Tuesday 15 October 2019

Burnett facing lengthy break as injury marks further setback

Burnett sought a new trainer after he parted company with Ricky Hatton. Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images
Burnett sought a new trainer after he parted company with Ricky Hatton. Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images

Seán McGoldrick

Nothing about Ryan Burnett's boxing career has been straightforward.

Though he has scaled majestic peaks, beginning with a gold medal at the inaugural Youth Olympics in 2010 and culminating in him being a unified world professional champion, the voids have been just as dramatic.

Even before he turned professional, he was sidelined for nearly a year with a debilitating back injury. He lost another year attempting to convince the medical profession they got it wrong when they refused to grant him a pro-licence after a routine brain scan suggested he had a blockage in his brain.

Another year was frittered away, as Burnett (right) sought a new trainer after he parted company with Ricky Hatton. During this crisis, he and his dad lived out of a station wagon for six weeks.

So Saturday night's loss to former four-weight world champion Nonito Donaire needs to be viewed in the context of the setbacks the Belfast fighter has endured and overcome.

Of course, the loss of his WBA world bantamweight belt and elimination from the World Boxing Super Series is a huge blow. But the manner of his first professional loss was even more heart-wrenching.

The 26-year-old defending champion was forced to concede the fight at the end of the fourth round after what appeared to be a serious injury - possibly a slipped disc.

In the final minute of the round, Burnett stopped fighting. He clutched his right hip in pain after throwing a routine body shot. He dropped to his knees, but scrambled back on his feet on the count of seven and survived the rest of the stanza. He gingerly retreated to his corner, still clutching his hip, but it became apparent he was in no position to fight on.

He received oxygen before being taken from the arena on a stretcher and ended up in hospital. It was his fourth successive visit to an Emergency Department after world championship fights. But unlike the three previous trips, he couldn't console himself by knowing he had secured victory.

The damage may have been caused near the end of the third round. In the corner, the TV mic picked him up telling his trainer, Adam Booth: "I cannot move it. I cannot throw a shot."

The primary aim of the new World Super Series of Boxing is to unify the bantamweight division. So the other three belt holders, Naoya Inoue (WBA regular champion), Emmanuel Rodriquez (IBF) and Zolani Tele (WBO), together with the newly-crowned WBA unified champion, Nonito Donaire, have now advanced to the semi-final of the tournament.

The new unified champion won't be crowned until next autumn, which means that Burnett won't be in a position to challenge again for a world belt in the 118lb division until then.

The reality is that Burnett faces a long break from boxing and may not be in a position to resume his career until the autumn at the earliest.

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