Ryan Burnett has set his sights on winning a World title in 2017 and he has zeroed in on recently-crowned WBA ‘super’ champion Zhanat Zhakiyanov.
It would be a huge fight for the Belfast bantamweight who gets his year up and running against Mexican Joseafat Reyes on the undercard of Gavin McDonnell’s WBC super-bantamweight title fight with Rey Vargas on Saturday night.
And after that fight at the weekend Burnett will turn his focus to Zhakiyanov - who he trained alongside in the past.
And he believes that knowledge will be vital if the two of them meet later this year.
“I have done some work with him because he was at Ricky Hatton’s gym when I was there and he was very, very hard and I am sure there are plenty of fighters in the division that will avoid him,” Burnett told Sky Sports.
“But it’s definitely a fight I want and it’s definitely one I think I can cope with - and win.”
And Burnett’s trainer Adam Booth admits Zhakiyanov is “a brute” and needed convincing that the Belfast star is ready to step up to world level against the Kazakh, who overcame two knockdowns to win the belt on points against Rau’sheen Warren.
“I know that Ryan genuinely fancies that fight and we have spoken about it and he has convinced me that he is genuinely confident - and that he understands what that fight is - and that he can win,” said Booth.
“I know what Ryan is capable of and I know that Zhakiyanov is a brute, but having spoken to Ryan he knows how to beat him and he’d jump at the chance of that fight.”
And Ginley Promotions are running a show at the Devenish on March 3. Alfredo Meli, Ciaran McVarnock, Anto Upton, Stephen Ormond, Ian Tims, and Tyrone McCullagh will all feature.
And on March 4 Luke and Matt Wilton will feature on a show at the Shorts Recreation Hall in Belfast.