Ryan Burnett has been defeated in the quarter-finals of the World Boxing Super Series.
The Belfast bantamweight lost his WBA world title tonight to Nonito Donaire in Glasgow in freak circumstances, being pulled out between the fourth and fifth round after suffering what seemed to be either a back or a right hip injury while throwing a punch.
26-year-old Burnett had been on top in what had been a competitive contest at the SSE Hydro but has now been eliminated in a horrible and unsatisfactory manner.
Seeded first – although third favourite for the tournament with the bookies – the Antrim Road fighter picked Donaire as his opening opponent at the Draft Gala in Moscow over the decidedly less glamorous duo of Dominican former titlist Juan Carlos Payano and Russian amateur star Misha Aloyan.
The move was seen as a calculated risk – taking on a big name that may or may not be in top condition – but no-one could have foreseen what transpired in the ring tonight.
The build-up to tonight’s meeting was dominated by questions of weight – would Donaire be able to make the 118lbs bantamweight limit and, after he did, how would this affect his performance.
Dropping down two weight divisions at the age of 35 is unheard of in boxing and Donaire entered as something of an unknown quantity. He felt that his notable power would be comparatively greater at a weight he has not fought at in seven years while others worried about his punch resistance, stamina, and general energy.
Donaire did look in great shape throughout fight week and was much the bigger boxer in the ring. The Asian did not seem sluggish during the four completed rounds but Burnett was undoubtedly winning before disaster struck.
In a high-tempo opener, the snappy jab of Burnett landed with regularity while Donaire sought to walk the Irishman down, pushing in thudding shots when in range.
Burnett made a big statement at the start of the second, hurting the big-punching Filipino with a lightning right hand which forced Donaire to hold. The veteran came firing back in the final minute, walking Burnett into the corner and throwing only for the Belfast champion to usher him in before landing big shots of his own.
Donaire began to enjoy some success in the third with straight right hands but Burnett again responded with big uppercuts and a straight right that momentarily staggered the future Hall of Famer who himself came back for a strong finish.
Following the conclusion of the round Burnett could be overheard seemingly complaining of an injury and disaster would strike mid-way through the fourth as, throwing a right hand, Burnett spun away clutching his right hip.
Taking a knee, his first career ‘knockdown’, Burnett just about beat the count and went on the backfoot, surviving the round but looking in seriously bad shape. Returning to the corner, it was obvious that the now former champion was in no position to continue and the bout was waved off for what will go down as a fifth round retirement.
Donaire, who didn’t celebrate the stoppage, would cross the ring to embrace and console the dethroned Burnett before engaging in an extended discussion with trainer Adam Booth.
The devastating defeat sees Burnett, who left the ring on a stretcher, drop to 19(9)-1(1) while Donaire moves to 39(25)-5(1) following a win which sees him claim an eighth world title belt.
Donaire will now face WBO champ Tete [28(21)-3(1)] of South Africa in a semi-final unification in the new year. ‘Last Born’ overcame Aloyan in a rather turgid quarter-final last month in Russia.
It is not currently clear whether Burnett had carried an injury into the bout and it is hoped that whatever the problem is can be solved and that he can return to the ring in the near future.