Belfast Telegraph

World champion boxer Ryan Burnett cannot wait to tuck into a pizza after fight with Zhanat Zhakiyanov in Belfast's SSE Arena

By Ali Gordon

Belfast fighter Ryan Burnett’s mind will be on just one thing after his world title unification fight on Saturday — pizza!

After months of gruelling training ahead of his clash with Zhanat Zhakiyanov at the SSE Arena, the 25-year-old cannot wait to get stuck into a New Yorker pizza with a stuffed crust with partner Lara Milner.

“I’m definitely getting a pizza delivered straight after the fight,” Ryan told Sunday Life. “I’ve told my fiancee, Lara, that it’s her job to get the order in so we can have it once we’re back in the dressing room.

“I’ve been eating really well so there haven’t been too many pizzas recently, but I can’t wait for it now.”

Former world champion Carl Frampton famously eats pavlova after his fights.

And in his Sunday Life Sport column today, The Jackal backs Ryan to become a unified champion in only his 18th professional fight.

“All the hard work is done, so now it’s time to rest up and get ready for the big night,” said Ryan, a former pupil at St Patrick’s College on the Antrim Road.

“With every opponent, the preparation has to be adjusted, so for this camp we’ve had bigger lads in sparring and I have done some things differently in training.

“I think we’ve definitely done all the right things. It’s a chance to make history, so I feel very proud to be in this position, but I haven’t focused too much on that side of it.

“I just want to get into the ring and win the fight.”

Ryan has endured some tough times in his rise to the top. In 2011 a bulging disc in his lower back ruled him out of action for a year, then in 2012 he failed a brain scan after signing a deal with former world champion Ricky Hatton.

The following year he became homeless for six weeks, sleeping in a borrowed Jeep with his dad while he continued to chase his dreams in England.

“I know what it’s like to be at rock bottom and that motivates me to never want to be there again,” said the 2010 Olympic Youth Games gold medallist.

“I’ve put in the necessary work to get to this point and now I don’t want to go back there — I want to keep going.

“I always believed that it would come right in the end. Even when things weren’t going so well and it was pretty hard, I still knew that it would work out.

“Thankfully, I was right. The hard work has paid off and it has all turned out brilliantly for me. I’m already world champion and I’m going to be unified world champion come next Saturday, so I’ve no complaints.”

At the fight Ryan’s gorgeous other half and number one fan Lara will be ringside.

The pair, who got engaged at the Galgorm Resort and Spa outside Ballymena earlier this year, have been together since 2012 after meeting in a Belfast nightclub as teenagers.

But knock-out beauty Lara, who is the lead Irish dancer on Michael Flatley’s Lord of the Dance tour, admits she still gets nervous when watching her man box.

“I’m so proud of Ryan and I love what he does and what he’s achieved, but I always feel a bit sick during the fight,” said the 23-year-old.

“I’m like his cheerleader, screaming from ringside, but until the final round is over or the fight is stopped, I’m a bit on edge. Once I know he’s fine then I’m bursting with pride. I’m really looking forward to the fight, but I haven’t a clue what I’m going to wear yet. I was saying to Ryan that I need to get myself organised.

“I know it’ll be a good night, but I’m more looking forward to getting in, getting it done and having time to relax together afterwards. It’s really exciting.”

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