With blood trickling down the same track tears had obviously rolled down minutes early, ‘what’s next?’ was the last thing on Ryan Burnett‘s mind as he sat in the away dressing room at the SSE Odyssey Arena for the post fight press conference.
Just over an hour after being confirmed as the new IBF bantamweight champion of the World, the 25 year old couldn’t think past a waiting Domino’s Pizza. and was keen to spend some time reflecting on the achievement of his lifelong dream rather than looking further down the road.
His promoter, however is always plotting and looking ahead. Eddie Hearn didn’t have to be asked the almost obligatory ‘what’s next?’ question, he volunteered his plans – and they are big.
The Antrim Road boxer defeated Lee Haskins to become a world champion in just fight number 16 and, if Hearn has his way, he could be a unified champion by the end of fight 17.
“Ryan has a mandatory. Lee Haskins had to ask for an exception to fight Ryan Burnett, so we can’t ask for an exception ourselves,” Hearn explained.
“The mandatory is a boxer called Emmanuel Rodriguez from Puerto Rico who is very good. The other option is a unification fight, which is what we will be trying to do next.”
“Our focus will be WBA champion Zhanat Zhakiyanov, who is Ricky Hatton’s fighter. The pair have sparred many rounds together so the plan is a unification fight in October in Belfast.”
The Kazakh won the WBA belt back in January, grinding out a win over U.S. triple Olympian Rau’shee Warren – and a fight between the former sparring partners had been called for by Burnett before the Haskins title tilt had been secured.
Promoter Hearn, who returned to Belfast for the first time in over four years with what turned out to be a very successful card, plans a return later in the year – and hopes to do Zhakiyanov [28(17)-1(0)] in the same venue.
The other world champions at 118lbs are Japanese star Shinsuke Yamanaka [27(19)-0-2] with the WBC and Frank Warren-promoted South African Zolani Tete [25(20)-3(1)] with the WBO.
LISTEN: Gavan Casey and Joe O’Neill speak to Luke Keeler and Paddy Barnes on Episode 6 of The Irish Boxing Show: