The road to crowning an undisputed heavyweight champion has endured its first roadblock. has confirmed that unified WBA/IBF/WBO/IBO heavyweight titlist Oleksandr Usyk was instructed by the IBF to enter negotiations for a mandatory title defense against number-one contender Filip Hrgovic. Representatives for the pair of unbeaten heavyweights were officially notified via official letter, though Hrgovic’s side doesn’t seem interested in dragging out the process.  

“We just got the news through that Oleksandr Usyk has been ordered to fight Filip Hrgovic next,” Eddie Hearn, chairman of Matchroom Sport, confirmed to DAZN’s Claudia Trejos preceding a live telecast from Cleveland, Ohio. “He is the mandatory challenger. We’ve actually requested an immediate purse bid for that fight. That’s going to be next for Oleksandr Usyk.”

Matchroom Boxing and Wasserman Boxing co-promote Hrgovic, a 2016 Olympic Bronze medalist from Croatia. Usyk (20-0, 13KOs) is guided by Alex Krassyuk’s K2 Promotions-Ukraine but whose last several fights have taken place on Matchroom shows.

Usyk is coming off two consecutive wins over Anthony Joshua, winning and defending the unified heavyweight titles in successive fashion. Hrgovic became the IBF mandatory with a disputed twelve-round win over Zhang Zhilei on the August 20 undercard of Usky’s repeat victory over England’s Joshua in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

The hope at the time was that Usyk would next enter talks for an undisputed showdown with lineal/WBC heavyweight champion Tyson Fury (32-0-1, 23KOs). The plans were parked when it was decided by Fury that he needed to fight before year’s end while Usky was not ready to return until the first quarter of 2023 at the earliest.

Fury was reportedly in talks for an all-British showdown with Joshua, only for those plans to fall through. The unbeaten two-time lineal champion from Manchester, England—now based out of Morecambe—will instead face countryman Derek Chisora in a trilogy bout scheduled for December 3 at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in North London. Fittingly, the venue hosted Usyk’s first win over Joshua which saw the Ukrainian southpaw become a two-division champion after previously serving as undisputed cruiserweight king.

The quest to enjoy undisputed status in a second weight division will, for now, depend on what can be worked out beyond the ropes. Hrgovic (15-0, 12KOs) showed significant flaws in his win over Zhilei but is in a position of power to where his team can at least negotiate a step-aside fee to allow Usyk to revisit talks for a fight with Fury.

Also lurking are the mandatory challengers with both the WBA and WBO.

Daniel Dubois holds the secondary version of the WBA heavyweight title, while Joe Joyce is the interim WBO titlist. Both are promoted by Queensberry Promotions, as is Fury. Queensberry sought to have Joyce identified as next in line for Usyk during the WBO convention in late October, though WBO president Francisco ‘Paco’ Valcarcel would not commit to granting the order.

According to the rotation, the WBA should be next in line.

The last heavyweight mandatory title defense made with boxing’s oldest sanctioning body came in September 2018, when then-unbeaten Joshua defended his unified WBA/IBF/WBO title in a seventh-round knockout of Alexander Povetkin. The fight was deemed as a WBA/WBO double mandatory, with the IBF obligation satisfied in December 2020 when Joshua—who lost and then regained the titles—scored a ninth-round stoppage of number-one contender Kubrat Pulev.

Usyk entered his September 2021 meeting with Joshua as the WBO mandatory challenger.

Jake Donovan is a senior writer for Twitter: @JakeNDaBox