What signing for Sky means for Burnett and Belfast

In somewhat surprising news, it was announced over the weekend that Belfast bantamweight Ryan Burnett has signed with Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom Promotions.

It seems that Burnett’s recent time spent sparring with Sky star Jamie McDonnell ahead of his PBC fight in Texas with Tomoki Kameda has convinced Hearn to plump for the youngster on a three year contract.

The move can be described as surprising considering that the Burnett has fought thrice this year on Boxnation and is due to face Jason Booth on November 23rd for the British Title on a Frank Warren-promoted show.

Nevertheless, signing with Hearn gives the 23 year old the opportunity to become a superstar via the Sky platform.

Here irish-boxing.com considers the potential ramifications of the signing for both Burnett and Belfast boxing

Ireland’s #1 Prospect
Burnett has sliced through all his opponents en-route to building an 11(9)-0 record and claiming the WBO European title. The hotshot is on the verge of leaving the prospect stage of his career. His new Matchroom stablemates also offer the chance of huge fights down the line and potential rivalries to foster with the likes of Gamal and Kal Yafai, Gavin and Jamie Mconnell, Lee Haskins, and even Carl Frampton nemesis Scott Quigg.

Additionally, with Matchroom’s monopoly over boxing on Sky, Burnett is now in line to appear on some of 20 domestic shows a year aired on the channel – as well as benefiting from the relentless PR machine that is Sky Sports, Ringside, the Toe2Toe podcast etc etc.

Indeed, with regular fights, it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that Burnett could be a World champion by the end of 2016.

What’s in it for Eddie?
Aside from the acquisition of one of World boxing’s brightest talents, the signing of Burnett also makes business sense for Hearn. Rightly or wrongly, Hearn’s image in Ireland has been tarnished by the ongoing Carl Frampton-Scott Quigg saga. If, as hoped, Hearn returns to Ireland it will serve to build bridges with Irish fight fans who have been somewhat starved of big time boxing (although the welcome addition of MGM Promotions to the scene has certainly helped in recent times).

Away from PR, Hearn also knows there is a demand for boxing in Ireland, hence his signing of Dublin duo Jono Carroll and Luke Keeler. The addition of a Belfast star reopens the possibility of running shows in the Titanic City again.

Admittedly, it has been said in the past that running shows in Ireland were more expensive for Sky – however, long term, Matchroom know that it is not in their best interests to allow Boxnation and Warren have complete dominance of the Irish market.

Brilliant for Belfast
Belfast is a boxing city. We are obviously biased here, but if you were to associate The Sweet Science with World cities, we believe that Belfast ranks up there with Las Vegas and Havana, Cuba.

Upon signing for Matchroom, Burnett confidently announced that ‘my goal in the not to distant future is to have my own show in Belfast.’ With all roads pointing to the Odyssey, there will hopefully soon be more big boxing shows in Ireland’s fight capital.

These shows will come in addition to the massive Carl Frampton shows which, understandably, will be limited to one a year as ‘The Jackal’ seeks to break America – as well as more promised small hall shows from Cyclone alongside those of Mark Dunlop, Pat Magee, and the Malta Boxing Commission.

The only people more excited than Belfast fight fans about these potential shows are the boxers themselves, a number of whom immediately spring to mind. These include, but are not limited to, the likes of:

– Welterweight Paddy Gallagher who contributed to one of the craziest ever editions of Prizefighter back in 2014.
– Middleweight Eamonn O’Kane who, fresh from his world title eliminator, has marked himself out as one of the most fan-friendly fighters around.
– Heavyweight Martin Rogan, well known to Sky viewers, who is planning for one more shot at the big time.
– Celtic Warriors pair Jono Carroll (super featherweight) and Luke Keeler (middleweight) who are both signed to Sky.
– Cruiserweight Tommy McCarthy who impressed on the Sky show in Dublin last November, as well as his Pat Magee stablemate Phil Sutcliffe Jr (light welterweight).

The Golden Geese
Finally, and this is all just speculation, could Eddie Hearn be attempting to build a beach-head in Belfast with the signing of Burnett that will allow him to sign future Belfast stars?

These future stars are Mick Conlan and Paddy Barnes who will look to claim gold in next years Olympics – although Hearn’s eye could also be caught by some of Ireland’s other Olympic hopefuls such as Steven Donnelly, Sean McComb, Connor Coyle, Caoimhin Hynes, and Brendan Irvine.

As we have seen with Luke Campbell and Anthony Joshua, Sky loves an Olympic gold medalist and Barnes and Conlan are both supremely confident, as are the bookies, that they will achieve top prize in Brazil. While Conlan (Golden Boy) and Barnes (MGM) have already been contacted by promoters, nothing is set in stone.

All will be revealed soon, but the future looks bright for Burnett, Belfast, and Irish boxing.

Joe O'Neill

Reporting on Irish boxing the past five years. Work has appeared on irish-boxing.com, Boxing News, the42.ie, and local and national media. Provide live ringside updates, occasional interviews, and special features on the future of Irish boxing. email: [email protected]