Emmanuel Rodriguez, Paul Butler to meet for vacant 118-pound belt

Bantamweights Emmanuel Rodriguez and Paul Butler will meet for a vacant world title on May 5 at the O2 Arena in London, Matchroom Boxing promoter Eddie Hearn announced on Wednesday.

The fight will take place on the undercard of the all-British heavyweight rematch between former world titleholders Tony Bellew (29-2-1, 19 KOs) and David Haye (28-3, 26 KOs).

Rodriguez (17-0, 12 KOs), 25, of Puerto Rico, was the mandatory challenger for then-unified world titleholder Ryan Burnett, but he relinquished one of his belts, which opened the door for former titlist Butler (26-1, 14 KOs), 29, of England, to move into position to fight for the vacant 118-pound belt that he once held.

"I'm very excited for this," Butler said. "It's the reason we came over to Eddie in the first place. I knew he would deliver the big fights for me. We're just four weeks away. It's a big test, but I'm confident. It's an honor to contest the IBF title again. I want to win it back then hopefully defend which I didn't have the chance to do last time."

Butler won the belt by split decision from countryman Stuart Hall in June 2014 but never defended it. Instead, Butler vacated the title and moved down in weight to junior bantamweight to challenge then-titlist Zolani Tete and got knocked out in the eighth round. Butler has won nine fights in a row since.

"It sounded (like) a good idea at the time to vacate but looking back now I should have kept hold of the belt," Butler said. "I should have worked on my strength and conditioning, filled out and defended my title. I've definitely got some unfinished business with this. It would be brilliant to go out there and win it again. It's a tougher test than the last time I won the title, but I'm up for the challenge. I've improved myself. (Rodriguez is) touted to be this next big superstar, but how many of them come over here and get turned on their heads?"

Rodriguez has fought most of his fights in Puerto Rico with two coming in the Dominican Republic and two in the United States. Butler will be the most significant opponent of his career.

"I don't care how big and tough he is. We both have two arms, two legs," Butler said. "He's from Puerto Rico and I'm from Ellesmere Port, so let's get it on. I can see this being a very good fight. We both like to go body to head, head to body, but I'll come out being the two-time IBF world bantamweight champion."

The fight had been ordered by the IBF with a purse bid scheduled for April 3, but the sides made a deal without the bid being necessary.