The Belfast bantamweight chose Donaire at the Draft Gala in Russia this evening and will defend his WBA title versus the Filipino this September or October.
This morning it was announced that Burnett [19(9)-0] would be the first seed for tonight’s Gala in Moscow, meaning that he had a choice of three opponents for his opening quarter final.
With an IBF mandatory defence for Manny Rodriguez versus Jason Moloney already pre-arranged, Burnett was left with a choice between Donaire, Dominican former champ Juan Carlos Payano, and Russian amateur star Misha Aloyan and he would plump for the future Hall of Famer.
A four-weight world champion, Donaire is stepping down two weights for this tournament. ‘The Filipino Flash’ last fought at 118lbs way back in 2011, rising to super bantamweight for the best run of his career, when he was the consensus pound-for-pound #3, before yo-yoing between 122lbs and featherweight in recent years.
Last time out the California-based 35-year-old fought Belfast’s Carl Frampton, a former training partner of Burnett, for the interim WBO featherweight belt, losing a wide unanimous decision at the SSE Odyssey Arena.
Donaire endeared himself to Irish fight fans before, during, and after the fight and he stated that he would like to fight in Belfast again – something which may well happen following this evening’s events.
With Rodriguez’s fight already agreed and Burnett having made his choice, #2 seed Naoya Inoue was the only fighter left with a choice and opted to face Payano.
This left WBO champ Zolani Tete with Aloyan and the winner of this bout will face the winner of Burnett’s clash with in the semi-finals.
Tete, who is promoted by Frank Warren, has long chased a fight with Burnett and featured on successive Frampton undercards which raised his profile among Irish fight fans.
A date and venue for Burnett’s tournament opener will be announced shortly, with the Antrim Road 26-year-old having previously stated that he wants the fight to take place in his home city at the SSE Odyssey Arena.
The semi-finals of the Kalle Sauerland-organised Comosa Group-funded tournament will take place early next year before the Grand Final next Summer, with the winner set to take in a reported $4,000,000.
The bantamweight Draft Gala was preceded by the selections for the light welterweight tournament.
The match-ups made for this side of the competition were:
Regis Prograis v Terry Flanagan
Josh Taylor v Ryan Martin
Kiryl Relikh v Eduard Troyanovsky
Ivan Barynchyk v Anthony Yigit
A third, to-be-confirmed, weigh class will be confirmed next week. This class is believed to be a second edition of the super middleweights.
The first season of the revolutionary tournament is still ongoing. Tomorrow night Oleksandr Usyk and Murat Gassiev face off in the cruiserweight final while George Groves and Callum Smith will contest the super middleweight final at a later date which is still to be confirmed.