Hearn: Ryan Burnett can point way to US star status
Promoter Eddie Hearn says Belfast fighter Ryan Burnett has the chance to "become an international superstar" by winning in exciting style in front of American television powerbroker Peter Nelson.
Nelson, the top man in HBO televised boxing, will be ringside this evening at the SSE Arena in Belfast to witness IBF bantamweight champion Burnett's mouth-watering showdown with WBA champion Zhanat Zhakiyanov.
The television executive has flown in at Hearn's request as the Matchroom Boxing boss believes Burnett is ready to take off in a big way.
Hearn recently launched his Matchroom USA and has secured HBO coverage coast-to-coast in the States for this evening's first world title unification battle in Northern Ireland.
"This is a massive opportunity for Ryan. This is the fight that can make him a huge name in the UK, in the USA and on the international stage," Hearn said.
"We've got the top man in HBO coming in and I've told him that Ryan Burnett is the next star to come out of Northern Ireland and I believe he will be blown away by the atmosphere.
"So, there's a lot riding on this fight, this is the chance for Ryan to show the world he's the real deal.
"I want the HBO guys to be going back to the States saying they want to be part of Ryan Burnett's journey.
"They know Zhakiyanov because he beat the top American Rau'shee Warren to win the title so they are aware of how dangerous this guy is, even if he's not widely known by the public."
Hearn admits that he would have preferred to have seen Burnett have one or two fights before facing the tough little warrior from Kazakhstan but equally sees the value in taking such a risk, just four months after taking the IBF world title from Lee Haskins.
"Yes, we would probably have liked to have built Ryan up into this fight but he's going to dive in because he's hungry for fights like this and if he wins then he has taken a massive step forward," added Hearn.
"This is not just about having the two world title belts, this is also about being seen as the number one in the bantamweight division - the top dog.
"Yes there is the WBO and WBC champions but the winner of this fight is the only unified champion.
"A win here and I know that they'll wanting to see Ryan in the States and I would love to take him there in March or April to New York.
"What I like about Ryan is that he will fight anyone, he doesn't want to just have easy fights and bank some money.
"He's being advised very well by Adam Booth who knows the business inside out and he believes that he has the ability to take this step up.
"This guy Zhakiyanov is an elite fighter and he will show us what Ryan has got. This fight will either be seen as a big mistake or a genius move because it has come so quickly after him winning the IBF title.
"But Adam has always told me that 'you don't know how good this kid is' and I think that we're going to see it in this fight. I think Zhakiyanov will bring out the best in Ryan."