The WBA champion was one of three fighters announced for the upcoming bantamweight edition of the tournament at a press conference this afternoon in London. The Antrim Road 25-year-old signed a deal to enter this very morning, causing a delay to the press conferment.
The Belfast boxer will be joined, as reported yesterday, by WBO titlist Zolani Tete [27(21)-3(10 and new IBF champ Manny Rodriguez [18(12)-0 along with five to-be-confirmed fighters in the knockout tournament.
The Adam Booth-trained fighter was not in London for the press conference which was attended by both Tete and Rodriguez.
Burnett’s participation had been mooted by promoter Eddie Hearn ahead of his successful mandatory defence versus Yonfrez Parejo back in March and he will now get the chance to become a unified champ once again and potentially pocket $4,000,000.
The Antrim Road man won the IBF title last Summer, dethroning Lee Haskins before adding Zhanat Zhakiyanov’s WBA belt. WIth both titles having mandatories falling due and IBF next-in-line Rodriguez refusing to budge and allow an already-agreed WBA defence versus Parejo, Burnett was forced to drop his red belt and will be looking to pick it up again here.
Rodriguez claimed the IBF title on Saturday, looking mightily impressive as he dominated the overweight Paul Butler on the Tony Bellew v David Haye undercard at the O2 Arena in London.
Tete has twice defended his crown in Belfast whilst calling for a Burnett fight. Promoter Frank Warren had offered to cover the South African’s purse, cede the promotion to Matchroom, and provide Burnett an added £20,000 but this was turned down by Hearn who noted that Tete was not worth the risk for the financial involved. Under the WBSS format, this has changed
Other fighters likely to be included over the coming weeks include the winner of the WBA ‘regular’ trinket fight between Japanese star Naoya Inoue [15(13)-0] and holder Jamie McDonnell [29(13)-2(0)-1]on May 25th in Tokyo. ‘Monster’ Inoue has stated that he has received a preliminary offer and that he will participate. Should McDonnell pull off the shock, he would then seem a certainty to enter considering his ‘fight anyone’ mentality.
Who the remaining four participants will be is less clear. It is hoped the winner of the June 23rd WBC vacant title fight between French favourite Nordine Oubaali [14(11)-0] and Thai fighter Tassana Sanpattan [46(31)-0] will enter to allow an undisputed champion to be crowned
Past this, other big names in the division include familiar Venezuelan Liborio Solis [25(11)-5(0)-1], Aussie rising star Jason Moloney [16(13)-0] – who soon faces Japanese veteran Kohei Kono [33(14)-11(1)-1], and Dominican former super fly champ Juan Carlos Payano [20(9)-1(0)].
Running alongside the bantamweight competition will be, reportedly, a light welterweight equivalent, for which six fighters have so-far been announced via the media – WBA champ Kiryl Relikh, WBA mandatory and former IBF champ Eduard Troyanovsky, Regis Prograis, Ryan Martin, and upcoming IBF vacant title combatants Anthony Yigit and Ivan Baranchyk
Additionally, in a shock announcement, a third weight category was confirmed but which class – or gender – was not revealed today.
Season two is slated to start this Autumn, with four seeded fighters picking their quarter-final opponents in a draft gala in July with match-ups to take place in September and October. Like this season, semi-finals will take place in January and February before finals in the Summer.
As a world champion, Burnett will be seeded however the Inoue-McDonnell winner may not be and a pre-mandated match-up could occur – much like Relikh v Troyanovsky and Yigit v Baranchyk which are both set to happen in the light welterweight quarter finals.
Should he, as expected, be seeded, it would seem likely that Burnett’s opening bout will take place in his home city of Belfast.
Organised by Kalle Sauerland and financially backed by the Comosa Group, the maiden season of the competition is approaching its conclusion. Contested at super middleweight and cruiserweight, the finals will take place at to-be-confirmed dates and locations this Summer.
WBA 168lbs champ George Groves defend his belt v Callum Smith – although rumours are currently circulating that Chris Eubank will take the place of Groves in the decider – while all four cruiser belts will come together when WBO-WBC champ Oleksandr Usyk and IBF-WBA champ Murat Gassiev face-off.