First details of the supporting cast to the colossal Unified Heavyweight World Title rematch between Oleksandr Usyk and Anthony Joshua have now been confirmed.
The rivals will lock horns again in the coastal city of Jeddah, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia on Saturday August 20.
Avoided Croatian Heavyweight star Filip Hrgovic (14-0, 12 KOs) meets China’s undefeated Zhilei Zhang (24-0-1, 19 KOs) in a Final Eliminator for the IBF Heavyweight World Title. The rivals were originally set to clash on the undercard of Canelo Alvarez vs. Dmitry Bivol in May but will now do battle on the Red Sea.
Hrgovic sits at No.3 in the IBF rankings and the big-hitting giant has been hunting a dance partner for a showdown to name the mandatory challenger for the title held by Ukraine’s Usyk. The 30-year-old Olympic bronze medallist has cut a lethal swathe through the pro ranks to sit in a prime position for a deserved shot at the big prize, ending all but two of his fights inside the distance, and not going past the fifth round in his last seven outings.
I respect a fighter like Zhilei Zhang, especially as there were plenty of others who could have fought me and didn’t. The respect stays outside the ring, and it’ll be business as usual for me when I step in there and look to do what I do best; put people away,” said Hrgovic.
“There’s a huge amount at stake in this fight. I’m a fighter who belongs at the top of this division, and there’ll be no doubt about this when Zhang is dealt with and I go on to beat whoever it is out of Usyk or Joshua.”
He continued,” I’m entering my prime, and now is the perfect time to be putting myself up against the top fighters in this division. I will become the heavyweight champion of the world.”
A host of Heavyweights were offered the clash with ‘El Animal’, but not until it came to No.15 ranked Zhang was a dance partner found, with the lofty Chinese star accepting the challenge. The 39-year-old has been circling for a major showdown, and ‘Big Bang’ gets his wish against Hrgovic with the two KO artist promising to leave it all in the ring with the stakes so high.
“I’m looking forward to August 20,” said Zhang. “My team and I have been grinding every hour of every day for this fight. Hrgovic is going to be the toughest opponent in my professional career. A victory will secure me the IBF mandatory challenger position, which is why this fight is so important to me. I will be in the best shape I’ve ever been in.”
Wasserman’s Head of Global Boxing, Kalle Sauerland, said, “Filip’s opportunity to fight for a belt has always been an inevitability. If not for a personal loss in his life, he would already be confirmed as next in line to go on and begin ruling this heavyweight division.”
“The cream always rises to the top, and if you look at the targeted opponents who didn’t want to step into the ring with an animal like Hrgovic, there’s plenty of people who obviously agree that’s the level he belongs at,” he said.
“Zhang was man enough to step up in the end, but whether it would have been Zhang, or any other heavyweight within the top 15 of this division, the outcome will always be the same. AJ and Oleksandr have a big fight ahead of them, but make no mistake that their toughest fight is yet to come.”