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Gifted Burnett out to prove he's worthy of great expectations

 

By David Kelly

Promoter Eddie Hearn has guided enough fighters to World title success to know when the time is right to test the mettle of a young tiger. Step forward Ryan Burnett.

On June 10 at the SSE Arena, Belfast, unbeaten Burnett challenges IBF bantamweight champion Lee Haskins in an exciting battle which will have opinion divided among the British boxing fraternity.

Hearn made it clear that he plans a series of big fights in Belfast if Burnett can deliver and join the exclusive club of World champions from Northern Ireland. Equally, he made it clear to Burnett that even at 24 with just 16 pro fights he "may never get a better chance to become World champion" than when he meets Haskins.

Hearn added: "When I told Adam Booth we had got Ryan the fight with Lee Haskins for the World title, the look on Adam's face was worth every penny of time trying to make the deal and every penny spent to bring this World title fight to Belfast.

"He showed me a picture of him showing Ryan Burnett the deal for the fight and the two of them almost breaking down in tears, embracing each other and it made me realise how important it is to carve out opportunities like this for fighters and for fighters who have a city like Belfast behind them.

"There are few cities if any that generate an atmosphere to back one of their own and here Belfast has one of their own with the opportunity to become World champion.

"But it's not just about winning the World title, it's about cementing yourself in the division, unifying the belts and moving up, and in Ryan Burnett we have a fighter who can do that."

Burnett, 24, embraced the expectations from promoter Hearn, insisting that despite having had only 16 fights he is ready to make it to boxing's summit.

"I believe I've got the ability to beat Lee Haskins and that's why we went after this fight," said Burnett.

"It was like Christmas Day when I was told the news but also a sense of calmness because I expected this to happen, to get a chance like this.

"Haskins has only been beaten once in nine years, he's up there with the elite, he's a very good World champion, but it's time for him to step aside and for me to take over."

Coach and manager Booth admits that Burnett will be tested as never before, but has no doubt that he will rise to the challenge.

"My belief from day one has been that Ryan Burnett is special," said Booth.

"I know full well that with Lee Haskins a lot of people make the cardinal mistake of underestimating him. We know what he can do, that he can shut down talented, aggressive fighters, so we're striving every day to have every answer to every question that Lee Haskins can ask of Ryan Burnett because he's going to ask him questions.

"I'm looking forward to June 10 to see Ryan giving the answers."

The show will also feature Belfast prospects James Tennyson and Paul Hyland as well as Coalisland's Fergal McCrory and Paddy Gallagher, who revealed he was pleasantly surprised to be on the card.

"It's great to be on this bill - I didn't actually know I was on the show until I walked into today and saw my name on the table," quipped Gallagher.

Tickets go on sale today.

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