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21 OCTOBER 2018

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Burnett Unifies bantamweight Titles In Belfast

pic Lawrence Lustig
pic Lawrence Lustig

By Steven Bateson


Ryan Burnett produced a gritty performance to outpoint Zhanat Zhakiyanov and unify his IBF Bantamweight Championship with the WBA title at the SSE Arena, Belfast on Saturday night.

It was a toe to toe scrap, fought completely in the trenches, with neither man willing to give an inch but when all was said and done it was the cleaner, more precise and classier work from Burnett that won him the day and put him firmly at the top of the Bantamweight tree.

Zhakiyanov is a fairly one dimensional, come forward fighter but he is extremely impressive and successful at what he does and he made Burnett work for every second of every single round, constantly on the front foot and trying to push the hometown fighter back toward the ropes.

Burnett was maybe a little guilty of being over-macho at times as he chose to stand with Zhakiyanov and push him back with his own bullying tactics but when he chose to make space for himself and let his hands go is when he demonstrated that he was a level above in skills.

The Kazakh fighter is relentless and that proved too much for Rau’shee Warren earlier this year but Burnett was never fazed, despite a slight graze on his head through the mid rounds, and he really turned it up down the stretch and pulled away on the scorecards.

Burnett’s combination punching and body shots, a real key component to this victory, are what caught the eye the most and although Zhakiyanov’s aggressive style may have impressed a few there was no doubt who was landing the cleaner and more telling blows. It was certainly a close fight and Zhakiyanov had pockets of success but there was no doubt Burnett was the rightful victory at the final bell. The scorecards were poor once again despite the right verdict.

There are huge fights for Burnett in 2018 with more potential unification bouts against Jamie McDonnell or Zolani Tete.

Scorecards read: 118-110, 119-109 (no excuse for the one side nature of the first two scores), 116-112


Stephen Ormond rolled back the clock and climbed off the deck but somehow still lost a twelve round decision to Paul Hyland Jnr, another poor hometown decision. Ormond started brightly but was in worlds of trouble in round three when Hyland uncorked a peach of a right hand, dropping Ormond to the deck. Ormond’s legs were shaky as he got back to his feet but Hyland lacked the composure to capitalise, allowing Ormond to slowly work his way back into proceedings. Both men chose to stand at close range and trade at times which suited Ormond to a tee and allowed him to score constantly with his impressive left hook, coupling it up to head and body at will. Hyland failed to make use of his height and range advantage and was bullied at times by the veteran fighter, who poured it on late and began to hurt the Belfast fighter. Ormond was too skillful, fast and seasoned for his opponent at the end of an entertaining twelve rounds and fully deserved to be crowned the winner. Hyland did not carry himself like a winner and looked as though he knew had a lost the fight. It was a great twelve rounds for both men and a learning experience for Hyland (now 17-0).

It was seen as almost last chance saloon for Ormond, who has some poor losses on his record after promising so much, but victory could have propelled him back into the mix at European/fringe World level. An immediate re-match should really be ordered, that was a poor decision for boxing once again and a shame it is pulled back under the spotlight for incompetent officiating.

Scorecards read: 117-110 Hyland (a disastrous card for anyone with eyes), 115-112 Ormond, 114-113 Hyland


James Tennyson and Darren Traynor engaged in a three round shootout for the WBA International Featherweight Championship, Tennyson picking up the victory and retaining his title after a beautiful right hand finish.

It was a slow, feeling out first round but it sparked into life at the start of round two as Tennyson drilled Traynor with a straight right hand, the Scotsman going down on his backside for an eight count. Traynor got back to his feet and Tennyson stormed forward for the finish, throwing caution to the wind as he began to swing for the fences and end the bout .only to get caught by a counter left hook and rocked himself. The two men continued to throw heavy leather to end the round and continued the process into round three before Tennyson nailed a left to the body, doubling Traynor over, and then uncorked a fantastic right hand that dropped Traynor for a ten count. It was a fantastic three round battle between two tough Celtic warriors and one that gave the fans real value for money. The defense of both fighters left a lot to be desired but the action packed styles is exactly what tv companies and paying customers want to see.

Tennyson and his team are ranked in the top 5 for the vacant WBA Super Featherweight title so a shock world championship tilt could be on the cards for the Belfast fighter despite him never fighting beyond domestic level.


There are very high hopes for Josh Kelly and it is easy to see why after he outclassed Joe Luis Zuniga in just two rounds. Zuniga is a Mexican national champion but was made to look like a rank amateur by Kelly, who displayed some eye-catching work to record his fourth successive victory as a professional. A left uppercut counter in round one and a left hook that rocked Zuniga back onto the ropes set the tone for the duration that the fight landed. The Mexican was shellshocked and out of his depth, another left hook in round two forced the referee to take pity on the away fighter and wave it off. Kelly was a Team GB standout and he seems to be getting better with every fight, his upper body movement, elusiveness, speed and timing set him apart from fighters at a much more progressive stage of their careers. Kelly and his team are on the look out for a big name opponent for the end of the year, he is certainly ready for much sterner tests and there is no doubt he will be contesting major championships in early 2018. Eddie Hearn has put it out there that they want a top 30 147lbs fighter on December 17th, that’s a major step up and testament to the belief in Kelly’s ability.


Anthony Fowler recorded a six round decision over Laszlo Fazekas in his fourth professional outing. It was far from Fowler’s best performance since turning to the paid ranks but he more than did enough to get the job done against an awkward opponent. Fowler was cut early in round two on the top of his head but it did not affect his performance in any way, he landed his jab well and hit some neat body shots but against an opponent who has mixed in good company he perhaps did not display the range of gears that he is capable of. The Liverpool fighter definitely has the tools to be a force at 154lbs, this just wasn’t a particularly sparkling day at the office although the rounds in the bag will be more than welcome. He got caught by a few unnecessary shots due to lapses of concentration and fell short with some of his work but he’s still a work in progress and will iron those out in the gym with Dave Coldwell. Referee scored the bout: 60-54


Belfast’s Tyrone McKenna outpointed the tough Renald Garrido over a tough ten rounds. Garrido has been the distance with the likes of Jack Catterall and Frankie Gavin so was always going to give McKenna a good workout. McKenna (15-0-1 with 6 KO’s) was due to face Tommy Coyle but an injury forced Coyle to withdraw. Referee scored the bout: 96-94


Tommy McCarthy (10-1 with 6 KOs) returned from his first career defeat and reignited his career with a first round demolition of Peter Hegyes. McCarthy, who suffered a loss to Matty Askin last year, wasted no time in blasting out his Hungarian opponent to reaffirm his credentials at domestic level and perhaps push himself back toward a re-match with Askin for the British Championship.


Joe Fitzpatrick (8-0 with 5 KOs) didn’t allow Mwenya Chisanga to see the final bell, stopping the Zambian in the sixth and final round of their Lightweight contest. Fitzpatrick is a talented southpaw and with plenty of amateur pedigree (Commonwealth silver medalist) he could make waves at 135lbs.


Unbeaten Londoner Craig Richards extended his ledger to 10-0 with a third round finish of Norbert Szekeres. Richards won the Southern Area Super Welterweight Championship earlier this year and will be looking toward English level early next.


Naas’ Gary Cully went 2-0 with a third round stoppage of Josh Thorne in a lightweight contest scheduled for four.

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