RYAN BURNETT had expected his world-title fight with Lee Haskins to be stopped in the opening rounds because of the cuts suffered by each fighter in the second.
An accidental clash of heads opened significant wounds over both fighters’ right eyes — new IBF bantamweight champion Burnett’s bled heavily — and his trainer Adam Booth responded by telling him he only had two more rounds to fulfil his dream.
The 25-year-old then continued the sharp and exceptional performance he had threatened from the opening bell, outclassing and outpointing the proven champion at Belfast’s Odyssey Arena and potentially ending the underrated Haskins’ career at world level.
Burnett is unlikely to return until October or November to allow his cut to properly heal, and he said: “This was the first time I’d ever experienced that, but me and Adam have gone over this situation before.
“When it happened, it was as if it’s happened before; I knew exactly how to deal with it. That’s why I didn’t pay no attention to it, even when the blood was in my eyes and I couldn’t see. It didn’t faze me at all.
“We knew my speed would give me a bit of an advantage: that was something we’d worked on in camp.
“It’s something special. I’m in a position now where I can go on and give myself and my family a good life if I keep doing what I’m doing, and at the end of the day that’s what it’s all about.
“I haven’t been home in two-and-a-half months. I just want to go home to my family. We’re in a great position now: we can make these good fights, and it’s all there for me. I turned 25 two weeks ago: I’ve still got so much to learn.”
Booth had said: “I told Ryan after the [cuts in the] second round, ‘This fight’s not going 12 rounds, you’re both cut too badly, win every moment of the next two rounds because it’s going to go to a technical decision’. The referee [Marcus McDonnell] did an immaculate job.”
The only other blemish on Burnett’s evening came when one of the three judges scored Haskins a 118-108 winner despite Haskins also suffering knockdowns in the sixth and 11th rounds.
His promoter Eddie Hearn later revealed Clark Sammartino, of America, had mistaken the two fighters’ identities, while Booth spoke of how Burnett’s win had surpassed even those he had overseen for the world heavyweight title with David Haye.
“He was magnificent, because Lee Haskins is not easy to out-trick and out-box, and that’s exactly what he did for 12 rounds,” said the trainer, who also led Ireland’s Andy Lee to the WBO middleweight title.
“I haven’t had a world champion after only 17 pro fights who’s performed like that.
“Everything with David Haye, at cruiserweight, heavyweight, and Andy Lee at middleweight, it’s all special, but there’s something about what Ryan has achieved: I’m pretty sure I’ll never see that again with a fighter after only 16 pro fights.”