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Filip Hrgovic could miss out on shot at world heavyweight champion

Heavyweight Filip Hrgović. Photo credit: Mark Robinson

IBF number one heavyweight contender Filip ‘El Animal’ Hrgovic 16-0 (13) could miss out on the opportunity to fight a reigning world champion if WBA, WBO, IBF and Ring Magazine champion Oleksandr Usyk 21-0 (14) and WBC titleholder Tyson Fury 33-0-1 (24) push ahead with their four-belt unification bout.

ESPN is reporting that there is a rematch clause in the contract that can be enacted by the losing party. If a second fight does go ahead, the IBF will strip the beltholder of their title for failing to comply with their mandatory obligations.

“The IBF wrote that if I won my last fight and if Usyk beat [Daniel] Dubois, the IBF would enforce my mandatory status to fight Usyk for the title,” 31-year-old Croatian explained to ESPN.

“The IBF has now allowed Tyson Fury and Usyk to do a unification first. The winner of that fight is mandated to fight me immediately after, with no other intervening fight, so I expect to fight for the heavyweight championship early next year.

“I’m disappointed at the delay, but I will stay ready and I won’t let it distract me from my goal of winning the title. Whether against Usyk or Fury, my time is coming.”

With a world title shot just around the corner, Team Hrgovic has a strong hand to play as they enter into promotional negotiations.

“Filip is about to be a free agent so myself and the rest of Team Hrgovic will sit down with our longtime partners, Wasserman Boxing and Eddie Hearn, before we speak to anyone else concerning Filip’s future to see what their prospective plan would be moving forward,” said Hrogivc’s manager Keith Connolly.

“Filip is excited about his future and fighting for the heavyweight title in 2024.”

Last week chairman of The General Entertainment Authority and head of Riyadh Season, Turki Alalshikh, announced the Usyk vs Fury fight would be going ahead in Saudi Arabia on a date to be confirmed.

“This is the fight that everyone has wanted to see for some time and now it is finally happening – the world’s two heavyweight champions going into the ring against one another,” said Alalshikh.

“It is the biggest fight in boxing, the world will be watching, and we are so proud to be the hosts for this spectacle as part of the fourth edition of our Riyadh Season celebrations.

“We want to play our part and match the huge anticipation surrounding this fight by putting on the greatest fight experience for every visitor to Riyadh.”

But not everyone is convinced the fight will go ahead.

“They’ve announced Usyk-Fury but whether it’s actually properly done or not, who knows?” said retired former super middleweight champion George Groves to Grosvenor Casinos.

“They haven’t announced a date, they haven’t done a press conference for it. I might be sceptical that it happens at all to be honest, just a little bit sceptical.

“I think it’s a possibility that it may be a hoax. I’m not saying it’s definitive because Usyk has announced it as well, so I don’t doubt that something’s been signed, but the timing of it is interesting.”