Boxing | Ryan Burnett wins IBF bantamweight title

David Smith

Ryan Burnett has defeated Lee Haskins to win the IBF bantamweight title in Belfast tonight.

The Belfast boxer won by split decision after 12 rounds at the Odyssey Arena, and has become Ireland’s only reigning professional world champion.

Roared on by his hometown crowd, the undefeated Burnett made his ringwalk to Queen’s ‘Another One Bites the Dust’.  It was his first headline card in Belfast, and his first fight in the city for over two years.

The 25 year old dropped Bristol fighter Haskins (34-3) in the 6th and 11th rounds, and dominated the fight from the opening bell in a classy display.

Both boxers suffered cuts after a clash of heads in the second round, and Burnett opened another cut near 33 year old Haskins’ eye with a shot near the end of the third; his incessant right hand causing the reigning champion endless problems.

A strong right hook dropped Haskins – who was defending his belt for the second time – to one knee in the sixth, and the experienced English fighter looked unsteady on his feet in the 10th, before being floored again in the penultimate round.

It was a comfortable victory for Burnett, despite some dodgy scoring by one judge.

Two of the judges scored the fight 119-107 for Burnett, but the third judge – Clark Sammartino – bizarrely scored it 118-108 in Haskins’ favour, much to the bemusement of the home crowd. Eddie Hearn suggested that the referee had filled in the wrong section of scorecard.

Burnett – who is trained by Adam Booth – is also a former Irish Olympic Youth champion, and boxer Andy Lee claimed after the fight that Burnett is capable of unifying the bantamweight division.

“The fight was not even close and Burnett dominated the fight all the way through. He was world class and showed everything that he is good at – his footwork, his hand-speed, his trickiness and he showed that he could fight as well.

“No one deserves it as much as Ryan Burnett, I’ve never met someone who trains so hard, he is the fittest fighter I know. I’ve seen him come into the gym and grow from a boy into a man.

“This will mean the world to him, he loves Belfast so much.

“Belfast has a new star and this guy could go on and unify the division. It’s only his seventeenth fight, this is a huge accomplishment. He’s done it so early in his career – the future is very bright.

“His talent dictated that he had to step up to world level and [trainer] Adam Booth has said that he will only get better from here.”

Burnett’s fellow Belfast natives James Tennyson and Paul Hyland Jr also picked up victories on the undercard, to claim the WBA international super-featherweight and IBF East/West Europe lightweight titles respectively.

It was another special night for the most special city in boxing.