Hatton understands why Burnett left him – promising a “heap load of trouble” on Saturday

Ricky Hatton has no hard feelings toward Ryan Burnett [17(9)-0], but believes the Belfast bantamweight will be handed a first career loss on Saturday night.

The former two-weight world champion brought Burnett into the pros, but the Antrim Road man departed for Londoner Adam Booth after four fights.

During his time under Hatton, Burnett was gym mate of Zhanat Zhakiyanov in Manchester, regularly sparring the Kazakh and even sharing a bill with the Central Asian in Belfast in 2013.

Zhakiyanov [27(18)-1(0)] remained under Hatton and earlier this year claimed the WBA title on away turf, battling back from two first round knockdowns to defeat home favourite and reigning champion Rau’shee Warren. A few months later Burnett gained the IBF portion of the crown and now the two will look to unify in their respective first defences.

Hatton harbours no ill-will toward Burnett for leaving, with ‘The Hitman’ going through mental health and substance abuse issues at the time which prevented him from focusing fully on coaching.

The Manchester fight legend noted how “I knew 100 per cent that Ryan had the ability to go all the way when I was training him.”

“I was having a lot of problems at the time, I wasn’t in a good place at all, and Ryan felt the training was better elsewhere.

“I wasn’t the trainer I am today. I understand why he left. There are no hard feelings. The Ricky Hatton of today is in a miles better place than the Ricky Hatton back then.”

“I text him before his World Title fight with Haskins to say good luck and text him straight after to say congratulations. I think the world of Ryan and his family.”

While he is extremely fond of the 25 year old Irishman, Hatton is envisioning a tough night for his former protégé.

The coach of Meath man Chris Blaney outlined how Burnett is “a great lad and a wonderful talent but I don’t think he’s going to beat us on the night.”

“Ryan’s done everything asked of him so far but he’s going to have to show more than his talent in this one.”

“If he doesn’t nail Zhanat to the canvas in the first few rounds he’s in for a very tough night. But if he doesn’t put Zhanat over in the first few then goes on to win, I’ll be the first one to shake his hand.”

“They’ve sparred together and he probably just edged the sessions with those big gloves and head guard but times and circumstances change. Ryan’s in for a heap load of trouble once that bell goes.”

While Burnett has been dominant in every fight of his career so far, Zhakiyanov has had a rockier road.

The 33 year old has fought in 13 different countries and has faced some tough tests – none tougher than his world title win against Warren in the American’s backyard in Ohio.

“He was never going to beat Warren on just boxing ability alone,” said Hatton, who feels this experience will stand to ZZ on fight night.

“He was going to beat him with a lot of heart and will to win the World Title. We had a good game plan overall but he made fundamental mistakes in the first round. I told him not to stand off Warren because he’ll ping you and what happened – he stood off and ended up on his arse. He can’t start the same against Ryan with all his skill.”

“He’s learnt lessons from it and come away with a World title. He went to Ohio in Warren’s backyard to take his belt and this time he goes into Ryan’s backyard so it’s nothing new to him and the experience will help.”

The Kazakh pressure-fighter comes into the bout in good shape, and Hatton feels that Zhakiyanov will be both too good and too hungry for Burnett.

The 39 year old promised that “he’s never looked better to be honest with you. I know you hear trainers say that a lot, but he has never looked this good. He couldn’t be any sharper.”

“He’s got an extra bit of ambition and determination for this one. There’s always been that bit of rivalry between the two. The fact he used to share a gym with Ryan and spar with him at the same weight.”

“Ryan hasn’t fought anyone as good as who Zhanat has been in with. He’s beat Karim Guerfi for the European who is a very, very good fighter – potential World class. Rau’shee Warren is an absolutely outstanding fighter. As good as Lee Haskins and Ryan Farrag are, they aren’t big powerhouses who can pack a huge punch.”

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


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