Belfast's Burnett aims to be a hit for Hatton

By Michael MarkeyBBC Sport NI
Burnett enjoying Hatton masterclass

If Ricky Hatton is right, Belfast's latest bright boxing prospect Ryan Burnett is taking his first steps on the road to stardom.

And, after waiting for four years for the chance to box in his home city again, Burnett put in an impressive display at the weekend, stopping Slovakian opponent Elemir Rafael.

A function room in Belfast's Holiday Inn cannot claim to be the biggest or most glamorous sporting venue in town, but the 21-year-old bantamweight Burnett was thrilled to be showcasing his talent in front of family and friends.

The compact setting meant the vocal support for Burnett was amplified as the local prospect claimed a round two stoppage in what was only his second bout as a professional.

If Burnett is to progress, he will meet more difficult opponents than Rafael, a 28-year-old journeyman who is no stranger to defeat in the ring.

And he may have to work on his concentration levels, as the victor admitted afterwards the excitement of boxing in front of his home crowd made him drift from the game plan.

"I couldn't wait to get in and put on a show," said Burnett.

"I got ahead of myself in the first round where I rushed it a bit, but that is expected - it is all about learning."

Ryan Burnett puts in an impressive display as he beats Slovakian opponent Elemir Rafael.

On the subject of learning, Burnett believes he could not have a better teacher than former two-weight world champion, Hatton.

"He is someone who has been to the top. He has done it all and brings all the experience. Ricky went to the top of the world."

Hatton believes these fights in Burnett's early years will prove to be an invaluable experience.

"The amateur game and the professional game are very different," said Hatton.

"I think it was a bit of a shock to his system tonight, so it was a good box ticked as far as I am concerned.

"I could see straight away he was getting frustrated, but that was the case for all of us when we turned professional."

The "Hitman" recognises that, although high expectations surround Burnett, it is still very early in his career and they have plenty to work on if he is to fulfil his potential.

"There were lots of things he did wrong believe it or not, which is good for me to go back to the gym and work on.

"You do not improve by being told what you did right, and he did a million and one things right. You improve by being told the things you did wrong."

Although the trainer and promoter believes the seven-time All-Ireland amateur champion still has a lot to learn about the paid ranks, he firmly believes his protege can become one of the great Irish fighters.

"I don't want to put too much pressure on his shoulders because whether it was myself, Steve Collins, Ryan Burnett or Barry McGuigan, we all have to tick the boxes as we're going.

"If he ticks all those boxes, and I think he will do, then obviously with the talent he has got, he can go as far as he wants to go."

Hatton hopes to have more Belfast shows in the pipeline for Burnett, believing it important for his fighter to build a relationship with his local supporters.

"I got my fan base by fighting regularly in Manchester," added Hatton.

"If he fights regularly in Belfast - especially when Belfast is so hot, with Carl Frampton's success - hopefully they'll see what an exciting talent he is.

"He is always in good fights, he fights with his heart. Once he gets that fan base behind him and gets to the very top, I think the Belfast and Irish fans will follow him everywhere."

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