By Jake Donovan
Six months after a back injury forced him out of his title reign, Ryan Burnett is now all the way back in the ring.
The former bantamweight titlist returned to the squared circle and to the win column, stopping Philippines’ Jelbirt Gomera in six rounds Friday evening at Ulster Hall in Belfast, Northern Ireland.
A hook body shot caused Gomera to wince in pain, attempting to sell it as a low blow. Referee John Latham wasn’t having any of it, waving off the contest at 2:01 of round six.
With prior conqueror Nonito Donaire seated at ringside, Belfast’s own Burnett sought to deliver a statement while also taking a test drive one division north in the super bantamweight division. The local favorite—who turns 27 next week—filled out the weight well, even if not to his own liking.
“I felt a bit rusty in there, it took me a while to get my timing down,” Burnett claimed at the end of his ESPN+ streamed headliner.
It certainly didn’t show, although Gomera was certainly a made to order opponent. Burnett was able to land right hands seemingly at will, even if he didn’t come in guns blazing. Fully healed from a fluke back injury he suffered in a World Boxing Super Series tournament loss to Donaire last November—which ended his bantamweight title reign—Friday was all about entertaining his fans in his first fight back home in a more than a year.
His potshotting and showboating eventually drew the ire of the referee, who first warned and then docked a point for the infraction. It rendered moot as Gomera wasn’t winning rounds, with his best shot at victory to have come by disqualification between the point deduction and a low blow which he attempted to milk.
Gomera went to the salesman’s well once too often, the final attempt ultimately costing him the fight even if it was ultimately a way out.
Burnett settled down in round six, at which point the fight was no longer competitive. A well placed left hook just below Gomera’s elbow was enough to send the Filipino to his corner, wincing in pain hopes that the referee mistook the shot for a low blow.
It instead resulted in the bout coming to a sudden end.
“I think I will be a strong contender for anybody,” Burnett (20-1, 10KOs) said of his debut at super bantamweight. “I wasn’t as strong as I wanted to be at (the weight), but it’s a process. It’s a process I’m willing to learn and work through.”
Time is on his side, as the one fight he craves can’t take place until next year at the earliest. Donaire has advanced to the WBSS finals, with Saturday’s semifinals clash between Emmanuel Rodriguez and Naoya Inoue to determine his forthcoming opponent in a bout that will result in a unified bantamweight champion.
Burnett would very much like to face the winner, although he is clearly biased in whom he hopes will win the tournament.
“Donaire is a crafty veteran, I didn’t get to finish my work with him,” Burnett said of his hopes to pick up where his back gave out at the end of the 4th round of their title fight last November. “Belfast would definitely love to see it again and I’d love a rematch.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox