Jamie McDonnell will defend his WBA bantamweight title against former European champion Karim Guerfi next month, the Free Press understands.
Hatfield’s world champion has long been pencilled in for a defence of his crown on the April 9 show at London’s O2 Arena which will be headlined by Anthony Joshua’s first world title challenge.
But it is understood negotiations with the WBA have held up official confirmation that he will defend against tough Belgian fighter Guerfi.
The WBA had ordered a clash between their ‘regular’ champion McDonnell and ‘super’ champion Juan Carlos Payano to take place before the summer in order to unify the organisation’s two world titles for a final time.
Payano had hoped to make another defence before meeting McDonnell and is understood to have a potential opponent lined up.
The Dominican Republic native has not fought since last August with McDonnell last fighting in September when he successfully defended his crown against Tomoki Kameda for the second time.
So understandably both men are keen to get back in the ring ahead of their mandated fight this summer, which is likely to take place in the United States on Al Haymon’s Premier Boxing Champions format.
The WBA were thought to be initially reluctant to sanction McDonnell and Payano to make defences before their meeting but have wavered following negotiations.
It means that the winner of McDonnell’s clash with Guerfi will go on to face the victor from Payano’s next defence.
The delay in official confirmation of his next fight will only add further frustration to McDonnell who has been champing at the bit since convincingly beating Kameda in Texas in September.
He has been in training almost solidly since November as he was expected to travel back to the US to defend against Puerto Rico’s Emmanuel Rodriguez in January, a fight which failed to materialise at the 11th hour.
Working with trainer and manager Dave Coldwell, the 29-year-old has remained in the gym patiently awaiting news of his next bout.
There was a suggestion Rodriguez would travel to the UK to face McDonnell on April 9 but that appears to be off the cards with Guerfi stepping in.
Guerfi has won 23 of his 26 fights and won the European title in 2013 with victory over Stephane Jamoye – who McDonnell successfully defended the same belt against two years prior.
The Belgian then lost his European crown to Zhanat Zhakiyanov in Sheffield, one of three defeats on his record.