on down the home straight. Good coaches know what to say at the right time and he came out very strong and I know Zhanat, I know how strong he is and how hard he is so for Ryan to tough it out like he did, he should be very, very proud of himself.
"Zhanat smashes every obstacle that I give him in the gym, he's an absolute workhorse and with Ryan for those years I had him, he was the same.
"Where Ryan found the extra bit of energy from I don't know but that's what champions do, they find that little bit extra, that's why they're champions."