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Ryan Burnett faces up to pain of £2m loss after injury ends Muhammad Ali Trophy hopes

 

Wounded warrior: Ryan Burnett squares up to Nonito Donaire
Wounded warrior: Ryan Burnett squares up to Nonito Donaire
David Kelly

By David Kelly

Donning the white and black trimmed shorts synonymous with Muhammad Ali, Ryan Burnett believed he was ready to make an immediate statement on his quest to win the trophy named after The Greatest. Instead, he left Glasgow's SSE Hydro Arena on a stretcher in a state of shock that his reign as world champion had ended.

More so, Burnett's mind will be swirling with concern about his future at the highest level given that a suspected slipped disc is the reason he had to withdraw after four competitive rounds.

New champion Nonito Donaire modestly embraced the anticlimactic victory in the quarter-final of the World Boxing Series, genuinely expressing concern for Burnett after taking his WBA World bantamweight title.

It cannot be overlooked that Donaire cast away the concerns over his ability at 35 to be a potent force at 118lb - seven years after reigning as WBO bantamweight champion - with every right hand that snapped back the Belfast man's head and body shots that were a reminder of his peak years.

From the opening bell, the Filipino Flash was making life uncomfortable for Burnett, who speared his opponent with stinging jabs but was taking some heavy artillery in return.

By the end of the third he had a bigger problem as pain started to nag at his back.

Having uttered his complaint to coach Adam Booth, Burnett was on the canvas late in the fourth after twisting into a right hand which sent a shockwave of pain through his body.

The 26-year-old could not mask his distress and Donaire went in for the kill, slamming a left hook to the champion's right side and, as Burnett painfully walked back to his corner, coach Adam Booth shook his head to signal the end of his reign had come.

Tears welled up in the Belfast man's eyes. His title had gone and the opportunity of life-changing money, estimated at around £2million, by winning the World Boxing Super Series ended.

"You're a great fighter, I didn't want to win this way. I wish you the best for the future," Donaire whispered into Burnett's ear.

It was the latest dark twist in Burnett's boxing career which has had moments of deep frustration and even despair, from which he has fought back to go on and become a unified world champion.

The 26-year-old's professional career was put on hold due to a bulging disc in 2011, having won Olympic Youth Games gold in 2010.

Six months of physio was required to get back into the ring but then just after signing professional terms with Ricky Hatton, he was dealt a crushing blow when the British Boxing Board of Control told him he had failed a brain scan. It seemed that is career was over before he had thrown a punch.

After a year of strife he managed to receive the all-clear and would go on to take the IBF title from Lee Haskins in June 2017, but even then needed surgery to fix a gash on his forehead.

A short trip to the hospital was even needed after unifying the IBF and WBA belts in Belfast last October when defeating Zhanat Zhakiyanov.

But now it would seem Burnett is facing a long, hard road back with concerns over whether this latest injury will leave him susceptible to further damage at the top level.

In contrast, 35-year-old Donaire marches forward to his semi-final with Zolani Tete early next year, believing that he has revived his career having dropped down from featherweight to bantamweight on the back of his loss to Carl Frampton earlier this year.

"This tournament makes me feels 20 years younger. I'm coming in here against younger, tough guys and I believe this will allow me to achieve my goal of becoming the undisputed world champion, the number one in the division.

"I realised after the Frampton fight that I had to go back to bantamweight and you saw that I could go back to being as fast I could be and this is just the tip of the iceberg," said Donaire, who wished stricken Burnett a quick recovery.

"There was nothing I could see that led to the injury except the body shots I was throwing. Though I did notice that when I was making him miss he was throwing with such velocity but holding his body back and that seemed to make him uncoordinated.

"In the first couple of rounds I felt I was relying a bit too much on power and my coach told me to start boxing the way we had trained so I started to show more of my boxing, to be smart.

"I started to listen and you could see that he wasn't touching me and I was setting him up.

"It was unfortunate the way the fight ended and I hope Ryan is able to recover quickly because he is a great fighter.

"Now I have the fight with Tete and I will go away and learn from this and build on this performance."

Meanwhile, promoter Kalle Sauerland suggested Burnett could be used as a reserve later in the tournament if he recovered in time but that seems doubtful.

"There is a way back for Ryan I wish him a speedy recovery but I fear it could be a long one.

"I'd love to have him as a reserve but I'm not a doctor and that will be up to his team," said Sauerland.

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