However, relatively, the fight has gone somewhat under the radar both in terms of general sports fans and Irish boxing fans.
The fight is not, as it perhaps should be, being seen as the biggest night of the year in Irish boxing.
Yes the event and potential achievement are being recognised to a degree – but is Ryan Burnett’s IBF-WBA bantamweight title unification against Zhanat Zhakiyanov getting the recognition it deserves?
Eddie Hearn doesn’t think so.
When asked whether the fight was getting the recognition it deserves, Burnett’s promoter said “probably not, for many reasons.”
“You’ve got some huge fights all around. You’ve got Joshua coming up next week for example, Frampton’s coming back and Ryan’s not yet at the profile level that you’d expect going into a fight like this. Normally you’d have two defences and by that stage it would be a huge fight.”
“They’re also bantamweights, which goes under the radar with the casual fan as well. They like big guys and heavyweights. So I think it’s a really tough ask for Ryan – the fight but also with everything that’s going around boxing in general at the moment, it’s kind of like these fights are becoming a bit standard rather than a freak because really this is a freak fight.”
“To get a unification fight at this stage of your career, the first ever one in Ireland. You’d expect the streets to be shouting, but he hasn’t built that far yet where normally a fighter’s career when they’re in unification fights, they’ve been built and built and built. We’re still in the building phase, which makes it quite unusual to be in this fight, but we’re here.”
At 25 and with just 17 fights under his belt, Burnett is unifying very early. Indeed Hearn believes the Belfast boxer is almost moving too fast.
However, such is Burnett’s hunger and mindset, the Matchroom boss is not one to stand in the way
“Probably, I would say he is [moving too fast], but that’s not for me to answer, that’s for Adam Booth to answer and if they feel he’s ready for this fight then he’s ready. They believe he can win this fight, so if you do believe that and there’s another belt on the line, you probably should take the fight.”
“The safety option is to probably have a nice defence after you win the title, but he doesn’t want to do that and I think that should be applauded by the fans. He’s given us the fight we all want. We might have been standing here with someone from the top 15 and he’s a massive favourite in the fight, but we have a unification fight that’s a 50-50, no one knows what’s going to happen and I think that’s great.”
“Victory makes him a star here, victory can make him a star in America and he seems to be on a fast track. He doesn’t seem to be interested in doing the traditional thing, which is maybe taking easier fights.”
7,000 are expected at the SSE Odyssey Arena tomorrow night to cheer on Burnett, and Hearn can see parallels with a certain Carl Frampton.
‘The Jackal,’ in his final fight under Matchroom, stopped Kiko Martinez in the ninth round to win the European super bantamweight and this night has been often referred to as Frampton’s breakthrough night.
Hearn is hoping that something similar occurs tomorrow.
“This is the same kind of thing,” stated the English promoter.
“Carl obviously boxed on some big shows in England as well, but then we had the Molitor fight, which was a big fight for him – maybe the equivalent of the Haskins fight for Burnett – and maybe the Kiko fight was the equivalent of tomorrow night.”
“The truth is the Kiko fight was a European title fight and this is a world unification fight, but we’ll probably have the same kind of numbers that were in there on that night, but again Carl had many things going for him along the way and also boxing wasn’t that big then to be honest with you as well.”
“Maybe this is the breakout fight. I’m very pleased with the numbers. People are talking about a sell out, we’d do very well to sell it out, I don’t think we will, but it won’t be a million miles away and that’s where we were for Kiko-Carl 1. But this is a massive fight, a unification fight and if this was Carl Frampton, you’d be Windsor Park, 30,000 people, but we’re not. This is Ryan’s second fight of note in Belfast so you’re up against it.”
Photo Credit: Ricardo Guglielminotti – The Fighting Irish (@ThefIrish)