From Freddie Gilroy to Wayne McCullough to Ryan Burnett, it’s fair to say Belfast alone has churned out its share of champions. There must be something in the waters.


Freddie Gilroy captured the 1956 Olympic bronze medal to swiftly turn professional soon after capturing the British, Commonwealth and European titles falling short at World level losing his
only World title shot.

Wayne McCullough was the Belfast boxing icon of the 90’s like Gilroy the ‘Pocket Rocket’ also captured an Olympic medal, this time it was silver. In the paid ranks Wayne was successfully a World
champion holding the WBC World title between 1995-1997.

Ryan Burnett, today‘s Belfast superstar also competed in the Olympics albeit at youth level but Ryan took the top spot and brought home the gold medal now at the age of 25 Ryan Burnett has the
world in his hands, and the World title around his waist beating every challenge put in front of him now he faces a very different challenge. 

Former stable-mate and his former coach in Zhanat Zhakiyanov and Ricky Hatton but when asked will this turn the experience into an emotional one the response was prompt and definitive. “No, not one bit.” The Irishman see’s this as just another fight, just one with a former training partner.

If it’s gonna benefit either of us it will be me because at the time we was sparring I was only 19/20, I hadn’t matured, he was a mature man then, 27 (years of age) and fighting for a European title. I think since then I’ve developed massively, I’ve matured as a person, in my strength and my abilities so if it’s going to benefit anybody it’s going to be me!”

Once upon a time a Hatton protégé the boy from Belfast is now flourishing under the guidance of Adam Booth who has been pivotal in his development. 

Adam has given me a great understanding of my own abilities, he has basically taught me to use what I already have and since I got with Adam my career took off thank God.”

Although both trainers are household names in British boxing their training styles couldn’t be more chalk and cheese.

“They just go about business different. They train their fighters differently, they have a different outlook on different things so (there’s) a lot of differences (between them) if I’m honest.”

What does it take to be a champion? Desire, dedication, determination, concentration and the will to win.  

“I had a good drive, I’ve always been very disciplined with what I do and when it came to the boxing I was very, very disciplined and I had a great family for whenever I strayed off the path a little my family would always give me the right guidance. I had it lucky so to speak.”

Performing in front of a home crowd can bring added pressures to live up to expectations but it couldn’t be more different for Burnett who relishes these opportunities and thrives on the spirit
and passion of his fans. 

“I enjoy the occasion, I enjoy the build up to it. This is what I do and I’ve become accustomed to it. If you want to box anywhere it’s at home and I’m blessed to be able to box in Belfast.”

Written and interviewed by James Lupton.