THE next step on the road to stardom for Ryan Burnett takes place at the Manchester Arena on Saturday night when then North Belfast man faces Jason Booth with the vacant British bantamweight title up for grabs.
The 23 year-old Newington native will be looking to claim his second title belt in as many months following his second round destruction of Robert Kanals for the WBO European strap at the same venue in early October.
Then, Burnett displayed all the poise and power that has marked him out for big things, but he will certainly face a sterner test against the former three-weight British and Commonwealth champion who also challenged Steve Molitor for the IBF super-bantamweight title in a career where he has built a record of 38-13.
With that in mind, there were no wild celebrations after the Kanalas victory, just quiet satisfaction and a desire to re-focus on the next task and a chance to claim the Lonsdale Belt.
“I just picked up where I left off after my last fight,” said the power-puncher who has stopped nine of his 11 victims.
“I didn’t stop training, so we were straight back at it and my head has been down ever since although getting that first title was something special for me.
“It was a very proud moment to say that I am a professional champion, but I didn’t have much time to celebrate it because I was straight back into camp.
“I’m really looking forward to this fight as it will give me the chance to prove just what kind of a boxer I really am.”
The type of boxer he is prompted trainer, Adam Booth to take the Belfast man under his wing after Burnett split from Ricky Hatton. Recently, Eddie Hearn also has been alerted to the huge potential in the affable Belfast man and duly signed him to a promotional deal.
This weekend’s title fight is his first under the Matchroom banner and will be broadcast live on Sky Sports as part of the undercard to Anthony Crolla’s rematch with WBA lightweight champion, Darleys Perez.
After a career of ups and downs, things are really starting to take off for Burnett and he is determined to repay the faith placed in him by Booth and Hearn.
“I will win the British title and I will stop Jason Booth,” he stressed.
“I think that will put me on the platform to really get the ball rolling for a big 2016.
“Adam is happy with me and the good thing about him is that he knows exactly what he’s saying. Now we have the power of Eddie Hearn behind us, I am in a very good position.
“I signed that deal with Sky and Eddie Hearn is a very strong man in the promoting business.
“I’m pretty sure he can put me on the big stage and open the doors that me and Adam have talked about. We talked about this last year and it has all gone to plan.”
All eyes will be on Manchester this Saturday, but they will return there in late February when Carl Frampton and Scott Quigg square-off for their eagerly anticipated super-bantamweight clash. Burnett is expected to feature on that card, but dismisses such talk and insists the only thing on his mind is this weekend.
“To be honest I haven’t even thought about that,” he stated.
“I’m just completely focussed on the task ahead and after a bit of time off we will go back to the drawing board and start to think about things.”
That is certainly a mature approach from an exciting talent who looks set to blossom into a household name in his home city and further afield.
Certainly, he goes in against the 38 year-old ‘2 Smooth’ this weekend as favourite, but is not taking the Nottingham man for granted.
Booth brings a ring savvy and ambition that Burnett has not faced before so he knows he must be on his game. In his career, the veteran has faced some of the best in and around the 118lb division including Molitor, Quigg and Kiko Martinez so will know every trick in the book and will not be intimidated by the latest, hungry young contender.
However, Booth will have been out of the ring for just eight days short of a year when the bell goes on Saturday, so any ring-rust is sure to be ruthlessly exploited by Burnett who should extend his winning record and most likely, his stoppage one at that.
“People are saying that I’m a big favourite and in a way they are counting Jason Booth out,” he warned.
“In my eyes it’s far from it. I have got a big test in front of me and with a man of Jason Booth’s calibre, I know it’s not going to be an easy night. But I have prepared myself 100 per cent and I will be ready on the night.”