The Kazakh is extremely confident ahead of his unification with Belfast’s Ryan Burnett [17(9)-0] next Saturday at the SSE Odyssey Arena.
Burnett won the IBF title in June and looks to unify in his first defence. The same can be said of Zhakiyanov, who last fought in January when he claimed the WBA title.
Zhakiyanov won the title against Rau’shee Warren in the American’s home town of Toledo – and has fought in 12 other countries ahead of his October 21st clash with Burnett, shown live on HBO and Sky Sports, including even sharing a card with the Irishman back in 2013.
The pair used to both be trained by Ricky Hatton, with Zhakiyanov remaining with the Hitman while Burnett moved on to Adam Booth, and they appeared alongside each other on an Alio Wilton card at the Holiday Inn.
Former sparring partners, Burnett recalls these sessions fondly – but the Central Asian has warned against reading too much into sparring, and cites his resumé instead.
Zhakiyanov explained how “Ryan was a young pro at the time we sparred and has developed into a worthy champion.”
“However, he needs to understand that I have also developed and travelled around the world fighting better opposition.
“I travelled to the U.S to beat Rau’shee Warren in his home town where I went down early and pulled myself off the canvas. I don’t know if Ryan has that experience and heart that I have.”
33 year old Zhakiyanov believes he has mixed it at a higher level than Burnett. While he rates the 25 year old, especially in light of his title win over Lee Haskins during the Summer, ‘ZZ’ does not think Burnett will be his toughest test.
Zhakiyanov noted that “you have to congratulate Ryan on a good victory over an awkward opponent back in June to win the IBF title, but my style is different to Haskins.”
“In comparison to my other opponents, Burnett ranks high but I don’t believe that that he’s the best that I have faced so far. I’d say Karim Guerfi and Rau’shee Warren are better.”