The IBF is moving closer to determining who'll be its No. 1 ranked heavyweight, as well as who'll be the next mandatory challenger for Anthony Joshua’s heavyweight crown.

The New Jersey-based sanctioning body has ordered a heavyweight bout between the No. 4 ranked Michael Hunter and No. 5 ranked Filip Hrgovic, learned Tuesday after reviewing the IBF’s letter.

Hunter (19-1-1, 13 KOs) and Hrgovic (12-0, 10 KOs) have until Feb. 26 to contact the IBF in writing and accept the fight. 

Hunter told on Tuesday that he’s accepted the fight.

“It’s definitely a breath of fresh air, because my entire career, I’ve been hit with uncertainty not knowing what the next move is going to be. For me to just know what my next step is a blessing,” said Hunter. 

“Hrgovic imposes a little bit of a challenge, but I’m going to be putting the heat on him. I’m more of a challenge for him than he is for me. He hasn’t fought anyone of my caliber, and that’s a fact. They puffed him up. It’s still too early for him. He would’ve been better off fighting Martin Bakole, someone I’d already beat, but he wanted me. There’s no pressure on me. So be careful what you wish for. They’re going to get all that they can handle. He’s in my way now. Whoever wins this fight could have their lives changed forever.”  

Hunter said the IBF’s No. 2 ranked heavyweight Charles Martin, a friend and sparring partner, was initially considered for the mandatory challenger spot, but Martin declared an injury, further clearing an opening for Hrgovic to enter the picture. Oleksandr Usyk, who has beaten Hunter at cruiserweight in 2017, is ranked No. 3 by the IBF. 

The winner of Hunter and Hrgovic would wait in line to see how the heavyweight picture shakes out. Joshua is next slated to face Tyson Fury later this year, and he’s already fulfilled his long-awaited IBF mandatory against Kubrat Pulev with a crushing ninth-round KO in December. 

The 32-year-old Las Vegas-based Hunter is coming off a fourth-round KO over Shawn Laughery in December. In December 2019, he battled Alexander Povetkin to a split draw during a spirited affair in Saudi Arabia.

Hunter has been a mostly avoided boogeyman in the division and will now look to bust the touted prospect in Hrgovic, a 2016 Olympics bronze medalist for Croatia. The 28-year-old Hrgovic is coming off a fifth-round TKO win over Rydell Booker in November.

Manouk Akopyan is a sports journalist, writer and broadcast reporter. He’s also a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and MMA Journalists Association. He can be reached on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube at @ManoukAkopyan, via email at manouk[dot]akopyan[at] or on