Filip Hrgovic can finally see daylight at the end of the tunnel.
More than a year has passed since the 2016 Olympic Bronze medalist and current top contender became the mandatory challenger to the IBF heavyweight title. To date, he has yet to cash in on that status or even entice any of his divisional peers to fight for an offered interim belt.
Instead, the unbeaten Croatian will enter a second straight stay-busy fight, though this one with the promise of next challenging for the main crown should he beat Mark De Mori on December 23 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
“I’m next in line for the heavyweight championship of the world,” Hrgovic confirmed during a kickoff press conference to announce the December 23 event. “I will fight the winner of [Oleksandr] Usyk versus [Tyson] Fury. Or if they vacate the title and want to do a rematch, I will fight the next best ranked fighter in the IBF rankings. That will be the winner of Anthony Joshua and Otto Wallin.”
Hrgovic-De Mori is part of an eight-fight super card in Riyadh, which features former titlists Anthony Joshua (26-3, 22KOs) and Deontay Wilder (43-2-1, 42KOs) in separate bouts as the evening’s co-main events. The same city and event organizers will also present the Tyson Fury-Oleksandr Usyk undisputed heavyweight championship on February 17.
Officially, the Fury-Usyk winner should be on the hook to next face Hrgovic (16-0-1, 13KOs), who was named the IBF mandatory after a twelve-round points win over Zhang Zhilei in their final eliminator last August. Just one fight has followed, a twelfth-round knockout of unbeaten Demsey McKean on August 12 in London to preserve his place in line.
The bout versus De Mori (41-2-2, 36KOs) is little more than a time marker, with the hope that Hrgovic’s mandatory status will be enforced in February. It was widely reported that the Fury-Usyk lineal, WBC, WBA, IBF and WBO heavyweight championship contains a rematch clause, though the IBF’s rules forbid the practice which should clear the way for Hrgovic to receive an order to next face the winner—or ultimately fight for the vacant title.
Sweden’s Otto Wallin and Joshua are the next highest rated contenders and meet atop the December 23 bill. The winner could be in position to face Hrgovic for a potentially vacant IBF title, though it is widely believed that Joshua and Wilder—with wins in December—will next face each other.
Regardless, Hrgovic feels better about 2024 than any other year to date in the pro ranks.
“The next year will be very interesting,” noted Hrgovic.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. X (formerly Twitter): @JakeNDaBox