'I would love to fight Inoue': Ryan Burnett interview
Luke G. Williams
Ahead of his World Boxing Super Series clash with Nonito Donaire in Glasgow, Ryan Burnett speaks to Boxing Monthly about the Filipino legend, why he entered the WBSS and his desire to tangle with Naoya Inoue...
Ryan Burnett was on his way back to his London training base from his native Belfast when BM caught up with the WBSS bantamweight No.1 seed a few weeks after he had picked Nonito Donaire as his quarter-final opponent.
Throughout our conversation, the 26-year-old WBA title holder radiated good cheer and an endearing nature, rather than arrogant self-confidence.
“I decided to sign up [for the WBSS] because it’s an opportunity to prove to everyone that I am the best,” he explained. “It’s the best versus the best and I think everyone wants to see that. To be a part of it is great. I had a chat with [trainer] Adam [Booth] and we both thought it was the right decision.
“Every boxing fan wants to see the best fighters fight the best fighters. Sometimes when some people become [world] champion, they don’t really fight the best. They avoid this person or that person. That’s the way the game has been.
“But the World Boxing Super Series doesn’t allow people to be like that any more. For the true champions in boxing and fight fans, it’s changing the course of boxing.”
Burnett admitted that the opportunity offered by the WBSS to make a splash on the global stage was a significant motivator.
“I think I deserve to be on that level now. This has come at the right time. I’ve had three world title fights. I’ve fought a couple of good fighters. Now the WBSS is going to take me to a new level. I think the age of 26 is the perfect time of my career to take that step up and fight elite fighters on a massive stage.”
Burnett's opponent on Saturday night, the 35-year-old Donaire, has won world titles at four weights from fly to feather, but he is 1-2 in his last three fights and has not fought at 118lbs since 2011.
With question marks over his ability to make the weight, Burnett is a hot favourite to advance, although he stressed to BM that he is not taking Donaire lightly.
“It would be wrong to not respect him,” he said. “He [Donaire] has done so much in the game. But I had a talk with Adam, and we both decided to pick him because we decided that his style suits my style and that I’ll have the edge over him.”
At 26, Burnett is near the peak of his powers and the experience garnered from 36 educative rounds of world championship boxing against Lee Haskins, Zhanat Zhakiyanov and Yonfrez Parejo in the last year and a half has been invaluable.
Although he stressed he is not looking beyond Donaire, or a possible semi-final against Zolani Tete, Burnett admitted he is aching for the opportunity to square off against Japanese pound-for-pound contender Naoya Inoue.
“He’s an incredible fighter, I would love to fight Inoue. Having been around him and watched him I think his style is perfect for me. I was standing beside him [at the draft gala in Moscow] and I was twice the size of him and I know I’m twice as strong as him. If I had the chance to get that fight I would jump all over it.
“Look, I’m open to fight any of these fighters. Anyone in the division I know I’m capable of beating, I’ve got the tools to be able to beat these guys. I know this. If I perform to my best I will win this tournament.”
Burnett spoke with such conviction that BM ventured to ask him where such determination and self-belief originates.
The Belfast man paused, before referring to the widely reported spell earlier in his career when he spent several weeks homeless and sleeping in a car with his father.
“I moved to Manchester at the age of 19 and it was very hard for me,” he says. “I hit rock bottom basically and I always said to myself I’m never going to be like that again, I’m never going to be in that position again in my life.
“I’m going to do everything I can to change that. I vowed to stay dedicated, to work hard and one day become world champion and be capable of buying myself a house so I would never be homeless again. That’s where my determination comes from.”