It’s testament to Ryan Burnett’s incredible recent rise that the Northern Irishman’s wide victory over Yonfrez Parejo in Cardiff was laced with a hint of anti-climax.
The 25-year-old dazzled in winning the world bantamweight title against Lee Haskins in June 2017, before showing he had grit in abundance as he unified the IBF and WBA crowns against Zhanat Zhakiyanov last time out.
Only boxing politics robbed him of the IBF strap but here, defending his WBA title for the second time, he outfought and out-thought Parejo over 12 rounds, taking the fight 120-108 (twice) and 116-112 on the judges’ scorecards.
Ryan Burnett retained the WBA bantamweight title despite a suspected broken hand
In the first world title clash on the card, the Northern Ireland champion had to overcome a cut to his eye and a suspected broken hand to secure a unanimous points win.
Undeterred by the blood pouring down his face from the middle rounds, Burnett boxed with his hands down, goading Parejo to throw shots, punishing him when he did and enjoying the better of the fight up close.
It wasn’t the 25-year-old’s slickest performance, but it was more than enough to extend his perfect professional record and set him up for an assault on the rest of the belts in the division.
Anthony Crolla also overcame an early cut to cruise to a unanimous points victory over Mexico’s Edson Ramirez. The Manchester fighter, who is eyeing a return to the top level following back-to-back defeats by the brilliant Jorge Linares, won comfortably over 10 rounds without ever dazzling the Cardiff crowd.
The Belfast boxer eased past Venezuelan Yonfrez Parejo in Cardiff on Saturday night
The outing, against an ultimately outclassed Ramirez, was Crolla’s first since he edged out domestic rival Ricky Burns in October.
Earlier in the night, when many of the 80,000-strong crowd were busy filling the streets and their stomachs, there was a hat-trick of impressive wins for three more former British Olympians on the card.
Josh Kelly, in only his sixth professional outing, dominated the faded former world champion Carlos Molina. In so doing, the talented 24-year-old picked up his first belt, the vacant WBA international welterweight title.
Joshua Buatsi and Joe Cordina also impressed as they extended their own perfect records. Buatsi, who took bronze in Rio, produced a shutout points win over 52-fight veteran Bartlomiej Grafka to further cement his reputation as one of this country’s brightest prospects. Wales’ Cordina, meanwhile, picked up the vacant WBA International lightweight title with a third-round stoppage of Hakim Ben Ali.
There was, however, early Kiwi success at the Principality as Mose Auimatagi Jnr — who is coached by Joseph Parker’s first trainer Grant Arkell — climbed off the canvas to secure a dramatic last-round stoppage against the previously-undefeated Morgan Jones.