Vincent Astrolabio and Emmanuel Rodriguez are both determined to fill the bantamweight void left behind by Naoya Inoue.

For now, they stand in each other’s way. has confirmed that the IBF has ordered a vacant bantamweight title fight between Astrolabio and Rodriguez, the sanctioning body’s top two contenders. Their respective teams will have until February 25 to reach a deal and avoid a purse bid hearing.

Both boxers fight under the Premier Boxing Champions (PBC) banner. Separately, the Philippines’ Astrolabio is represented by Manny Pacquiao’s MP Promotions, while Rodriguez is guided by Juan Orengo’s Fresh Productions based out of San Juan, Puerto Rico.

The pairing makes sense in a linear sense, as Astrolabio and Rodriguez won semifinal bouts as sanctioned in an IBF four-man box-off. The New Jersey-based sanctioning body ordered two separate eliminators while Inoue (24-0, 21KOs) was scheduled to face England’s Paul Buler for the undisputed bantamweight championship.

Inoue claimed Butler’s WBO title and defended the lineal, WBC, WBA and IBF titles with an eleventh-round knockout on December 13 in Tokyo. The unbeaten three-division became the first Asian boxer to fully unify a division in the three- or four-belt era, his primary reason for remaining at bantamweight.

The undisputed reign lasted exactly one month before Inoue vacated all four major titles on January 13.

To date, the WBC and IBF are the only two sanctioning bodies to order vacant title fights.

Astrolabio (18-3, 13KOs)—through MP Promotions—sought to keep his options open, though he has first dibs at the IBF crown. The 25-year-old Filipino—who now lives and trains in Las Vegas—is riding a six-fight win streak, including a resurgent 2022 campaign that began with an upset win over former lineal junior featherweight king Guillermo Rigondeaux last February 26 in Dubai.

The win was followed by a sixth-round knockout of Russia’s Nikolai Potapov last December 17, which saw Astrolabio become the number-one contender in the IBF bantamweight rankings.

The bout was one of two semifinal eliminators ordered by the IBF. It came two months after Rodriguez (21-2, 13KOs; 1NC) claimed the number-two position after outpointing unbeaten Gary Antonio Russell via technical decision in their October 15 rematch in Brooklyn, New York.

Rodriguez previously held the IBF title, which he won in a May 2018 victory over Butler. One successful defense foilowed, a split decision victory over Australia’s Jason Moloney in their October 2018 World Boxing Super Series (WBSS) tournament. Rodriguez advanced to the WBSS semifinal round before suffering a second-round knockout loss to Inoue in their May 2019 WBSS semifinal.

The 30-year-old Boricua is 2-1 with one No-Contest in his post-title run. The win over Russell came more than a year after their August 2021 meeting ended in just 16 seconds, when a cut from a clash of heads left Rodriguez unable to continue.

Rodriguez’s win over Russell left him in prime position to once again challenge for his old title. It comes as his name was mentioned to possibly challenge former four-division champion Nonito Donaire (42-7, 28KOs) for the vacant WBC title. As reported Tuesday morning, Donaire is forced to seek a new opponent after Moloney—throughTop Rank—abandoned talks for their ordered title fight.

Moloney will likely go the WBO route, where Astrolabio is ranked number-two. Should the Astrolabio-Rodriguez fight move forward, Moloney will likely face Philippines’ Reymart Gaballo for the vacant WBO belt. Regardless of Astralabio’s decision, Rodriguez intends to stick with plans to regain the IBF title.

Jake Donovan is a senior writer for Twitter: @JakeNDaBox