By: Ste Rowen
On Saturday night two of Britain’s best take to the ring for the World Boxing Super Series as 140lb number two, seed Josh Taylor of Scotland, fights undefeated American, Ryan Martin; while WBA bantamweight champion, Ryan Burnett of Belfast, steps in with future hall of famer, Nonito Donaire. Watch the fight on DAZN.
Whether watching at home or inside the arena you’re sure to remember at least one thing from Josh Taylor’s World Boxing Super Series quarter-final vs. Ryan Martin, and that’s noise. When the ‘Tartan Tornado’ appears to the crowd for the first time on Saturday, the Scottish crowd will erupt. Covering Martin, in a cacophony of sound he’s never felt before as a boxer.
Photo Credit: World Boxing Super Series Twitter Account
Taylor’s professional-breakout fight was in his five-round dismantling of super-lightweight gatekeeper, Dave Ryan at Meadowbank Sports Arena, in 2016 and since then, five out of Taylor’s six fights have taken place either in Glasgow or his home city of Edinburgh. The fan-base has grown and with it, the anticipation of what the Scottish fans will bring.
Saturday nights venue, SSE Hydro was the base for the 2014 Commonwealth games in Glasgow, where Taylor won gold, so it stands to reason that he’ll be forever linked with the venue,
‘‘The Hydro is now my home. Every time I fight there I’m getting stronger and stronger and the fans are getting bigger and noisier.’’
The ‘Tartan Tornado’s’ last two fight have taken place at the SSE. Five months ago, the Scottish southpaw went head to head with former world champion, Viktor Postol in his most important professional fight to date.
His performance matched the event, as Taylor, now 13-0 (11KOs) battled through 12 exhausting rounds, dropping the Ukrainian in the 11th, to add another notch to his record and emerge as arguably, the biggest threat outside of the current 140lb world champions,
‘‘My style is based on hand speed and timing. I can punch hard as well…I know if I’m hitting you, I’m putting you down or hurting you. I don’t think there’s anybody that boxes the way I box.’’
‘‘I’ve seen every type of style, every type of fighting you can imagine… My ambition is to move forward, win this tournament and become world champion.’’
Before entering the WBSS, Taylor was making his way through the WBC rankings to eventually face one of the organisation’s belt holders, Jose Ramirez or already confirmed semi-finalist, Regis Prograis. If he wins on Saturday though, he’ll instead face the recently crowned IBF champion, Ivan Baranchyk for that title and a place in the final to fight either Kiryl Relikh or Prograis.
Ryan ‘Blue Chip’ Martin has fluctuated between lightweight and super-lightweight throughout his pro career. Currently 22-0 (12KOs) and training out of Big Bear under the tutelage of Abel Sanchez, Martin has won minor lightweight titles as an amateur and as a professional.
Towards the end of last year, he picked up the 135lb WBA Inter-Continental strap with a split decision victory over Francisco Rojo; as well as already being the owner of the WBC ‘Americas’ lightweight belt. However, his two fights this year came at the weight class above including a shut-out points victory over Briedis Prescott in May.
Though 22 bouts in, his professional record has been steady in its progress; Martin’s not the type of man who takes any opponent lightly,
‘‘I know Josh Taylor’s a very good boxer, I’m the most athletic, I have the most speed and that’s gonna make the most difference throughout the tournament.’’
‘‘I’ve heard the crowd in Scotland is gonna be a very different atmosphere than I’ve ever been in but I’m gonna soak it all in.’’
Although ‘Blue Chip’ won’t have fought in an atmosphere as raucous as Saturday’s is expected to be, he’s no stranger to performing on the big stage having already performed at venues such as, the StubHub Center in LA, Vegas’s T-Mobile Arena and, probably the most famous boxing venue of all, Madison Square Garden,
‘‘I’m a boxer-puncher. I love to entertain, I love to excite people…Nobody wants to see a boring fighter.’’
‘‘As fighter’s every time we step in the ring we’re risking something so why not risk it on the big stage.
As mentioned earlier, the man to emerge victorious this weekend will go on to face Ivan Baranchyk in the semi-finals, who last week scored a 7th round stoppage victory over Anthony Yigit.
Ryan Burnett vs. Nonito Donaire
The fourth and final bantamweight quarter-final sees WBA ‘Super’ champion, Ryan Burnett step into the ring with ‘The Filipino Flash’, Nonito Donaire. The winner will progress to the semis to fight WBO champion, Zolani Tete.
No one can say the 26-year-old Ryan Burnett hasn’t earned his place at the top table of 118lb boxers. The Belfast man has, on numerous occasions, been given reasons to quit boxing, his story, which he outlines in another brilliantly put together Super Series documentary here; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uu4AaO7UGlc isn’t your regular hard knocks tale.
Photo Credit: World Boxing Super Series Twitter Account
He’s overcome neurological issues that he was told were career-ending and been homeless; all before even catching his break in the sport.
‘‘I’ve got a hunger that I know no one in there has.’’
‘‘For a year and a half, we learnt how the brain worked and we started pursuing it to prove that my health wasn’t in any danger…I just always had that mad belief that I am meant to be a world champion.’’
Since around 2014, Burnett has been trained by Adam Booth and since then, established a record of 19-0 (9KOs) which, most significantly, includes becoming a world champion in 2017, for the first time via a completely dominant decision victory over Lee Haskins, and then immediately unifying the WBA and IBF championships with a tough but unanimous points win over Zhanat Zhakiyanov.
Before the WBSS second season fighters was announced, Burnett decided to drop the IBF strap, therefore avoiding a fight with WBSS semi-finalist, and now IBF champion, Emmanuel Rodriguez. Instead, Ryan’s one bout so far in 2018 was a fairly routine victory over Venezuelan, Yonfrez Parejo on the undercard of Anthony Joshua vs. Joseph Parker.
Like all of the top seeds across the Super Series, Burnett recognises the pressure on his shoulders, especially when he’s going up against the power that his Filipino foe is known for,
‘‘I don’t need to be nasty to people, I’m able to switch it like a light switch and I turn into a different person…I picked Nonito because, the better the fighter, the better I become.’’
‘‘We all dream of these moments of fighting the best and becoming the best in the world and the World Boxing Super Series are making that come true.’’
Currently 38-5 (24KOs), Nonito Donaire’s, last fight was also his latest defeat as ‘The Filipino Flash’ was beaten by Burnett’s fellow Northern Irishman, Carl Frampton.
Speaking at the press conference on Wednesday, the four-weight world champion was asked about any similarities between the two men,
‘‘They (Frampton & Burnett) are similar because they’ve both got big balls. They’re there to fight and that’s something that I like… I’m just grateful to be in the ring with a great man.’’
Nonito hasn’t fought at bantamweight since 2011 when he scored a unanimous decision over, a then 35-0-2, Omar Narvaez. That night in New York he became a two-weight world champion, picking up the WBC & WBO straps as well as improving his own record to 27-1.
He then shifted his sights to super-bantam and eventually the featherweight division where he accomplished world honours in both, but by his own admission, he didn’t feel all together comfortable fighting at the 126lb limit, and the tournament has given him the opportunity to add one more achievement to his already impressive accolades.
‘‘I’ve always come to fight the best out there…I’ve achieved pretty much everything in boxing…The only thing I haven’t done in boxing is become the undisputed champion, and that’s the one thing that’s given me this fire.’’
It’s beneficial for both sides as well though as Donaire’s legendary status adds an extra bit of flavour to an already appetising class of fighters that has been whittled down to Naoya Inoue, Emmanuel Rodriguez and Zolani Tete.
‘‘This is a moment for me to rise. When one is driven to a point, there’s only one way to go and that’s going up and that’s rising beyond what I’m capable of.’’
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