Eddie Hearn would note afterwards that he thought Ryan Burnett [17(9)-0] had froze in the lead-up to his IBF bantamweight title fight with reigning champion Lee Haskins on Saturday.
However it soon became apparent that the Belfast 25 year old was merely showing calmness beyond both his years and his experience.
Even a horrible second round cut couldn’t disturb the focus of Burnett, who dominated the tricky, established champion.
Indeed the only moment Burnett almost lost his cool was at the announcement of the result.
An error from judge Clark Sammartino saw a split decision called as the American had mistakenly scored the fight backwards, putting Burnett’s scores in the Haskins column and vice-versa.
Burnett laughed afterwards that “to be honest I nearly fainted in the ring. I thought they are going to take it off me here, but thank God it went my way.”
The Antrim Road fighter paid credit to trainer Adam Booth for whipping him into the mental shape required for the huge occasion.
A first headline fight, a homecoming, a world title, the toughest opponent of his career – and Burnett took everything in his stride.
The Belfast bantam explained how “I have been taught by Adam not just physically, but how to mentally deal with the situation and to be honest I was in amazing physical and mental shape for this fight and the majority of that was down to Adam.”
“When they announced my name I stood in the middle of the ring, put my arms out and closed my eyes. I felt a wall of noise just hit me and it was incredible to know that sound was from me and from the Belfast crowd. It was surreal!”
A cut, which was fantastically dealt with by Ian Johnson in the corner, threatened to derail the fight for Burnett. Again though, it was nothing the Irishman couldn’t deal with, with Booth’s mental preparations paying dividends.
Burnett, who had never suffered a serious cut before, described how “when it happened, it was as if it’s happened before; I knew exactly how to deal with it.”
“That’s why I didn’t pay no attention to it, even when the blood was in my eyes and I couldn’t see. It didn’t faze me at all.”
Photo Credit: Ricardo Guglielminotti – The Fighting Irish (@ThefIrish)
LISTEN: Gavan Casey and Joe O’Neill speak to Luke Keeler and Paddy Barnes on Episode 6 of The Irish Boxing Show: