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Ireland's former world champ Burnett returns from debilitating injury with 6th-round stoppage

Burnett shook off the cobwebs and moved to 20-1(10KOs) as he awaits his return to the world stage.

Burnett stopped his Filipino opponent to the body in a polished display (file pic).
Burnett stopped his Filipino opponent to the body in a polished display (file pic).
Image: Presseye/William Cherry/INPHO

FORMER UNIFIED BANTAMWEIGHT world champion Ryan Burnett [20-1, 10KOs] returned from a debilitating back injury with a sixth-round stoppage of the Phillipines’ Jelbirt Gomera [14-6] at Belfast’s Ulster Hall this evening.

Ireland’s Burnett had been out of action for a career-longest six months having suffered an agonising tear of his right internal oblique — and subsequently a first career defeat — against four-weight world champion Nonito Donaire in their World Boxing Super Series (WBSS) quarter-final last November.

The 2010 Youth Olympic gold medallist outclassed and outgunned the unheralded Gomera throughout, finishing the bout with a left hand to the body moments after being deducted a point for one low blow too many.

The rest of his work was stellar, however, and the Top Rank-promoted Burnett is well and truly back in the swing of things as he eyes a return to the world stage.

Burnett made the short walk down the Ulster Hall steps to the Rocky theme tune, boxing off a rocky six months which while it never threatened to end his career, certainly derailed it.

Essentially locked out of the bantamweight world-title picture while the WBSS continues — potential opponents Naoya ‘The Monster’ Inoue and Manny Rodriguez square off in the second semi-final tomorrow; Donaire awaits the victor in the decider — he returned to the squared circle a division above in a bid to simply dust off the cobwebs.

It was a return to Belfast, too: this was Burnett’s first outing in his hometown since he unified the the WBA and IBF titles against Zhanat Zhakiyanov at the Odyssey in October of 2017.

The soon-to-be 27-year-old started sharply, finding a home for his right hand and powering his opponent backwards from the off. Gomera, though, who had been stopped just twice previously, still posed somewhat of a threat in the opener, one particularly notable counter left catching the former champion’s attention.

Burnett, in all black, moved with more fluidity in the second, loosening up in both defence and attack. Gomera, in purple, again landed one eye-catching southpaw left before unloading to Burnett’s midriff in the corner. The home fighter beckoned him onwards, conspicuously enjoying himself, before marching the Filipino back across the ring and punctuating the round with a classy flurry.

Watched on by Donaire himself, Carl Frampton, Paddy Barnes and the Conlan brothers among others, Burnett oozed that same class in the third as he landed a series of meaty shots off either hand to both body and head. He was having to work for his openings but work he did, his pivots creating the angles to complement his high-echelon shot repertoire.

There was an obvious gulf in technical ability but Gomera certainly hadn’t trekked to Belfast to roll over, sticking his tongue out at Burnett in the fourth after swallowing a right-handed thump. He earned a reprieve when he took one low, but Burnett was rediscovering his rhythm at an ominous pace and detonated five or six strong overhand rights through the visitor’s guard.

He put together a how-to box compilation package in the fifth, finding the mark with a series of picture-perfect shots. Gomera still wouldn’t budge but he landed almost nothing in return, rallying more so by way of his facial expression than anything he did with his own fists.

Burnett had already strayed low on a couple of occasions by the time he was deducted a point at the start of the sixth; he grimaced and apologised with a wry smile, cognisant that docking would likely make no odds.

He was right. The stoppage arrived seconds later, albeit in bizarre circumstances. Burnett probably got away with another low one off his right before ripping Gomera to the side with his left. There was nothing wrong with the latter unless you were Burnett’s opponent, who spat out his dummy and turned his back on the action, making a B Line for his corner.

He was, perhaps, trying to con the referee into believing the decisive shot was low, but John Latham was having none of it. He waved the fight off. There were no protestations from Gomera, who once recovered embraced Burnett at centre-ring.

The hometown hero moves to 20-1 with 10KOs, that one blemish being a defeat against Donaire which Burnett said post-fight that there was a “very strong possibility” he will get the chance to avenge after the future Hall of Famer’s WBSS final against either Inoue or Rodriguez.

He’s also first in line to face soon-to-be promotional stablemate Inoue should the feared Japanese ‘Monster’ lift the Ali Trophy when the dust settles on the prestigious tournament.

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