Burnett can be a Belfast regular with title win: Hearn

Eddie Hearn (left) believes Ryan Burnett can become a star in his home city should he win impressively against Lee Haskins next week Eddie Hearn (left) believes Ryan Burnett can become a star in his home city should he win impressively against Lee Haskins next week
By David Mohan

EDDIE Hearn has said Ryan Burnett can be a regular fixture in his home town should all go to plan next Saturday night.

The Newington man takes on Lee Haskins for the IBF bantamweight title at the SSE Arena in his first bid for world honours and the Matchroom promoter believes performance and victory need to go hand-in-hand.

The 25 year-old has had 16 wins from as many fights with the majority of those contests taking place in England. His last fight in Belfast took place in November 2014, his first under trainer Adam Booth, when he defeated Valentin Marinov at The Devenish.

Therefore, it has been a long time away from home for Burnett who returns as a headline attraction and Hearn explained that he hopes to keep him here so long as he can be crowned champion next week.

“We need to make our move with Ryan Burnett,” he said.

“He is exciting, he’s likeable, he talks well, he’s a good looking lad, he’s from Belfast and he’s young, so why wouldn’t you support him? He has a long future ahead of him.

“I think there is massive pressure on him here because one, he has to win, two, he has to look good. I look at things differently to the corner team.

“I look at it as a product and I’m thinking that if Ryan Burnett can win a world title and look good, we can stroll back into the Odyssey and build something here.

“If he wins and doesn’t look great, it’s very difficult to come back unless it’s a big fight like a unification.

“If I had no intention of coming back here, I would have put this fight on a pay-per-view card, but what’s the point? You are in a city with a notoriously fanatical support and a chance for one of them to become a legit world champion. If he is ever going to make it, he’s going to make it here.”

The North Belfast man has gone the distance in his last five fights and that has led to some commentators question his power, but Hearn has a hunch that Burnett’s trainer, Adam Booth, has been purposely holding something back and he believes the crowd at the Odyssey will see the full package next week.

“I know what Adam Booth has been doing. He’s not been letting you have the full look at Ryan Burnett because he hasn’t had to,” opined Hearn.

“The (Ryan) Farrag win was impressive, a couple of others have been a bit routine.

“Adam has said that now it’s time to let him off the leash and that means you aren’t really seeing the full Ryan Burnett.

“Sometimes there is a gym fighter and a fight-night fighter. He is obviously doing it in the gym, now we will see if he can do it under the bright lights.

“If he can’t, he won’t beat Lee Haskins because Lee will just old man him, frustrate him, pot-shot him but I really feel there are so many levels to Ryan Burnett and fighting in front of the home crowd will make a big difference.”

Haskins will bring a wealth of experience and has been unbeaten for the past nine years against high-quality opposition so it will be far from a routine night for Burnett.

The Bristolian is a tricky southpaw and is sure to ask questions of Burnett, but Hearn doesn’t believe this will necessarily translate into a cagey battle.

“I think Ryan has to go for it,” he predicts.

“The first two or three rounds you might see that (cagey), but Lee Haskins is away from home so he won’t want to nick the fight.

“Ryan also needs that performance because if you win and it’s poor, the next one is difficult (to sell) so you need to entertain. I think you will see that with Burnett off the leash.

“I feel that if he can win this, we can move quickly to unify the division against (Zhanat) Zhakiyanov and people like that.

“Haskins is just tough to beat and very clever, so I think Ryan is going to have to make him work in this fight.”

The Sky Sports cameras have not been in Belfast for boxing since February 2013 when Carl Frampton stopped Kiko Martinez for the European title with Hearn blamed by some fight fans in the city for this scenario.

However, the Matchroom boss explained that with the big number of world champions in Britain and Ireland since that time, it is a hard sell to Sky to travel across the Irish Sea for anything less than a world title fight and now they have one, they are more than happy to return and hope it can continue with a Burnett win next week.

“When I signed Ryan Burnett, I thought that when he won a British title we would take him to Belfast or if he stepped up for a European title,” he said.

“But because boxing has gone like that (up) it means we needed a world title fight to go back to Belfast. “It’s nothing to do with Belfast. If I went to Sky and said we are going to Liverpool for a British title fight, I wouldn’t get away with that now.

“When I went and said to Sky that we have a domestic world title fight, they said ‘fine, let’s go’.”

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