By Ian S Palmer
Unbeaten IBF World Bantamweight Champion Ryan Burnett of Belfast, Northern Ireland will be meeting WBA Champion Zhanat Zhakiyanov of Kazakhstan in a bid to unify the belts at the SSE Arena in Belfast this Saturday., October 21st. Burnett won his title with a unanimous decision over Lee Haskins in June while Zhanat Zhakiyanov won his crown via a split decision over Rau’shee Warren in February. He also won the IBO title in the fight, but didn’t pay the sanctioning fees. The 12-round bout can be seen on tape delay in North America on HBO and live on Sky Sports in the UK.
The 33-year-old Zhakiyanov is a former European Bantamweight Champion and also has a fine record as he’s 27-1 with 18 Kos to his name and has 22 consecutive victories to his name. He stands 5-feet-7-inches tall and has a 67-inch reach. He’s boxed 130 rounds since turning pro in 2007 and has pretty good power with a current knockout ratio of 64 per cent with stoppages in 12 of his last14 contests. His lone defeat came at the hands of Sakhib Usarov via an eight-round unanimous decision back in 2008.
The average boxing fan probably won’t recognize any of his opponents other than Warren, but he also beat Yonfrez Parejo in November of 2015 for the interim WBA world Title. He’s an underrated boxer with good power, but his chin is questionable as the light-hitting Warren dropped him twice in the first round back in February. But while Zhakiyanov hasn’t really taken on any elite boxers so far in his career the same could probably be said about Burnett.
The 25-year-old Burnett climbs through the ring ropes with a perfect record of 17-0 with 9 kos. He turned pro back in 2013 and has boxed a total of 93 rounds since then. His toughest opponent to date has been Haskins and he’s also beaten the likes of Jason Booth, Anthony Settoul and Ryan Farrag. Burnett has decent power with a current knockout ratio of 53 per cent and had Haskins down in both the sixth and 11th rounds in June.
Burnett has an unlisted reach and height, but appears to be taller than Zhakiyanov. He had a fine amateur career before turning pro. He’s made the adjustment to the pro game quite well and has won several regional and minor titles. These include the WBO European Bantamweight Title, the British Bantamweight Crown and the WBC International Bantamweight Championship.
This is a good matchup and contest for both boxers and the fans will benefit since the titles will be unified when it’s over, unless it’s a draw. Neither boxer could be considered elite at this point, but they’re both solid pros. They’re not one-punch knockout artists either and there’s a chance this will go the distance. Burnett will have the hometown advantage here and that could be the difference. I think Zhakiyanov will need a knockout to win it though and that’s unlikely.