Hearn hoping for capacity crowd to see Ryan Burnett prove he is the “real deal”

Eddie Hearn hopes and believes that Saturday will see the birth of an Irish sporting star.

Belfast bantamweight Ryan Burnett [17(9)-0], in the first defence of his title, puts the IBF belt on the line in a unification against WBA champion Zhanat Zhakiyanov at the SSE Odyssey Arena.

Burnett won the belt in June in his first major fight at home, dominating champion Lee Haskins. Now promoter Hearn is hoping for a crowd twice as big to see the Antrim Road man enhance and underline his credentials as one of Ireland’s biggest stars and one of the world’s top fighters.

His clash with the Kazakh pressure-fighter headlines a big bill in the Titanic City, and will be shown live on both sides of the Atlantic via Sky Sports and HBO.

A win on Saturday should, in theory, give Burnett an extremely strong, almost irreputable, claim to being Ireland’s most successful sporting star of 2017 and see him in the mix to become just the second Irish professional boxer, after Barry McGuigan, to win the RTÉ Sports Person of the Year.

However, the 25 year old’s profile is certainly lower on an island-wide level than it should be – largely due to his lack of exposure at Elite Senior amateur level and the fact he was ‘built’ as a professional fighter in England.

Hearn though is confident that October 21st will be the breakthrough night, the fight that sees Ryan Burnett become ‘mainstream.’

I hope so. If I can’t sell this I might as well give up!” laughed the English promoter

“But, I think it should sell out. What more do you want? You’ve got a Belfast world champion who’s having the first unification fight [on Irish soil] in history, in a great fight, against a great world champion who comes forward, is a big puncher, who’s aggressive.”

“I’m hopeful that we can sell it out, or go deep. I was quite pleased last time, it was a good atmosphere. We had four, four and a half thousand.”

“He’s got the belief now, he sees pictures of himself about – he’s a star, a superstar. He’s 25, and he’s really, really good. It’s not like he’s just a good lad from Belfast.”

“He’s won a world title, he’s trying to win all the belts, he could move up, do it all over again. He’s that good. You’re going to see him getting better and better.”

In terms of packing the arena out, Hern has previously revealed that, after five days of sales, they had already shifted the same amount of tickets that were sold for the fight versus Haskins.

While he is a world champion already, Hearn feels that unifying the red and black belts this weekend will be the real proof that Burnett is a special fighter.

The Matchroom boss reasoned that “he’s still got that to prove [that he is a special fighter].”

“He did go in the fight with Lee Haskins and beat him, virtually every round. And it wasn’t just the way he beat him, it was his composure. I thought he’d froze on the night because he was that quiet, and in the ring before he weren’t even moving.”

“I was worried, but he was just completely calm. He’s very precise in what he does, he’s very calculated, and that’s why him and Adam have taken this fight – because they believe that they can beat him.”

“I believe he’s the real deal and a big star, but he’s only gone half way to proving it so far and on October 21st you’ll see the absolute real deal Ryan Burnett.”

Tickets for the night cost £30, £40, £60, £100, £150 (VIP), and are available from the boxers involved or through HERE

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