Northern Ireland’s Ryan Burnett (18-0, 9KOs) became the first Irish unified world champion on home soil after a gruelling 12 round victory against Zhanat Zhakiyanov (27-2, 18KOs) at the SSE Arena in Belfast.
The 25-year-old from Belfast added the WBA bantamweight belt to his IBF strap by a unanimous decision, the judges scored it 118-110, 119-109, 117-112.
Both fighters would have been forgiven for taking easier first defences but instead decided to face each other in a champion verses champion unification match.
From the first bell to the last the fight was fought at close quarters which made scoring difficult but Burnett managed to find space and produce the cleaner work.
Zhakiyanov could have been considered the aggressor for the whole twelve rounds with his relentless pressure but never really had Burnett in any real danger.
There was a moment in the sixth round when the young Irishmen clutched his shoulder, to signal an injury but he managed to shake it off and carry on without any more problems.
An emotional Burnett spoke after the fight: “It was tough and I had to dig deep, but I did it. I’m now a double world champion,”
“The plan was to keep him at range but he kept coming forward, although with this fight I’ve proved a point,” said Burnett.
The Kazakhstan’s trainer Ricky Hatton, said: “I thought Ryan nicked it and the best man won, but the scores were harsh on Zhanat.”
After the fight Ryan Burnett was taken to hospital as a precaution after complaining about a pain, especially around his ear. So he was stretchered out but fully conscious.
Super welterweight Anthony Fowler moved to (4-0, 3KOs) when he won a unanimous decision against Hungarian Laszlo Fazekas (31-28-1, 18KOs).
Welterweight Josh Kelly (4-0, 4KOs) made short work of Jose Luis Zuniga (13-3-1, 7KOs) stopping the Mexican in two.
James Tennyson (20-2, 16KOs) retained his WBA international super featherweight title when he knocked out Scotsman Darren Traynor (14-2, 6KOs) in what was the fight of the night.
There were also victories for Tyrone McKenna, Tommy McCarthy and Paul Hyland Jnr.
Congratulaions to Ryan Burnett on his victory against a tough opponent in Zhanat Zhakiyanov. It was hard going for the Irishman but he has proved that he is now the best bantamweight in the world at the moment.
I would love to see the young Irishman take on Jamie McDonnell (29-2-1, 13KOs) in a domestic tear up. The Doncaster-based WBA regular bantamweight champion would be an action packed match-up. It would be easy to negotiate as both fight under Matchroom.
WBO bantamweight champion Zolani Tete (25-3, 20KOs) would be another step up but one that I believe Burnett can win.
Good night of boxing with a great atmosphere in Ireland as usual. Great fight between Tennyson-Traynor and a historic night for Burnett and Ireland 8/10