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Ireland's Burnett first in line to face Super Series champion after tournament-ending injury

The 26-year-old hasn’t fought since November but may be back in the bantamweight world-title picture sooner than expected.

Burnett receives medical treatment in his corner after retiring with a back injury against Nonito Donaire.
Burnett receives medical treatment in his corner after retiring with a back injury against Nonito Donaire.
Image: PA Archive/PA Images

FORMER UNIFIED BANTAMWEIGHT world champion Ryan Burnett will face the winner of the World Boxing Super Series (WBSS) from which he exited via injury at the quarter-final stage last year, according to his new promoter Bob Arum (and as first reported by Irish-boxing.com).

The 26-year-old Belfast man suffered an agonising tear of his right internal oblique against four-weight world champion Nonito Donaire in November and, immobile to the point he was borderline defenceless, was pulled out after four rounds by trainer Adam Booth.

It was Burnett’s first defeat in the professional ranks, and a first defeat all-told since he was edged by current gym-mate and promotional stablemate Michael Conlan in the 2011 Irish Senior Elite quarter-finals.

Ireland’s 2010 Youth Olympic gold medallist makes his comeback from the debilitating injury suffered against Donaire when he headlines in his hometown this Friday.

Boxing - SSE Hydro Burnett was left in agony following a freak injury against Donaire, who marched into the World Boxing Super Series semi-finals with Burnett's WBA title. Source: PA Archive/PA Images

Burnett [19-1, 9KOs], who recently left Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom Boxing to sign with Top Rank, faces Filipino Jelbirt Gomera [14-5, 7KOs] at Ulster Hall in what will be a super-bantamweight contest. But the plan is for him to soon return to the world-title picture down at 118 pounds.

The WBSS, a prestigious and popular eight-man tournament which aims to crown one true king within a division — Oleksandr Usyk and Callum Smith have won the cruiserweight and super-middleweight editions respectively — brings us its second bantamweight semi-final this Saturday.

An on-paper fight-of-the-year contender will see highly touted bantamweights Naoya ‘The Monster’ Inoue [17-0, 15KOs] and Emmanuel ‘Manny’ Rodriguez [19-0, 12KOs] square off for Rodriguez’s IBF title and a place in the WBSS decider (9pm, Sky Sports Action), which will pit them against WBA champ Donaire [40-5, 26KOs] in a world-title unification clash.

The winner of the whole lot, who most expect will be pound-for-pound top-10 operator Inoue of Japan, will lift the WBSS‘ Ali Trophy but more importantly hold half the marbles within the division.


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Ryan Burnett with Yonfrez Parejo Burnett could wind up getting a rematch with 'The Filipino Flash' Donaire. Source: Lawrence Lustig/INPHO

And Arum, who was in Belfast yesterday to confirm Michael Conlan’s grudge match against Rio 2016 rival Vladimir Nikitin, believes Burnett will be first in line to face the WBSS and unified world champion — especially if it winds up being either ‘The Monster’ or ‘The Filipino Flash’.

“We signed Ryan Burnett and we’re putting him in a fight [on Friday] but we’re on hold now because of the World Boxing Super Series,” Arum said as relayed by Irish-boxing.com.

“Donaire will be in the final and Donaire beat him because of his back. And we have a whole history with Donaire — we’ve promoted a lot of his fights. He’s a nice guy and that could be a very pleasing fight.

“Inoue is fighting Rodriguez this weekend and I think Inoue is terrific. I think Inoue wins and we have a deal that after this tournament — Inoue signs with Top Rank.

If the final is between Inoue and Donaire, we can have Burnett fight the winner as soon as they’re able to do the fight.

Boxing - Liverpool Echo Arena Frank Warren and Bob Arum are keen for Burnett to fight South Africa's Zolani Tete. Source: PA Archive/PA Images

Arum also expressed his desire for Burnett to face South African knockout artist Zolani Tete, the WBO champion who, like Burnett, saw Donaire advance at his expense in the WBSS due to injury.

Tete, who is promoted by Frank Warren, has been on a collision course with Burnett since the Belfast man won his first world title. The pair would have finally clashed in the last four of the WBSS if Burnett had beaten Donaire and Tete remained fit.

Arum, a close friend of Warren’s with whom he works closely, said of the prospective clash: “I’d love to do that fight. We have absolutely no compunction to show fights in the afternoon in the United States, so that they can be in the evening in the UK.”

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