Vincent Astrolabio and Emmanuel Rodriguez are determined to fill the bantamweight void left by Naoya Inoue.
For now, they are in each other’s way.
BoxingScene.com has confirmed that the IBF has ordered the vacant bantamweight title fight between Astrolabio and Rodriguez, the top two contenders for the sanctioning body. Each team has until February 25th to close a deal and avoid a tender hearing.
Both boxers fight under the Premier Boxing Champions (PBC) banner. Separately, Astrolabio in the Philippines is represented by MP Promotions, led by Manny Pacquiao, while Rodriguez is led by Fresh Productions, based in San Juan, Puerto Rico, led by Juan Orengo.
The pairing makes sense in a linear sense, as Astrolabio and Rodriguez won their semi-final match as sanctioned in the IBF four-a-side box-off. The New Jersey-based sanctions body ordered two separate eliminators, but Inoue (24-0, 21 KOs) won England’s Paul his Buller for the undisputed bantamweight championship. I was planning on fighting.
Inoue claimed Butler’s WBO title and defended his direct, WBC, WBA and IBF titles with an 11th-round knockout on December 13 in Tokyo. His undefeated three-weight division made him the first Asian boxer to fully unite in the three-belt or his four-belt era, and was the main reason he remained at the bantamweight division.
The undisputed reign lasted just over a month, until Inoue gave up all four major titles on January 13th.
To date, the WBC and IBF are the only two sanctioning bodies to order title fights in the sky.
Astrolabio (18-3, 13 KOs) made his first shot at the IBF Championship via MP Promotion, but was looking to expand his options. The 25-year-old Filipino, who currently lives and trains in Las Vegas, has won six in a row, including his 2022 campaign, which saw him return in 2022. .
This victory was followed by a knockout of Russia’s Nikolai Potapov in the sixth round on December 17 last year, and Astrolabio moved to number one in the IBF bantamweight rankings.
This match is one of two semi-final eliminators ordered by the IBF. After Rodriguez (21-2, 13 KOs, 1NC) took second place after defeating undefeated Gary Antonio Russell by technical decision in a rematch on October 15 in Brooklyn, NY. Two months later.
Rodriguez previously won the IBF title with a win over Butler in May 2018. He successfully defended his title at the October 2018 Worlds He Boxing Super Series (WBSS) tournament with a split-decision win against Australia’s Jason Moloney. Rodriguez advanced to his WBSS semi-final round and in May 2019 he lost in his second round to Inoue in the WBSS semi-final.
The 30-year-old Boricua is 2-1 and has one no-contest in her post-title run. The win over Russell came more than a year after the August 2021 meeting ended just his 16 seconds when a cut from a head crash prevented Rodriguez from continuing.
With Rodriguez’s victory over Russell, he was in a great position to challenge for his old title again. His name is mentioned because he could challenge former four-division champion Nonito Donaire (42-7, 28 KOs) for his vacant WBC title. As BoxingScene.com reported Tuesday morning, Donaire has been forced to find a new opponent after abandoning negotiations for a title fight mandated by Moloney (via Top Rank).
Moloney will likely go the WBO route, where Astrolabio is ranked second. Regardless of Astralabio’s decision, Rodriguez intends to stick to his plan to regain the IBF title.
Jake Donovan is a Senior Writer at BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox