Filip Hrgovic and Andy Ruiz are back in each other’s sights.
BoxingScene.com has confirmed that an interim IBF heavyweight title fight has been ordered between Hrgovic and Ruiz, with a 30-day free negotiation period assigned to the proposed bout.
Hrgovic is co-promoted by Wasserman Boxing and Matchroom Boxing, while Ruiz is represented by TGB Promotions—the primary promotional outfit under the Premier Boxing Champions (PBC) umbrella.
Such a fight was called by the sanctioning body one year ago—nearly to the day—when the IBF sought to establish a mandatory challenger for its heavyweight title. Ruiz was unable to proceed with talks due to his recovery period from a prior injury, thus becoming one of several heavyweights who passed on the offer to face the 2016 Olympic Bronze medalist from Croatia.
Hrgovic (15-0, 12KOs) went on to face China’s Zhilei Zhang (21-1-1, 13KOs), surviving an opening round knockdown to claim a disputed decision win last August 20 in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. The title eliminator came on the same card as Oleksandr Usyk’s repeat win over England’s Anthony Joshua (24-3, 22KOs) to defend his WBA, IBF and WBO heavyweight titles. Ukraine’s Usyk (20-0, 13KOs) made the first successful defense of the unified titles he wrested from Joshua in their September 2021 meeting in North London.
The IBF initially ordered a mandatory title fight between Usyk and Hrgovic last November 12, with Hrgovic’s side demanding an immediate purse bid hearing. The matter was tabled until earlier this month, when the IBF offerd a mea culpa in acknowledging that the WBA was next in the rotation of mandatory challengers.
The development meant England’s Daniel Dubois—who holds the WBA ‘Regular’ heavyweight title was next in line. Dubois is promoted by Queensberry Promotions, who also has lineal/WBC heavyweight champion Tyson Fury (33-0-1, 24KOs) and with the heavy push towards a Fury-Usyk undisputed heavyweight championship targeted for this spring in the Middle East or United Kingdom.
All was not lost for Hrgovic, who was granted permission to fight for an interim title while awaiting his title shot.
Ruiz (35-2, 22KOs) has fought just twice since his own win over Joshua to briefly serve as WBA, IBF and WBO heavyweight champ. The Mexican heavyweight shocked the world, recovering from a knockdown to score four of his own in a June 2019 seventh-round knockout of Joshua at Madison Square Garden in New York City. Their December 2019 rematch saw Joshua box his way to a decision over a grossly out of shape version by Ruiz.
Since then have come decision wins over Chris Arreola in May 2021 and Luis Ortiz last September 4, both in the greater Los Angeles area. Ruiz rose from the canvas in the second round to soundly outpoint Arreola atop a Fox Sports Pay-Per-View from Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, California. A 16-month, injury-induced ring absence ended with his Fox Sports PPV-headlined win over Ortiz, with the two trading knockdowns in his decision victory from Crypto.com Arena in Los Angeles.
The win over Ruiz came in a sanctioned WBC semifinal title eliminator, as part of a four-man box-off. The other side of the bracket saw former WBC champ Deontay Wilder score a first-round knockout of Robert Helenius last October 15 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. The hope was to then stage a Wilder-Ruiz final eliminator, as ordered during the WBC convention last November in Acapulco, Mexico. The fight has yet to make its way to the schedule.
Interestingly, Wilder is ranked one spot below Ruiz at number-four in the IBF ratings. Any combination of Wilder-Ruiz being finalized, or both Ruiz and Wilder declining the offer to fight for the interim IBF title could lead to Joshua entering the mix. Joshua remains without an opponent for a planned April ring return at The O2 in London.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox