Filip Hrgovic remains one fight away from contending for his first major title.
What he is currently left without, for the moment, is an opponent to get him to that point.
The unbeaten heavyweight is on the hunt for a new foe after fellow contender Michael Hunter II reportedly withdrew from their IBF title eliminator, two sources familiar with the development confirmed to BoxingScene.com. The previously ordered bout was designed to determine the next mandatory challenger to the IBF heavyweight title currently held by England’s Anthony Joshua (24-1, 22KOs), though is unlikely to move forward in present form.
Yahoo! Sports’ Kevin Iole was the first to report the development.
Matchroom Boxing’s Eddie Hearn—who claimed promotional rights to the fight via purse bid—was unavailable for comment, given his commitment to the super middleweight title unification clash between Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez and Billy Joe Saunders this weekend in Arlington, Texas. Representatives from Wasserman Boxing, Hrgovic’s promoter did not respond to a message from BoxingScene.com seeking comment, nor did Hunter.
Hearn became the promoter of record for the ordered eliminator as the lone bidder during a purse bid hearing held April 20 as conducted from IBF headquarters in Springfield, New Jersey. Hearn submitted an offer of $606,666, which was to be split 60/40 in favor of Hunter as the higher-ranked challenger. Hunter—a second generation heavyweight who represented the United States in the 2012 London Olympics—was due to make just shy of $364,000. Hrgovic was to have earned more than $264,000 for the fight.
In the event that Hunter truly walks away from the fight, IBF rules determine that he will lose his current top five ranking and will be placed below the Top 10.
Hunter (19-1-1, 13KOs) is currently ranked number-four by the IBF, while Croatia’s Hrgovic (12-0, 10KOs)—who claimed a bronze medal for Croatia during the 2016 Rio Olympics—is number-five.
Once Hunter is officially removed from the mix, the IBF will go down the list in offering the fight to the next highest-rated available contender.
Former titlist Charles Martin (28-2-1, 25KOs) is the highest-rated contender at number-two but has already passed on the opportunity when the eliminator was first offered. Former undisputed cruiserweight champion Oleksandr Usyk (18-0, 13KOs) is number-three but is also the mandatory challenger to the WBO belt also held by Joshua.
Former WBO heavyweight titlist Joseph Parker is ranked number-six and fresh off of a hard-fought win over Derek Chisora. The Auckland, New Zealand native has posted two wins in 2021 and currently fights under the Matchroom banner, which makes him the most ideal candidate on every front should he want - and is approached for - the fight.
Germany’s Agit Kabayel (20-0, 13KOs)—ranked number-seven—is currently committed to a WBA regional title fight versus veteran journeyman Kevin Johnson scheduled for June 5 in Magdeburg, Germany.
France’s Tony Yoka (10-0, 8KOs) is ranked number-eight. The 2016 Olympic Gold medalist—who defeated Hrgovic in the semifinal round—is reportedly in negotiations for an ordered EU heavyweight title defense versus mandatory challenger Herve Hubeaux (32-3, 14KOs), though the Belgian contender is due to fight later this month.
Former two-time title challengers Luis Ortiz (32-2, 27KOs) and Kubrat Pulev (28-2, 14KOs) are ranked number nine and ten, respectively. Neither of the two are in serious negotiations for any specific upcoming opportunity.
However this shakes out, time continues to be on the side of the sanctioning body. Joshua—who holds the IBF/WBA “Super”/WBO/IBO titles—is in advanced talks for an undisputed showdown with countryman and lineal/WBC heavyweight champion Tyson Fury (30-0-1, 21KOs), with the superfight expected to take place this summer.
Joshua’s last fight satisfied his IBF mandatory, knocking out Pulev in the 9th round of their title fight last December. Usyk is next in the rotation as the overdue WBO mandatory challenger, while Hall of Fame promoter Don King is pushing for WBA “World” heavyweight titlist Trevor Bryan to land a title consolidation clash with Joshua.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox