The 118lbs eight-man single-elimination tournament is currently only half full but has already drawn widespread plaudits.
South Africa’s WBO champ Zolani Tete [27(21)-3(1), new IBF titlist Manny Rodriguez [18(12)-0] of Puerto Rico, Japanese KO artist Naoya Inoue [16(14)-0], and Belfast’s WBA champ Ryan Burnett [19(9)-0] – arguably the four top fighters in the division – are the names currently confirmed.
Puerto Rican boxing writer Javier Gorbea has stated that upcoming world title contestant Nordine Oubaali, four-weight world champion Nonito Donaire, and former world champions Liborio Solis and Juan Carlos Payano will complete the tournament.
The writer cites an unnamed “reliable source” as the basis for the claim.
The reported entry of Oubaali [14(11)-0] would be dependant on him, as is expected, winning his vacant WBC title fight with unheralded Thai Tassana Sanpattan on June 23rd
The Frenchman’s ascension to the WBSS would ensure that the winner of the tournament would hold all four belts and become the unified champion – along with taking home a reported top prize of $4,000,000 and the Muhammad Ali Trophy.
Venezuelan Solis [26(12)-5(0)-1] scored two big wins in Japan back in 2013, defeating Kohei Kono to claim the WBA 115lbs title before losing the belt on the scales ahead of his win over Daiki Kameda.
The South American gave former bantam #1 Shinsuke Yamanaka a huge scare in 2016, dropping him twice, and was seen recently losing controversially to Jamie McDonnell before having their rematch end early following an accidental clash of heads.
Dominican Payano [20(9)-1(0)] won the WBA bantamweight crown now held by Burnett back in 2014 with a win over Anselmo Moreno before trading results with American Rau’shee Warren. Most recently he defeated the undefeated Mike Plania to pick up the WBO Inter-Continental rankings belt.
Donaire [38(24)-5(1)] needs no introduction having won major belts at flyweight, bantamweight, super bantam, and feather in a career which has featured 14 world title bouts and a spell as the consensus pound-for-pound #3 after Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao.
Most recently the Filipino endeared himself to Irish fight fans before, during, and after his WBO interim featherweight title fight with Belfast’s Carl Frampton. Promoter Richard Schaefer has since stated that Donaire will be moving down two weight classes.
Should this indeed be the line-up, it is assumed that Burnett, Tete, Rodriguez, and Oubaali will be the seeded fighters who will pick their quarter-final opponents from the undseeded four at the Draft Gala this Summer.
‘Monster’ Inoue is the favourite for the tournament but it would seem unlikely that he would be seeded ahead of one of the legitimate world champions.
Confirmation on what four fighters will join Inoue, Tete, Rodriguez, and Burnett in the WBSS is expected in the coming days and weeks.