Ryan Burnett made history on Saturday night to come Northern Ireland’s unified bantamweight world champion in front of a raucous crowd in Belfast.
A slow start by the home fighter hampered his ability to gain a foothold as the strong and relentless Zhanat Zhakiyanov never took a backward step for the first six rounds.
As the Ricky Hatton-trained Kazakh slowed down in the middle of the contest, Burnett took over for the second half and claimed victory by eight rounds to four on the WBN scorecard.
Not so with the judges in a familiar sight of late as two of the three somehow gave Burnett the win 119-109 and 118-110.
The final card of 116-112 mirrored that of WBN as Burnett added the WBA title to his IBF belt to become the number one in the division.
In the aftermath, Burnett was taken to hospital for a check-up after complaining of discomfort, for which he was eventually discharged.
Burnett was all smiles after linking up with promoter Eddie Hearn in the aftermath and had further to celebrate when confirmed on Monday as the new top dog at 118 pounds.
A breakthrough in the WBN Pound for Pound Top 50 at #31 saw Burnett overhaul ex-unified title holder and UK rival Jamie McDonnell by one place.
This means Burnett leads the way in the bantamweight ranks as Hearn pushes for further unifications in the coming year.
McDonnell and Paul Butler, both of whom are stablemates of Burnett, have been mentioned as potential opponents since the Zhakiyanov triumph.
Bantamweight Top 5 Ratings:
1. Ryan Burnett (31)
2. Jamie McDonnell (32)
3. Luis Nery (44)**
4. Shinsuke Yamanaka (48)
5. Juan Carlos Payano (NR)