Ryan Burnett’s reign as unified champion is technically over, but will still fight on one of the biggest card in British boxing this year.
Burnett held the unified WBA and IBF bantamweight titles and was supposed to defend his IBF title against mandatory challenger Emmanuel Rodriguez but instead elected to defend his WBA title against Yonfrez Parejo on the Anthony Joshua-Joseph Parker undercard March 31 at Principality Stadium in Cardiff, Wales.
Originally, the IBF ordered a bout between Rodriguez and former IBF titleholder Lee Haskins for its interim bantamweight championship, but later scheduled a purse bid for Burnett-Rodriguez and Burnett decided to vacate his IBF title. Promoter Eddie Hearn, while happy that Burnett will be a part of such a big event, explained the confusion that ultimately led to Burnett vacating his IBF title when he talked to Sky Sports.
“The IBF called an interim title bout between Emmanuel Rodriguez and Lee Haskins, so we proceeded to make the fight with our WBA mandatory, Parejo. Last week we were notified that the [Rodriguez-Haskins] bout would no longer take place and that Rodriguez’s team [was] not willing to negotiate, and they called immediate purse bids. Our deal was already in place with Parejo, so we will vacate our IBF title and continue to face our WBA mandatory.”
Burnett has held the IBF title since last summer when he defeated Haskins. Instead of simply defending his title in his next fight, Burnett unified the IBF title with Zhanat Zhakiyanov's WBA "super" title last October. Haskins beat Zhakiyanov with a wide unanimous decision win.
With Burnett vs. Parejo set, the March 31 card now has three fights announced. Aside from the Joshua vs. Parker heavyweight unification bout, Alexander Povetkin, the mandatory challenger to the WBA "super" heavyweight title, will defend his WBA Intercontinental and WBO International heavyweight titles against David Price. Showtime did announce that it would be televising Joshua vs. Parker in the United States, but there's no word if any of the undercard bouts will be shown on American television or via online stream.