Mandatory challenger attempting to force Ryan Burnett title fight

Ryan Burnett‘s next opponent now looks likely to be Puerto Rican dangerman Emmanuel Rodriguez [17(12)-0].

The Belfast bantamweight won and unified world titles last year, picking up the IBF and WBA belts with points wins over Lee Haskins and Zhanat Zhakiyanov at the SSE Odyssey Arena.

After rupturing a ligament in his neck midway through the unification win over Zhakiyanov in October, Burnett [18(9)-0] has taken a slightly longer break from action but has returned to camp with Adam Booth in London in the past few weeks.

Promoter Eddie Hearn has hinted at a prominent undercard slot on the Anthony Joshua v Joseph Parker heavyweight show at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff on Saturday March 31st.

Burnett is due to make a mandatory defence of his IBF belt, however the situation has been in flux recently.

While a mandatory defence is due, no fighter is ranked in the #1 mandatory spot. The highest ranked fighter is Rodriguez at #3. This is a regular occurance with the IBF who require a mandatory to be deemed by the result of a fight between two Top 5-ranked boxers – a relatively rare event. As such, with mandatories becoming due, it often falls to the #3 fighter who becomes a sort of de-facto mandatory.

With the Antrim Road 25-year-old taking a slightly longer break, the IBF jumped to make an Interim title fight between Haskins and Rodriguez which, theoretically, would have seen the mandatory opportunity move down to Burnett’s Matchroom stablemate, the #4-ranked Paul Butler – who himself is being primed for a shot at the lightly-regarded WBA ‘regular’ bauble.

However, Haskins has elected against a Rodriguez fight for the Interim trinket and is instead looking to fight for the European title.

With an Interim fight being delayed, and Burnett returning to camp sooner than expected, the IBF ordered negotiations between the champion and Rodriguez.

The Caribbean fighter’s promoter, Warriors Boxing, though had other ideas, and ESPN’s Dan Rafael has revealed that they have requested an immediate purse bid.

This is all within IBF rules and the body have decreed that a purse bid will take place on February 12th.

Following these bids, if Burnett is to keep his title, a contract must be signed within 15 days and the title fight must take place after at least 28 and at most 90 days afterwards [some time between March 12th and May 13th].

Rodriguez, who like Burnett won gold at the inaugural Youth Olympics in 2010, has been mentioned as a potential opponent ever since the Ulsterman won the title last Summer.

It had been thought that the 25-year-old Rodriguez was considering the WBC route and the unsure title situation there with Luis Nery and Shinsuke Yamanaka, but his attention now seems fully focused on unified champ Burnett.

Photo Credit: Ricardo Guglielminotti – The Fighting Irish (@ThefIrish)


Joe O'Neill

Reporting on Irish boxing the past five years. Work has appeared on, Boxing News,, and local and national media. Provide live ringside updates, occasional interviews, and special features on the future of Irish boxing. email: