Burnett vs Zhakiyanov: Ryan Burnett defeats Zhanat Zhakiyanov to unify world titles
By Matt Horan
Last Updated: 22/10/17 8:08am
Ryan Burnett became the unified bantamweight world champion after outpointing Zhanat Zhakiyanov in a thrilling Belfast encounter.
The IBF world champion was pushed all the way by Zhakiyanov, 33, in a gruelling contest at the SSE Arena, but eventually it was Burnett who tasted victory and in doing so claimed the Kazakh's WBA 'Super' belt.
The 25-year-old started slowly but found his rhythm in the later stages of the fight, before the judges returned scores of 119-109, 118-110 and 116-112 in his favour.
'ZZ' made a typically come-forward, aggressive start to the fight, forcing the Northern Irishman back onto the ropes, but Burnett was able to work away on the backfoot, landing a precise uppercut and right hand in a closely fought opener.
The two fighters were both intent on seizing control, Zhakiyanov marching into range and working on the inside, while Burnett was landing the more accurate and snappy shots.
The 33-year-old was making it a tough night's work for the home favourite but still the IBF beltholder managed to pick him off with crunching hooks to the head and body.
In the fourth, the unbeaten Burnett started to find his rhythm, working behind a stiff jab to pump out crisp punches and he even managed to force the Kazakh backwards to the delight of the home crowd.
The Belfast bantamweight was starting to ooze confidence, calling 'ZZ' on to him in the corner and countering viciously in the next.
Zhakiyanov's trainer Ricky Hatton urged his charge to make room for his punches before the sixth and the WBA 'Super' champion took the advice and landed an eye-catching uppercut to begin the period.
Burnett then bizarrely clutched his left shoulder as if to signal it may be injured, but the 25-year-old shook off any troubles he had and traded leather with the relentless Kazakh.
The gruelling pace and intensity of the closely-fought encounter continued into the second half, 'ZZ' bullishly piling forward while the local star still found the cleaner more eye-catching work.
Trainer Adam Booth then laid down the gauntlet to Burnett saying: "You told me you could break him," before the ninth and on cue, the 25-year-old came out and landed some heavy, crowd-pleasing hooks to get an important foothold on the fight.
The pendulum swung further into Burnett's territory in the championship periods, the IBF champion bringing his spiteful jab more into play as he got down to his effective, technical boxing.
Zhakiyanov though, was proving as tough as they come, and in the concluding three minutes, both men relentlessly let their fists go in a grandstand finish.
A delighted Burnett said afterwards: "This was a tough fight for me, I had to dig deep and I done it.
"The plan was to try and box him, but he's that strong, I had to adapt to his game.
"I boxed Haskins, he's one of the trickiest in the division and now I've beaten one of the toughest."