By Jake Donovan
The International Boxing Federation (IBF) has now named resurgent featherweight contender Eric Hunter as the mandatory challenger for reigning titlist Lee Selby.
Negotiations for the featherweight title fight are due to begin immediately between Greg Cohen Promotions - who signed Hunter to an exclusive promotional contract late last year - and TGB Promotions, the promoter of record for Selby, who is advised by Al Haymon.
A 30-day period is in place for the two sides to reach a deal, or else will be subject to a purse bid hearing on February 11 at IBF headquarters in Springfield, New Jersey.
Selby's mandatory defense is due by March 1. There stands a chance that the fight will come after the deadline, with which the IBF is fine so long as this fight happens next.
"The fight needs to happen as soon as possible," Jeanette Salazar, IBF spokesperson informed BoxingScene.com on Monday.
Hunter (21-3, 11KOs) was due to face Argentina's Jonathan Victor Barros in a final eliminator. The winner would have been named the mandatory challenger for Selby - who signed an advisory pact with Haymon last summer.
However, those plans were canceled when it was learned over the weekend that Barros has accepted another fight, thus passing on the opportunity to face Hunter.
The streaking contender from Philadelphia has been idle since a 1st round knockout of Antonio Escalante last May. The win was his fourth in a row, a run that looks better in retrospect having begun with a March '14 decision over Yenifel Vicente, who resurfaced with a Knockout of the Year contender in a frightening one-punch stoppage of Juan Dominguez last December.
Also included among the stretch are wins over Daniel Ramirez and divisional gatekeeper Rene Alvarado.
Selby (22-1, 8KOs) claimed the featherweight title in an upset win over previously unbeaten Evgeny Gradovich last May in London, England. The 28-year old Welshman retained his title in a 12-round nod over former three-division champ Fernando Montiel in an optional title defense last October.
The win over Montiel - which headlined a Premier Boxing Champions (PBC) event on ESPN - came with the understand that Selby's next fight would be his mandatory defense.
Hunter and Barros were the top two rated contenders and ordered to negotiate terms for a fight, though that matter was previously destined to head to a January 12 purse bid. That is no longer the case, as Hunter moves straight to the title - a victory for Cohen, who saw the potential in the Philly boxer and took a chance on signing him as a free agent.
The move paid off, as there is no more wiggle room from external parties to delay their inevitable title fight.
"The mandatory was due March 1, but held back due to the (previously ordered eliminator)," confirmed Salazar, in reiterating the urgency in the two sides reaching terms, one way or another.
Jake Donovan is the managing editor of BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox