Ryan Burnett to defend bantamweight title against Yonfrez Parejo

Updated: February 12, 2018, 11:15 AM ET
By Dan Rafael | ESPN Staff Writer

Bantamweight world titleholder Ryan Burnett will defend his title against mandatory challenger Yonfrez Parejo on March 31, Matchroom Boxing promoter Eddie Hearn announced Monday.

The fight will take place on the undercard of the heavyweight world title unification fight between Anthony Joshua and Joseph Parker at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff, Wales.

However, previously unified titlist Burnett will only have one belt at stake, having vacated his other, according to Hearn.

Burnett (18-0, 9 KOs), 25, of Northern Ireland, won a unanimous decision against Lee Haskins in June to claim the IBF version of the 118-pound world title. In his next fight, in October, Burnett won a unanimous decision against Zhanat Zhakiyanov in a unification bout to also claim the WBA's version of the title.

Hearn explained why Burnett was giving up one of his belts.

"The IBF called an interim title bout between (Emmanuel) Rodriguez and Haskins, so we proceeded to make the fight with our WBA mandatory Parejo," Hearn said. "Last week we were notified that that bout would no longer take place and that Rodriguez's team were 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 was initially ordered to next make his IBF mandatory defense against Rodriguez but because Burnett had a ruptured ligament in his neck that would keep him out of action until past the deadline for the bout, the IBF ordered the Rodriguez-Haskins interim title bout.

One title or two, Burnett said he happy to be on the undercard of such a major fight.

"I'm delighted to be added to this show," he said. "It's going to be an incredible experience to defend my world title in front of 80,000 in Cardiff. I don't really get involved in the politics, but we knew that when we faced Zhakiyanov that is was likely we may have to vacate one of the belts because of mandatories, but I've unified the division and now we move on to new challenges.

"I expect a tough fight against Parejo. Our styles should gel for a great fight and I'm looking forward to making another statement on March 31."

Parejo (21-2-1, 10 KOs), 31, of Venezuela, is a former interim world titlist. He lost that belt by split decision to Zhakiyanov in November 2015. Parejo has won four fights in a row since.

Dan Rafael

ESPN Senior Writer

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