It’s a return over four years in the making.
The Sky cameras will finally return to Belfast on June 10th as Ryan Burnett [16(9)-0] challenges for the IBF bantamweight title, and promoter Eddie Hearn is delighted to be back.
The promoter, who had become something of a divisive figure if not panto villain in recent years due to his split with Carl Frampton and the subsequent negotiations for a Scott Quigg, now hopes to be firmly in the home corner as he brings big time boxing back to the SSE Odyssey Arena for the first time in over two years.
Speaking to IFL TV about the fight with Bristolian Lee Haskins, Hearn described how “we’ve been looking to go back to Belfast for a long time.”
“It’s probably one of the best fight cities in the world, atmosphere is brilliant, but we always said, with the way boxing’s going, we really need a world title to return there. Now we’re doing it, and we’re doing it against a Brit as well which the fans now and they’ve seen him box before.”
Looking back on his time in Belfast at the turn of the decade with both Carl Frampton and Paul McCloskey, Hearn noted that “we had some great nights in Belfast.”
“The Frampton against Martinez night was a night I wont forget, the atmosphere was sensational. We’ve now got a chance to do it all over again.
“We’re going to build a good show with our talent and Belfast talent as well.”
Hearn wanted to ensure a big name for the title fight, and feels he’s gotten it with former Prizefighter winner and TV regular Haskins.
The English promoter outlined how “you’ve got a genuine fight in Ryan Burnett and a very good world champion, from England, in Lee Haskins.”
“We looked at a couple of other guys, Marlon Tapales, Zhanat Zhakiyanov, but these aren’t necessarily opponents that the casual market can associate with.”
“Lee Haskins is someone who has defended his world title on Channel 5, defended his world title on Sky Sports, people know who he is, he’s a legitimate world champion.”
“Ryan is the challenger and it’s a chance – not to be given a belt, not to be upgraded to champion – to go and strip the belt from an existing champion. It’s going to be a very tough fight, but we believe firmly that Belfast will have a new world champion on June the 10th.”
“It’s a very tough fight but I’m really pleased because I think he’s done his apprenticeship now, Adam [Booth, trainer] feels like he’s ready, and it was sweet to deliver it.”
The fight in just over six weeks time may be the start of a renewed relationship between Matchroom and the Titanic City – should Burnett win and should fans come out and support the show.
Hearn outlined that “this is the start of the journey in Northern Ireland for Ryan Burnett. He’s had to go and earn his crust and learn his trade away from Belfast, he was never built in Belfast. He was built travelling around England in some of the big arenas there.”
“Now we need the support of the people there. We need to bring boxing back regularly to Belfast. Frampton’s done a brilliant job, but he’s fighting all around the world now, I don’t remember the last time he went to Belfast, to the Odyssey, so when will he be back? We don’t know.”
“This is the guy that can box three, four times a year in Northern Ireland in world title fights, in unification fights and this is the first step on June the 10th.”
Watch Eddie Hearn speak to IFL TV below: