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Burnett, ex-unified 118-lb champ, signs with TR

Former unified bantamweight world titleholder Ryan Burnett, who is moving up in weight to the junior featherweight division, has signed a multi-fight promotional agreement with Top Rank, which announced the deal on Monday.

Burnett's first fight of the deal will be his already-scheduled bout against Jelbirt Gomera, a 12-rounder for a vacant regional junior featherweight title on May 17 (ESPN+) in Burnett's hometown of Belfast, Northern Ireland.

After that bout, Burnett (19-1, 9 KOs), 26, is expected to fight in the United States, where he has boxed once before, a 2015 fight in New York. Burnett is a likely future opponent for the winner of the rematch between world titlist Emanuel Navarrete and former titlist Isaac Dogboe, who meet on May 11 (ESPN) in Tucson, Arizona.

Burnett's fight on May 17 will be his first since losing his bantamweight world title by fourth-round stoppage to Nonito Donaire in the quarterfinals of the World Boxing Super Series in November in Glasgow. Burnett was unable to continue due to a torn oblique muscle on his right side.

Now Burnett is healed and ready to go against Gomera (14-5, 7 KOs), 26, of the Philippines, and excited about his new deal, which was ironed out between Top Rank and Burnett management company MTK Global.

"It is a dream come true to sign with Top Rank," Burnett said. "I've spent years learning and perfecting my craft, becoming world champion and then unified world champion. On May 17, I begin my quest to become world champion again. Teaming up with the biggest players in the game in Top Rank, ESPN and MTK Global will only strengthen my drive and determination to achieve this. With these guys behind me, there's only one way ahead for me, and that's straight to the top."

Top Rank and MTK Global have been doing quite a bit of business together and this is their latest involvement. Top Rank has also signed MTK Global clients such as lineal heavyweight champion Tyson Fury and former featherweight and junior featherweight world titlist Carl Frampton, and has begun to regularly stream MTK Global cards on ESPN+.

"We're proud and excited to be part of another huge deal involving Top Rank and ESPN, and this is something Ryan deserves," said Jamie Conlan of MTK Global. "As someone who's already unified a division, we believe we're talking about an elite fighter, and elite fighters should fight on elite platforms. This agreement ensures that happens, and once again, MTK Global are delighted to play our role."

Burnett won a bantamweight world title by lopsided decision from Lee Haskins in June 2017 and then scored another clear unanimous decision over Zhanat Zhakiyanov in his first defense to unify two 118-pound belts.

Burnett, who later vacated one of the belts, made a March 2018 defense against Yonfrez Parejo and won a near-shutout decision before joining the World Boxing Super Series and losing to Donaire via injury.