New Irish world champion Ryan Burnett reveals the staggering setbacks that he's had to overcome

The 25 year old speaks to Off The Ball after becoming IBF Bantamweight champion on Saturday

Ryan Burnett,

Ryan Burnett celebrates his victory ©INPHO/Presseye/Matt Mackey

On Saturday night, Ryan Burnett's rise within the bantamweight boxing ranks reaching an apogee. 

Going up against Great Britain's Lee Haskins, the Belfast fighter had a stellar record of 16-0 and in 12 rounds of action at Belfast's Odyssey Arena he made that 17-0 with a unanimous decision victory.

But there was a bigger prize on the line as victory also secured him the IBF Bantamweight world title, the first global crown of his career.

It caps an outstanding start to the 25 year old's pro career for a young man being trained by Adam Booth, who also trains another Irishman to have won a world title in the shape of middleweight Andy Lee.

"I've just turned 25 and I've only had 17 fights and now I'm world champion, so I've got a lot to learn in the game still and I'm still yet to reach my potential," said Burnett as he summed up a whirlwind start to his career in an in-depth chat with Off The Ball's Joe Molloy.

You can listen to the full interview on the podcast player or stream/download on iTunes:

His boxing story begins in the Holy Family Boxing Club under the tutelage Gerry Storey, a man who has bridged the sectarian divide by training fighters of both Catholic and Protestant backgrounds.

"Fighting has always been in my blood. Getting into the boxing at such a young age is brilliant and I went to Gerry Storey and he really brought me on leaps and bounds," said Burnett.

Ryan Burnett knocks down Lee Haskins ©INPHO/Presseye/Matt Mackey

"Even when I was younger, there was a lot going on between Catholics and Protestants but you had the atmosphere when you went into Gerry's gym that it was Catholics and Protestants there. Everyone just got along well. It was a place where Catholics and Protestants could go and the thought of sectarianism wasn't even there. Growing up with that sort of mentality was very, very good. It was from the gym where I learned not to be like that."    

Burnett added that "from being in that gym, we were brought up correctly".

The year 2012 was a key one in his career as he turned pro, signing for Hatton Promotions, who he worked with until 2014. But an apparent setback regarding his health almost stopped his budding career in its tracks.

"Everything was right on track until I had to go for a brain scan, the annual brain scan that every boxer, has to do. And one day, I was in Manchester and I got a phonecall from a neurologist and he simply said, 'You've got a brain problem and you're not going to be able to box again' and my whole world fell down around me. It was over even before I'd begun and it was the beginning of a rocky road," he said, explaining that one of the main arteries to the brain was blocked which meant he was in danger should he be struck in the head. 

However, Burnett continued training while his father, who did not have a background in the medical profession, researched brain issues and symptoms for six months in order to work out how best to help his son.

And ultimately as he explained the nature of his own issue means he is able to continue boxing.

"The problem now is that there is actually a blockage in the brain but from birth the brain has created its own pathway around the blockage. So my brain is still getting all the blood it needs to get so therefore I'm not in any danger," he said. 

Financially, he and his father also had to deal with the difficulties of having to essentially live in a company jeep in England after funding dried up after September 2014.

"We didn't have anywhere to stay," Burnett said, although he adds that it "wasn't as bad as it stands" if I'm honest" and outlined the optimism he and his father maintained in those difficult circumstances.

But he did add, "I'd be a liar if I said it was OK because at a point I was thinking to myself, 'We're parked up the side of the road and we haven't got anywhere to go here'. We were in England and we didn't have any family to turn to or anything like that. But I knew I had to stay in England to give myself the best chance possible."