Ryan Burnett (18-0-0) added another title (WBA belt) to his cabinet after earning a unanimous decision over Zhanat Zhakiyanov (27-2-0).
Before I talk about the actual fight, I have to mention two of the scorecards that read 118-110 and 119-109, which were a complete injustice to Zhakiyanov. I personally had it 115-113 to Burnett, with the majority of fans, trainers and ex/current pro’s having it near that mark too. It is sad that after nearly every fight which goes the distance nowadays, we are talking about the judges incompetence rather than what actually took place in the ring.
Anyways, moving on, if you enjoy a dog fight, this was certainly for you. It is safe to say it wasn’t a particularly rememberable one for any lovers of the sweet science. This is as from the first second it was clear that the Kazakh’s game-plan was to try and physically impose himself, in an attempt to nullify Burnett’s skill-set at range. Zhakiyanov was persistent in applying pressure from round 1 to 12, which forced a lot of clinches and inside work from both fighters.
Ricky Hatton, who trains Zhakiyanov, would have been fairly happy with the first few rounds as the game-plan was working to a certain degree. Zhakiyanov was just about beating Burnett to the punch during the clinches and shutting range down at any given chance, meaning Burnett wasn’t able to get much clean work off. These tactics also meant that there was a chance Burnett’s energy could drain down the stretch. Therefore, I thought it was likely Burnett was going to start boxing and moving more, but he had other ideas. He carried on fighting Zhakiyanov at his own fight, with the pair of them still trying to back each other up. Clearly, neither fighter respected their opponents power, especially Zhakiyanov who kept marching forward in straight lines after taking a combination of shots, in similar fashion to his fellow countryman, Gennady Golovkin.
As the fight progressed, much to the credit of his physical conditioning, Burnett gained a new lease of life and started to take control. His work was less rushed than in the earlier rounds and he timed Zhakiyanov a few times at range when the Kazakh came forward.
Zhakiyanov still had the same mentality in the last half of the fight and should also be commended on his immense physical conditioning, as he continued to relentlessly march forward. The pair continued to exchange a large volume of body shots. However, in the last quarter of the fight, Zhakiyanov didn’t come forward with the same venom and Burnett certainly ended the stronger of the two, picking his shots much more effectively.
It was a proud moment for the Belfast boy to create history by unifying on his own patch. He did have to go to hospital after the fight, but fortunately he was given the all clear and everything is fine. He’ll be sure to have some time off and enjoy Christmas, and then look to win all the belts in the new year.