Eddie Hearn has American Dream for Ryan Burnett

A big win on Saturday night could be the start of the American dream for Ryan Burnett.

The IBF bantamweight champion headlines his second big Belfast world title card at the weekend when he attempts to unify against WBA titlist Zhanat Zhakiyanov at the SSE Odyssey Arena.

While Burnett [17(9)-0] is keen to keep fighting at home, stars seem to be aligning which would suggest that the Belfast man is set for a U.S. introduction in the new year.

The Sky Sports fight night will also be shown, on a short tape delay, in America via premium cable network HBO, leading into the WBA super featherweight title clash between champion Jezreel Corrales and Alberto Machado.

Not only will Burnett be introduced to U.S. fans, he will personally become acquainted with Peter Nelson, the Executive Vice President of HBO Sports, who is making the transatlantic trip to Ireland for the fight.

Matchroom recently began their assault on the U.S. market and will run their first show in New York next month with four more pencilled in for 2018 – and an East Coast card featuring Ryan Burnett and perhaps promotional stablemate Katie Taylor could make sense for St Patrick’s Weekend.

Matchroom boss Eddie Hearn described how “I speak to Peter Nelson quite a lot. He’s coming on Saturday, which is very unusual, but I’ve told him about Ryan Burnett.”

“They’ve seen Carl Frampton, they’ve seen what happens in Belfast. They’re heavily invested in the super-bantamweight division and a little bit into the bantamweight division, but they see Ryan as someone who could move to super-bantam in time.”

“But they also know Zhakiyanov from the Rau’shee Warren fight, which was on American television. They see this as just a great fight – a very credible fight for the network.”

“A unification is obviously quite unusual these days so they wanted to broadcast it and it’s a brilliant opportunity for Ryan because it opens up opportunities to fight next year.”

Hearn believes there is a big market in America for Burnett, and plans to feature to Antrim Road man in this venture.

The Essex 38 year old described how “obviously we’re going to be doing shows in America next year. Our next show is going to be in March or April at the Barclays Centre in Brooklyn and he’s definitely someone who could go and be a star in America.”

There is a dilemma though, with Burnett building well in Belfast. Hearn expects 7,000 at the Odyssey on Saturday and noted that “there’s not many fights outside of marquee names and pay-per-view fights that would sell that number.”

“It would be a great opportunity for him to box over there, but at the same time he’s developing over here, numbers are going up.”

Should he win on Saturday – and assuming he does not move up in weight or go straight into another unification – Burnett will be subject to an IBF mandatory defence.

The current leading contender for this fight is Puerto Rican Emmanuel Rodriguez, however the future is not clear. One thing that is though is that the world is Burnett’s oyster should he claim a breakthrough win on Saturday.

Hearn explained that Rodriguez “is going to be the mandatory, but I think he’s going to be fighting a mandatory for the WBC, it’s a tough fight. That’s a fight that could work in America as well.”

“I think if he [Burnett] wins on Saturday he becomes top dog in the division and, of course, with the U.S. exposure, I think he becomes an international name, so I think it opens up a lot of doors for him, but first he’s got to win because it’s a tough fight, a great fight.”

Burnett has fought once in America before, appearing on the undercard of Andy Lee v Peter Quillin back in April 2015 at the Barclays Centre where he scored a stunning knockout of Stephon McIntyre.

Photo Credit: Ricardo Guglielminotti – The Fighting Irish (@ThefIrish)


Joe O'Neill

Reporting on Irish boxing the past five years. Work has appeared on irish-boxing.com, Boxing News, the42.ie, and local and national media. Provide live ringside updates, occasional interviews, and special features on the future of Irish boxing. email: joneill6@tcd.ie