Haven’t you heard? There’s going to be a good, old-fashioned brawl in Belfast this Saturday night (June 10th!) IBF bantamweight (118-pound) king Lee Haskins is on the verge of a third consecutive title defense after winning the belt almost two years ago while the challenger in Ryan Burnett places his undefeated streak of 16 fights (nine wins by KO/TKO) on the line.
Per Bovada, the 25-year-old hometown favorite is also the favorite in the odds over the 33-year-old champion at -340 against the +240 Haskins. Haskins knows that his age may be playing a factor in the eyes of some, but as with most things in life, with age comes experience and Haskins proved that he can still go by taking then-champion Stuart Hall to his absolute limit in what BoxRec rated as a four-star unanimous decision victory for Haskins.
Hall was also an orthodox stance fighter—like Burnett, which could present problems for the young gun, as punches will be coming from angles one does not normally expect with Haskins being a southpaw, but he has placed his full faith in head trainer Adam Booth.
The exact details of that game plan have largely been kept under wraps from the media, but Burnett is coming in with a background as a Youth Olympic champion in the sport and memories of darker times from his early days—which included sleeping in the back seat of a barrowed car—to give him both a literal and metaphorical hunger unlike anyone else.
“Adam Booth has been teaching me stuff that I didn’t even know existed! I thought I knew boxing, but when I went with Adam I quickly realized I didn’t know much at all. It’s been just over two years since I’ve been working with him. He’s taken away my bad habits and bringing me round to being a World class fighter” he said.
Some fans may contend that the above comment shows that Burnett is not yet a world class fighter, more than an up-and-coming prospect, but that he still has some growing pains to go through. However, others have argued that the Irishman was ready for a major title shot years ago. Aside from that, who can successfully argue with results like a 16-0 record?
If anyone has doubted the heavy hitter’s ability when it comes to his stamina (how much he can endure,) Burnett has gone out and silenced them with five consecutive victories from scorecards including four unanimous decision wins. By all accounts, he is also taking the fact his is headlining at home well and while he expects Haskins has ventured into enemy territory before, it could be yet another factor depending on who you talk to.
Burnett disagrees, especially after having faced many left-handed pugilists in both the confines of his home gym and in an actual competitive bout within the last year in the form of Joseafat Reyes, a points victory for him. Still, the viewing public could be the defining aspect of the upcoming contest.
“I always dreamed of headlining in Belfast and now I have the opportunity to do it for a world title – I’m so excited,” Burnett said. “Home advantage is going to be massive. I’ve been in the opposite corner when I fought Ryan Farrag in Liverpool and experienced that side of it. I got a little taste of it when I was on the undercard when Carl Frampton boxed Scott Quigg, when I came out everyone went crazy.”
Despite having fewer fights, Burnett has a better KO rate of 56 percent to the champion’s 38 percent. When Haskins last competed against Hall, there were some, like BoxingNews24.com’s Scott Gilfoid, who felt that they split the fight with Hall taking the opening six rounds (18 minutes.) You can count the “Belfast Boy” among those who were last than impressed with “Playboy’s” outing. He feels that if he adds just a little more pressure, he should walk away in triumph.
Going back to the mental game, while Burnett has acknowledged his youth, he doesn’t seem cocky, but is definitely not intimidated by the veteran, who has acknowledged age on his part and openly called the challenger a “hungry lion.” This might sound like Haskins is just trying to sell the fight, but the right path to take here would have been to let his fists do the talking.
Obviously by being unbeaten, Burnett has never suffered a knockout. The same cannot be said for Haskins, who has suffered three of those in his career. While the last finish against him came in 2012, it could very much still be a sign that his chin is weakening because in boxing, a handful of losses could end your career.
The plan of attack could be expected to be another points approach from Burnett as Haskins has more than proven his ability to take a punch. Haskins has lasted 231 rounds to Burnett’s 81. The argument you could have there would be about Haskin’s durability versus Burnett’s ability to get the job done. However, you would only need to again refer to their finishing percentages mentioned above.
Haskins will undoubtedly take the more tactical approach (having scored 226 points previously compared to Burnett’s 80) but Burnett needs to not tire himself out. The key for the challenger in not doing that will be to avoid feeling any pressure to go for the kill because that’s what he’s been known for thus far and because of the crowd.
This bout has preemptively been described as a game of chess and while this appears to be another case of stick-and-move fighting (hit and don’t get hit, a combination of speed and timing) it will also be a game of chess in terms of who makes the wrong move first. Above all, this will be a test of who is under greater pressure and it appears that it will be a question of just how much damage (the much talked about striking volume) Haskins will be able to endure.
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