Belfast’s Ryan Burnett (16-0, KO 9) challenges Bristol’s Lee Haskins (34-3, KO 14) this Saturday for the IBF World bantamweight title at the Odyssey Area, Northern Ireland in a 50-50 clash.
The unbeaten 25-year-old gets his first shot at a World Title on home turf after seamlessly overcoming all sixteen opponents so far in his professional career and gaining the British, WBO European and WBC International titles in the process.
‘Playboy’ Haskins, ranked by The Ring Magazine as the world’s third best bantamweight, and world’s fourth by BoxRec, has held the IBF title since March 2015 when he beat Japan’s Ryosuke Iwasa with a fantastic sixth round stoppage making him Bristol’s first world champion in 15 years. He has defended the title twice since then against Mexico’s Ivan Morales in Cardiff and Darlington’s Stuart Hall beating both with unanimous point decisions. But will it be third time lucky for him this weekend in defending the strap?
The 33-year-old southpaw certainly thinks so, promising to avoid complacency and to make up for his lack-luste performance in his last fight against Stuart Hall. And while the Bristolian is scared of flying, even getting the ferry over to Belfast to avoid a trip on an aeroplane, he certainly is not scared of his younger challenger.
Done it the hard way, I’ve got nothing else to prove. I’m coming to Belfast to WIN pic.twitter.com/cgibddLkag
— Lee Haskins (@LeeHaskins118) June 1, 2017
Haskins has a wealth of professional experience, going pro back in 2003 and with 37 fights under his belt. His last loss was back in 2012. After starting at Flyweight, he took the English title in his ninth fight, picking up the Commonwealth title five fights later. He is also a Prizefighter champion (2011), where he did not lose a single round throughout the tournament.
On Saturday, he has vowed to not let the home support for his opponent get under his skin.
“I’ve boxed in Monaco, Belgium and Morocco and in plenty of backyards in the UK. It doesn’t bother me, a ring is a ring,” he told Sky Sports.
He has nothing but respect for his younger opponent, and agrees that Saturday will be a very well matched fight, but that doesn’t mean he is rolling over by any means. He continued, mentioning his poor performance win against Hall – “When I feel like I have a 50-50 fight in front of me, I put a lot extra into the training and I want it more. When you’re fighting people you’ve beaten before, or you know you can beat, you ease up in training, let yourself slip a little bit, and pay for it on the night.”
“I’ve got a great opponent in front of me: this is a 50-50 fight. Before I even knew I was fighting him I thought, ‘He’s a fantastic fighter and one to watch in the future’.”
“I’ve had an amazing time in camp; I’m happy, in a great place. I’ve a great family and I want to keep providing for them, and the best way to do that is obviously by winning,” he said.
But Burnett believes that now is his time to take the title, and many have made the obvious comparisons to the likes of fellow Belfast boxers Carl Frampton and Wayne McCullough, who also won a world title in his 17th fight.
— Matchroom Boxing (@MatchroomBoxing) June 1, 2017
Burnett turned professional in 2012 with Hatton Promotions but left their stable in 2014 before starting training under Adam Booth’s watchful eye. He credits the trainer with his progression – saying at the press conference that “he’s taken away my bad habits and [is] bringing me round to being a World class fighter.”
He also believes the hometown crowd will spur him on to victory on the night. “I always dreamed of headlining in Belfast and now I have the opportunity to do it for a World Title – I’m so excited.”
“Home advantage is going to be massive. I’ve been in the opposite corner when I fought Ryan Farrag in Liverpool and experienced that side of it. I got a little taste of it when I was on the undercard when Carl Frampton boxed Scott Quigg, when I came out everyone went crazy.”
“Im only 16-0, 24 years old. I’m still new to this level. But this is definitely the right fight for me at this stage of my career. I know I’m capable of stepping up,” he said.
Burnett has acknowledged Haskin’s experience and skill and it is a certain step up for the Belfast boy, but he thinks his older contender will not be able to handle his fast movements. Referencing his fight against Faragg last year as one where he learnt a lot, Burnett has said that he will be bringing everything he learnt into his fight with Haskins.
He also believes Haskins deals badly with pressure as seen in his last performance when he fought Hall for the second time, and edged the win at the O2 Arena, Greenwich in a controversial unanimous decision.
In preparation Burnett has been doing a lot of Southpaw training in the gym, and also faired well against previous Southpaw contender, Josefat Reyes, winning by unanimous decision earlier on this year. “I don’t think the stance will bother me much,” he said at the press conference.
The undercard at the Odyssey Arena features Paul Hyland Jr v Adam Dingsdale for the IBF European Lightweight title, James Tennyson v Ryan Doyle, and the cruiserweight debut of Cork-based former heavyweight Mike Perez.
By Charlotte Prior. You can follow her on Twitter on @CharlotteLily89