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Teenage Ryan Burnett knocked down upcoming unification foe Zhanat Zhakiyanov in sparring

Not only did Ryan Burnett break the bully when he sparred Zhanat Zhakiyanov, the Belfast man knocked down the Kazakh.

That’s according to Burnett’s current Boxing Booth gym mate Andy Lee.

Before being based in London with Booth, Burnett fought out of Manchester with former two-weight champ Ricky Hatton.

Following on from his 2010 Youth Olympic gold medal – and his sole entry to the Elite Senior Championships, where he was defeated by Mick Conlan – Burnett relocated to England and turned pro with Hatton.

Then just a teenager, Burnett was joined in the gym by Zhakiyanov, and the pair’s sparring sessions have been subject to much talk ahead of their world title unification this weekend.

The Ulsterman parted company with Hatton after four fights, linking up with Booth and winning the British and then IBF title. Zhakiyanov stayed in Manchester, and in January of this year upset Rau’shee Warren to take the WBA belt

Burnett [17(9)-0] and Zhakiyanov [27(18)-1(0)] will put their belts on the line on Saturday on Sky Sports at the SSE Odyssey Arena but, as we all by now know, it won’t be the first time they have traded leather.

While the Antrim Road boxer has previously described how he performed well in these sessions, Lee has revealed that Burnett even caused the Central Asian to touch down

Lee was on Newstalk 106FM’s ‘Off The Ball’ last night and revealed that “I don’t like to speak out of school or anything, but I know for a fact, I actually saw the tape and hopefully I’m not betraying anybody. but I know Ryan Burnett put him down in a spar.”

“Now it was only flash knockdown, but you don’t forget that. As a boxer, even if it’s a spar – if somebody puts you down, that stays with you.”

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Lee is hesitant to read too much into the incident – however he is also reluctant to dismiss the possibility that the knockdown could be a factor.

The former WBO middleweight world champion noted how “that could have a negative effect in Zhakiyanov but it could also have a positive effect in terms that he’ll want to have something to prove.”

“Ryan would have been very young at the time, I think he was 19, might not have had a pro fight. ”

“A lot has changed, since they were together and since they parted.”

Listen to Andy Lee’s segment on Off The Ball in fully below:


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