Burnett to meet Zhakiyanov in world bantamweight title unification fight
Ryan Burnett will fight Zhanat Zhakiyanov in a unification fight for the IBF and WBA bantamweight titles at Belfast's SSE Arena on October 21.
The fight also represents Burnett's first defence of the IBF title he so impressively won from Lee Haskins at the same venue in June, and WBA champion Zhakiyanov's maiden outing since in February winning world honours.
Kazakhstan's Zhakiyanov then became the first fighter the retired Ricky Hatton trained to a world title, and he has also sparred with Burnett, who worked with Hatton before present trainer Adam Booth.
The development comes swiftly after the late cancellation of Carl Frampton's match-up with Andres Gutierrez, and fellow Belfast local Burnett 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.
"This is exactly the fight that propels me into that position. I wouldn't have it any other way.
"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. 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 taken 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."
Zhakiyanov similarly travelled to the hometown of defending champion Rau'shee Warren when he won his title in Ohio, and he said: "I've won against all title holders that my management team put in front of me.
"Ryan Burnett will not be different from what I've (already) achieved."