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Robert Easter Jr. to fight Richard Commey after Rances Barthelemy vacates title belt

Rances Barthelemy, who retained his version of the lightweight world title on Friday night, vacated the belt Monday in order to move up in weight, and the IBF ordered mandatory challenger Richard Commey to face Robert Easter Jr., the next leading available contender, for the vacant belt.

The 29-year-old Barthelemy (25-0, 13 KOs), a Las Vegas-based Cuban defector, outpointed former titleholder Mickey Bey in rather one-sided fashion in Hollywood, Florida, and elected to vacate to pursue opportunities at junior welterweight.

Commey (24-0, 22 KOs), the England-based Ghana native, was ringside for Barthelemy-Bey to get an up-close look at the man he thought would be his next opponent. But with Barthelemy out of the picture, Easter (17-0, 14 KOs) will become his target.

Both fighters have agreed to participate in the bout in writing, according to Nisse Sauerland, Commey's promoter. They have until July 6 to make a deal, or the IBF will order a purse bid.

"I'm really excited to finally get my shot at the world title," Commey, 29, said on Tuesday at a news conference in Accra, Ghana. "I have been waiting too long and too many fighters have avoided me, but it seems like we are finally there. I would like to thank my promoter Team Sauerland for helping to get this opportunity, which I will take with both hands."

Said Sauerland: "We're delighted that Richard will finally get his chance to fight for the world title. This has been a long time coming, and Richard has been very patient. But now his time has come. He is, in my opinion, the best lightweight in the world, and I have every confidence he will win the world title and then go on to unify the division."

Easter said he was surprised Barthelemy vacated and that he would get a title shot sooner than he anticipated. But Easter was pumped up about it.

"I'm excited," Easter told ESPN. "I've dreamed about it since I was a young kid growing up in the sport of boxing, and here it is. I've been improving in every fight and that's why I got the opportunity so soon after 17 fights. But I have to prove myself again by taking this title home with me. I'm a true believer in my skill and in making a guy adjust to me."

Sauerland said he would try to make a deal or win the purse bid in an effort to bring the fight to Ghana, although that is unlikely given the lack of television money available there.

"We will try our best to bring this fight to Ghana," Sauerland said. "My father (Hall of Fame promoter Wilfried Sauerland) started his career promoting fights in Africa, and we would love to bring big-time boxing back to Ghana. This country has a rich boxing history with many great world champions, and Richard can take his place among these greats by winning the IBF title."

Commey said he would love to fight for a world title in his home country.

"If the fight comes to Ghana, I will make the whole country proud," he said. "It would be a dream come true to fight in our national stadium."

Easter is one of the top up-and-coming contenders in the division. The 25-year-old Toledo, Ohio, native was a standout amateur and, at 5-foot-11, is exceptionally tall for a 135-pound fighter. He also packs a considerable punch.

In his last fight, on April 1 in Washington, D.C., Easter, who is close friends with former four-division titlist Adrien Broner, fought on Broner's undercard and stole the show with his explosive, one-punch, fifth-round knockout of former junior lightweight titlist Argenis Mendez.