Eddie Hearn has a message to the support fighters in action in Belfast tonight – win, and win well, and you may be brought on a journey to titles as part of a mooted Matchroom Belfast machine.
A jam-packed undercard precedes the Lee Haskins v Ryan Burnett IBF bantamweight title fight and Hearn wants to make Belfast a regular stop-off which could help propel the careers of a number of local fighters.
However there is a big ‘IF’ – Ryan Burnett needs to defeat the wily reigning champion
The ‘Belfast Boy’ card at the SSE Odyssey Arena has come in for some criticism, however Hearn believes it could be a platform for a number of future stars.
The Matchroom boss outlined to Irish-Boxing.com that “you have a choice put a big name from England in an easier fight or put a local fighter on in a 50/50 fight and that is what we chose to do.”
“If you want to criticise the card you can say ‘Where are the star names?’ but we want to build Belfast fighters into star names.”
“We could have done 20 fights. When you come back to a place after a while you find people are not blessed with opportunities and they are desperate to get on the cards. One of my biggest weaknesses is I can’t say no, but we want to give people a chance.”
“More importantly we want to give people a chance than can grow with you. Take for instance [James] Tennyson and [Paul] Hyland let’s find out if the can. They are in good fights [versus Ryan Doyle and Adam Dingsdale respectively] and if they win and Ryan Burnett wins we can have them in British title fights, Commonwealth, and even European. Let’s find out.”
Reiterating the need for Burnett to defeat the awkward Bristolian, Hearn stressed that “the most important thing is Ryan Burnett because without Ryan Burnett winning we are not coming back. What do you come back with?”
“We might be able to come with an NXTGEN show, but the way boxing is at the minute these undercard fighters need Ryan Burnett to win for us to come back and help them grow with Matchroom.”
“If Burnett is going to win those guys can come with us.”
There are parallels for Hearn here, who recalls a similar high pressure make-or-break situation with Carl Frampton – and he is backing Burnett to rise to the occasion and emulate ‘The Jackal.’
The 38 year old English promoter recalled how “it felt that way when we had Carl. if Carl would have lost it would have been all over. That pressure can make you freeze or perform to the highest level. I can see Ryan Burnett wants it that bad that he will shine and take it to the next level.”
“The pressure is massive on him. This is the best chance he will ever have to be a star and win a World title. That is the great thing about boxing, nine weeks in camp, 18 years in boxing and it all comes down to one moment and if you can’t grasp the opportunity then you have a future, but not where you want to be.”
“I am so desperate for Ryan to win on Saturday. I really like him and Adam Booth and I see the bond they have.”
“I want to bring World Championship boxing to Belfast and this is our chance to do. A lot is on the line. If we get the win and look good he has cracked it. Don’t forget he hasn’t been built here.”
The Burnett-Haskins undercard also features an Irish title fight between Ian Tims and Luke Watkins, Feargal McCrory v Paul Holt, James Tennyson v Ryan Doyle, Paul Hyland v Adam Dingsdale and appearances from Padraig McCrory, Matt Wilton, Paddy Gallagher, Sean McGoldrick, Sean Magee, and Tyrone McCullagh, as well as the return of Mike Perez.
Tickets for ‘Belfast Boy’ on June 10th at the SSE Odyssey Arena cost £30, £40, £60, £100, and £150 (VIP), and can be bought HERE. or at the door.
LISTEN: Gavan Casey and Joe O’Neill speak to Luke Keeler and Paddy Barnes on Episode 6 of The Irish Boxing Show: