Donaire fights Burnett in World Boxing Series inaugurals

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  • Filipino four-division world champion Nonito Donaire will be facing No. 1 seed and world titleholder Ryan Burnett in the bantamweight division side of the coming World Boxing Series.

    The undefeated Burnett, 26 of Northern Ireland (10-0 with 9 KOs), chose Donaire (38-5 with 24 KOs) as his quarterfinal opponent in the 118-pound level of the tournament that also include the welterweight category.

    The seedings were handed out on Friday during the draft gala that took place on the eve of the cruiserweight encounter between Oleksander Usyk and Murat Gassiev for the undisputed world title at the Rossiya Theater in Moscow.

    All 16 competitors were in attendance in the event, including Regis Prograis, who earned the top seeding in the 140-pound tournament division side of the series, ESPN’s senior writer Dan Rafael reported.

    “He (Donaire) has been an amazing champion and he is a great fighter. I believe Nonito can bring out the best in me,” said Burnett, who will be defending his belt for the second time kin he series.

    “I know that Ryan’s got what it takes, so I am going to be at my best,” Donaire, who will be moving down two weight classes to a division he once dominated but has not fought since 2011, said

    Secondary world titlist Naoya Inoue (16-0, 14 KOs), 25, of Japan, who is a three-division titleholder, as seeded No. 2 seed and elected to face former titlist Juan Carlos Payano (20-1, 9 KOs), 34, a southpaw from the Dominican Republic.

    Payano has won three fights in a row since losing his world title in to Rau’shee Warren in June 2016.

    World titleholder Zolani Tete (27-3, 21 KOs), a 30-year-old southpaw from South Africa, will make his third defense against Russian prospect Mikhail Aloyan (4-0, 4 KOs), a 29-year-old southpaw.

    Emmanuel Rodriguez (18-0, 12 KOs), 25, of Puerto Rico, anther world champ was given the No. 4 seed and will make his first defense against mandatory challenger Jason Moloney (17-0, 14 KOs), 27, of Australia.

    Prograis (22-0, 19 KOs), 29, a southpaw who fights out of Houston, picked former lightweight titlist Terry Flanagan as his opening-round opponent in a tournament where two world titles will be at stake.

    Also to be awarded is the Muhammad Ali Trophy, which awaits the most outstanding performer in the tournament, which begins in the fall.

    “We are fighting for the Ali trophy, and Ali is a legend. He fought the best of the best, and I want to fight the best of the best,” Prograis said. “Flanagan is a former world champion, and that’s why I made this decision.”

    Flanagan (33-1, 13 KOs), a 29-year-old southpaw from England, is fighting for his only second outing as a junior welterweight and is coming off a June 9 decision loss to Maurice Hooker for a vacant world title.

    Second seed Josh Taylor (13-0, 11 KOs), 27, of Scotland, meets Ryan Martin (22-0, 12 KOs), 25, of Cleveland.

    World titleholder Kiryl Relikh (22-2, 19 KOs), 28, of Belarus, the No. 3 seed, makes his first mandatory defense against former titlist Eduard Troyanovsky (27-1, 24 KOs), 38, of Russia.

    No. 4 Ivan Baranchyk (18-0, 11 KOs), 25, also of Russia, will face Anthony Yigit (21-0-1, 7 KOs), 26, of Sweden, for a vacant world title.

    There will be a third tournament in a division to be announced in the WBS second season. All three tournaments will air on the new DAZN all-sports streaming service, which is scheduled to launch in the United States on September 10. (Eddie Alinea)

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