BY MATT VERRI
Almost two years to the day since his pro debut, Chris Bourke produced a career-best performance to become the new WBC International super-bantamweight champion.
The Streatham boxer knocked out the experienced Michael Ramabeletsa inside two rounds at Church House on Saturday to extend his pro record to 9-0.
And the 26-year-old admits he surprised even himself with how well he performed.
“I was expecting a long night, so when I hit him I was well chuffed that it caught him so flush,”
Bourke said. “I threw a jab to the body and then a big left hook to the head, and luckily it caught him.
“Once I had him hurt, because he’s so experienced, I thought I can’t really let him recover or he’d become dangerous again. I jumped on him and started swinging away until I eventually got him out of there.”
Ramabeletsa had won his last three fights, against unbeaten British prospects, and has been the distance with former world champion Kal Yafai in the past.
This was just the second time in his 12-year career he has been stopped, and Bourke knew how difficult the challenge was.
“I believe in my abilities and my power, and no matter what fight I go into I see myself as the favourite,” he said. “But I knew Michael was dangerous, he’s been in the ring with a lot of good fighters and he’s boxed at heavier weights.
“He said he might have a 50-50 record but most of his fights he’s been an opponent, so hand on heart he says he’s actually lost only two or three.
“He’s a serious fighter, and I knew I had to be focused every second of the rounds.”
This was Bourke’s second time fighting behind closed doors, having won the Southern Area title on another Frank Warren show in July.
While fighters have had to adapt to boxing without the energy of a crowd to feed off, the coronavirus protocols in place also mean that all those involved in the show spend the week leading up to the fight in a ‘bubble’ together.
Bourke said: “The fight is a lot more intense – you can hear everything, even what his corner are saying.”
Bourke’s win came a week after stablemate Daniel Dubois was defeated by Joe Joyce in the same ring, with huge debate since on the manner of that loss.
But the pair’s trainer Martin Bowers made it very clear to Bourke where his mind should be.
“Martin said to me: ‘This is a selfish sport, you’ve got to focus on yourself’. It was obviously gutting, and it makes you realise these things can happen. A lot of people were asking about Dan during fight week, so it felt a bit like a lot of the focus was on him instead of me.
“As a fighter you can’t think about other things, you just have to focus on your fight and getting the win.”
Bourke is looking to step up through the levels next year.
“I didn’t have specific goals when I turned pro, but everyone has the big one of being world champion. My goals were quite general – to win belts and make a name for myself.
“I want the British title in 2021, that’s the first goal.”
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