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Hearn hands Burnett another chance to shine on global stage


Rising up: Belfast ace Ryan Burnett takes care of Zhanat Zhakiyanov in October
Rising up: Belfast ace Ryan Burnett takes care of Zhanat Zhakiyanov in October
David Kelly

By David Kelly

First it was HBO and now Ryan Burnett will seek to sparkle in front of a worldwide audience on American cable giant Showtime when he returns to the ring on March 31 in Cardiff.

The 80,000 Principality Stadium is almost sold out for Anthony Joshua's world heavyweight title unification battle with Joseph Parker - a Sky Box Office event - and promoter Hearn has decided to hand Burnett a golden opportunity to raise his profile even further with a WBA world bantamweight title defence against Venezuela's Yonfrez Parejo.

Due to being under pressure to also make a mandatory defence of his IBF title, Burnett has vacated the belt he won last June with a points win over Lee Haskins. That has paved the way for Liverpool's Paul Butler to face No.1 challenger Emmanuel Rodriguez for the vacant belt.

"I'm delighted to be added to this show. It's going to be an incredible experience to defend my world title in front of 80,000 in Cardiff," said Burnett. "I don't really get involved in the politics but we knew that when we faced (Zhanat) Zhakiyanov that is was likely we may have to vacate one of the belts because of mandatories but I've unified the division and now we move on to new challenges.

"I expect a tough fight against Parejo, our styles should gel for a great fight and I'm looking forward to making another statement on March 31."

Burnett became a unified champion in October when he landed the WBA title after a tough duel with Zhanat Zhakiyanov in the SSE Arena, which was shown on Sky as well as American network HBO. While it is disappointing that the Belfast man has to vacate one of his belts, promoter Hearn explained there was no alternative.

"The IBF called an interim title bout between Rodriguez and Haskins so we proceeded to make the fight with our WBA mandatory Parejo," said Hearn.

"Last week we were notified that that bout would no longer take place and that Rodriguez's team were not willing to negotiate and they called immediate purse bids. Our deal was already in place with Parejo so we will vacate our IBF title and continue to face our WBA mandatory."

Hearn is now plotting two more big fights for Burnett before the end of the year, assuming he comes through against Parejo next month, which is part of the Joshua-Parker Showtime broadcast.

WBO bantamweight champion Zolani Tete remains a target for Burnett but so does WBC title holder Luis Nery who makes a defence of his belt on March 1 against Japan's Shinsuke Yamanaka. Hearn would love to see Burnett and the winner of Nery-Yamanaka meeting in Belfast this June.

"It's going to be another exciting year for Ryan. He's got a reputation for being a guy who is willing to fight anyone, he steps up to the plate and he has been begging me for the Tete fight but I have told him not yet, so blame me for it not happening at the moment," said Hearn.

"It is a fight that I would love to happen and so would Ryan and his coach Adam Booth but with fights like that it's about timing and the rewards. They're premium fights and for those to happen you need to be getting premium money.

"But for sure, the plan is for Ryan to win another belt and I know that Ryan and Adam want to see him clean up the division. A unification fight in the summer back in Belfast would be perfect."

Limited tickets remain on sale for the event, while official hospitality packages are available to purchase directly from Principality Stadium Experience on 02920822413.

Belfast Telegraph


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