Thursday 19 September 2019

Burnett dreams big against 'incredible' Donaire in WBA title defence

Ryan Burnett defends his WBA bantamweight belt against Nonito Donaire. Photo: Reuters
Ryan Burnett defends his WBA bantamweight belt against Nonito Donaire. Photo: Reuters

Seán McGoldrick

Ryan Burnett wants to be remembered as a great champion. Tonight in Glasgow's SSE Hydro he has the opportunity to further that ambition when he defends his WBA bantamweight belt against the legendary Filipino-born Nonito Donaire.

Though the 35-year-old California-based fighter was beaten by former world champion Carl Frampton in Belfast in April, his reputation remained untarnished and he will enjoy a three-and-a-half inch height and a two-inch reach advantage over Burnett.

For over a decade Donaire was the standout performer in the lighter weight divisions, winning world belts in four divisions - fly, bantam, super bantam and feather - and he also briefly held an interim title at super flyweight.

But he hasn't boxed in the 118lbs bantamweight division since 2011. He is dropping two divisions and eight pounds in weight in order to take on 26-year-old Burnett, who is unbeaten in 19 pro fights.

This is Burnett's second defence of his WBA title. He held the IBF version of the belt in the latter half of 2017, but lost it when he had to take a break from the ring after suffering temporary ear damage in a bruising fight for the WBA crown against defending champion Zhanat Zhakiyanov in Belfast last October.

He was back in action on the undercard of Anthony Joshua's world heavyweight title fight in Cardiff in March when, despite damaging his hand, he comfortably defended his WBA belt against Yonfrez Parejo.

As well as the WBA bantamweight world title, there is a WBC Diamond belt up for grabs - it is specially created for contests between two stand-out fighters - as well as a place in the semi-finals of the bantamweight division of the World Series of Boxing.

The chief executive of the WSB Kalle Sauerland has indicated that if Burnett wins tonight, his semi-final showdown and unification bout against unbeaten WBO champion Zolani Tele will be staged in Belfast early next year.

Trained by Surrey-based Adam Booth, the 26-year-old Belfast fighter  is a man of few words. But once he steps into the ring he declares war on his opponent.

As the No 1 seed in the series, Burnett could have chosen any of the other seven boxers.

He explained why he opted for the most successful fighter.

"I picked Nonito because the better the fighter the better I become. I think everyone has things you can exploit but there's not much with Nonito. He is an incredible fighter. We all dream of these moments of fighting the best and becoming the best in the world."

Trained by 78-year-old Kenny Adams, who has trained 27 world champions during a remarkable career, Donaire has lost five of his 43 fights - but has only been stopped once.

Just nine of Burnett's 19 wins has been achieved via knock-out and he hasn't stopped an opponent since 2015 when winning a European title.

Tonight's fight, which is scheduled to begin at 9pm, will be streamed live on worldboxingsuperseries.com.

Irish Independent

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