Frankie Monkhouse gives his thoughts on this weekend's live boxing from Belfast, with local lad Burnett picked to keep it simple...
"17 wins from 17 starts, 25-year-old Ryan Burnett has finished nine of his opponents inside the distance, but hasn’t stopped a rival in two years."
Ryan Burnett looks to add the WBA world super bantamweight title to his IBF crown when meeting Kazakhstan's Zhanat Zhakiyanov on Saturday. A thrilling contest awaits, armchair fans can follow a blow-by-blow account courtesy of Sky Sports, and you spice up your viewing with a bet at Betfair.
Burnett goes in with an impressive 17-fight unbeaten record, but he concedes experience to the away corner, Zhakiyanov losing just one of his 28 career starts. That doesn't do much to impress traders, who have the local lad priced as a red-hot favourite.
Burnett hasn't stopped an opponent in two years
Seventeen wins from 17 starts, 25-year-old Ryan Burnett has finished nine of his opponents inside the distance, but hasn't stopped a rival in two years. Hungarian journeyman Robert Kanalas was cut down in two at the Manchester Arena in October 2015, on the undercard of Terry Flanagan-Diego Magdaleno. Since then the Belfast fighter has strung together a run of six wins on the scorecards.
That form goes some way to explaining why the Burnett KO/TKO is available on the sportsbook at a market best price of 7/2. The favourite won over ringside judges last time out, getting his hands on the IBF strap courtesy of a unanimous decision vs Lee Haskins. The margin of victory that night was comfortable - 10 rounds, 12 rounds and 12 rounds - in front of a packed Odyssey Arena in his home city. Burnett sent Haskins to the canvas twice during the bout, in the sixth and 11th rounds, but Playboy, calling on his near 14-year experience, knew enough to survive.
This will be a far tougher test than the one offered by Haskins, but the result is expected to be the same, a points win for Burnett trading as favourite, 8/13 (sportsbook). Prefer to keep it simple? You'll have to make do with the [1.28] on the exchange. The fight to travel the scheduled distance is one for those taking up position on the fence, 4/11 on the sportsbook.
Zhakiyanov involved in a classic last time
Little is known about opponent Zhanat Zhakiyanov, but there's no doubt he brings bags of ability into the ring, standing as a respected world champion, and 28-fight veteran. The 33-year-old won the interim version of the WBA with a split decision over Venezuelan Yonfrez Parejo in Monte Carlo on his penultimate start. He followed that with another split vs Rau'shee Warren earlier this year.
American Warren thought he had got the job done in the first round, sending Zhanat to the canvas twice in the opening minutes, but couldn't put his opponent to bed, and ended up paying the price. In a fight packed with excitement, Zhakiyanov climbed off the deck to get the nod on two of the three cards, 115-111, 116-110, 111-115. He also won the IBO title that night, but the belt became vacant, Zhanat refusing to pay the sanctioning fee.
The betting would suggest Zhanat Zhakiyanov has little chance of getting anything out of the fight, but that's certainly not the case. If you'd prefer to side with the underdog, there's a cracking [3.95] available. Play the sportsbook, where you'll find the points win at 6/1, or a KO/TKO 7/1.
Pays to keep it simple here
We really shouldn't take Zhakiyanov lightly. He brings enough ability to upset the odds, just as he did last time out in America, but has been rather fortunate in his last two. A pair of split decisions isn't unheard of, but it does raise question marks. Has he had his rub of the green? The home team wouldn't take him over here to beat Burnett and see the city lose a major attraction.
I'll stick with the stats and have Burnett to win this one on the scorecards. It lacks imagination, of course, but the clues are there and the [1.65] should help boost our balance. If you're not quite as confident, I wouldn't put anyone off a play on this going the distance at 4/11. Perfect for your weekend sports accumulators.
Burnett on points @ [1.65]