IBF Orders Oleksandr Usyk vs Filip Hrgovic Mandatory Defense
International Boxing Federation has ordered a mandatory defense for its World Heavyweight Championship next.
Boxing Scene reported that IBF has ordered Oleksandr Usyk(20-0) to enter negotiations for a mandatory title defense against #1 IBF contender Filip Hrgovic(15-0). Eddie Hearn, Hrgovic’s promoter, confirmed the news on Twitter.
Additionally, Hearn has asked IBF to order a fight purse immediately to expedite the fight. The feeling is that Usyk might be unwilling to defend the title against Hrgovic as he is looking for an undisputed Heavyweight Championship fight against Tyson Fury next. If a purse bid is ordered, it would make it difficult for Usyk to avoid facing Hrgovic.
Hrgovic, an Olympic medalist from Croatia in 2016, won the IBF International Heavyweight title in late 2020 by defeating Rydell Booker. He retained it against Marko Radonjic and Emir Ahmatovic before his bout at Uysk vs Joshua 2 undercard against Zhang Zhilei to be cemented as a mandatory for IBF Heavyweight title.
Usyk is fresh off defeating Anthony Joshua in their rematch for the unified heavyweight titles in August. He was ready to fight WBC World Champion Tyson Fury next for Undisputed Heavyweight status, but asked to return only in February 2023. Fury wanted to return to the ring this year itself and chose to fight Chisora instead. An undisputed title fight might be discussed again in 2023 once Fury gets past Chisora.
Usyk being ordered to face IBF mandatory next comes as a bit of a surprise. As per the rotation for unified WBA, WBO & IBF Heavyweight Champion, WBA mandatory should be next in line to face the champion. WBA’s last mandatory defense was fulfilled in 2018 when Alexander Povetkin challenged unified champion Anthony Joshua. IBF mandatory challenger Kubrat Pulev challenged Joshua in 2020.
Oleksandr Usyk was the WBO mandatory challenger when he faced and defeated Joshua in September 2021. He has since defended it successfully against Joshua in a rematch in September this year.
WBA should have been the next mandatory defense with WBA(Regular) Champion Daniel Dubios waiting in the wings. Dubios will next defend the title against Kevin Lenea in the co-main event of Tyson Fury vs Derek Chisora 3 undercard.
Apart from a mandatory IBF defense, there are more stumbling blocks in Fury vs Usyk fight. WBC has ordered a mandatory challenger fight between Deontay Wilder and Andy Ruiz. Fury might be ordered to face the winner of that fight next as mandatory defense. Will that be the case or Uysk and Fury will somehow manage to bypass mandatory defenses in order to get onboard for Undisputed Heavyweight Championship fight?