IBF heavyweight title: EIGHT reject eliminator before Chinese star accepts

Filip Hrgovic

Ian Walton

After eight ranked contenders turned it down, Croatian puncher Filip Hrgovic and Zhang Zhilei will discuss an IBF heavyweight title eliminator.

The IBF initially put forward Hrgovic to face Luis Ortiz, the top-rated heavyweight with the sanctioning body. But after the Cuban refused, a long list of others followed.

Former WBO ruler Joseph Parker was next to turn down the opportunity citing an injury while his manager David Higgins actively pursued other fights in the media.

The honor then passed to the 2016 Olympic gold medalist Tony Yoka. However, the Frenchman also pulled out of the running.

The number one challenger with the WBO, Joe Joyce, is biding his time.

While Agit Kabayel, Andy Ruiz, Murat Gassiev, and Demsey McKean didn’t accept the chance to talk shop.

According to Dan Rafael, Zhilei has now accepted were eight fighters before had shown no interest at this precise moment.

 

Zhang rated number thirteen, and fighting in a final eliminator for a shot at the title shows just how much the rankings system means.

It doesn’t matter if you are ranked one or fifteen. There’s always the chance you can gain a title shot. That’s why being in voluntary positions is imperative to all contenders and their promoters.

At 38, Zhang is undefeated as a professional through 24 fights. The Chinese star has knocked out 18 opponents so far.

The southpaw last fought in November and managed to stay active through the pandemic after a year out of action.

Zhang Forrest Heavyweight
Ed Mulholland

Returning in November 2020, Zhang stopped Devin Vargas in four rounds. He followed that win up with a draw against Jerry Forrest three months later.

Then, just last November, he halted Craig Lewis in two to now set up his chance to earn a crack at Oleksandr Usyk.

Hrgovic or Zhang will be in line to meet Usyk at some point in 2023 as the WBA and WBO can expect to put forward their mandatory challengers first.

Trevor Bryan [WBA] and Joyce [WBO mentioned above] will get their respective shots before the IBF stipulation.

IBF HEAVYWEIGHT RATINGS – DEC 2021

1 NOT RATED
2 LUIS ORTIZ – CUBA
3 FILIP HRGOVIC – CROATIA
4 ANTHONY JOSHUA – ENGLAND
5 TONY YOKA – FRANCE
6 JOSEPH JOYCE – ENGLAND
7 AGIT KABAYEL – GERMANY
8 MURAT GASSIEV – RUSSIAN FEDERATION
9 ANDY RUIZ JR – UNITED STATES
10 CHARLES MARTIN – UNITED STATES
11 JOSEPH PARKER – NEW ZEALAND
12 DEMSEY MC KEAN – AUSTRALIA
13 ZHANG ZHILEI – CHINA
14 HUGHIE FURY – ENGLAND
15 MARTIN BAKOLE – CONGO DR

Phil Jay – Editor of World Boxing News since 2010 with over one billion views. Follow WBN on Twitter @WorldBoxingNews.