By Jake Tiernan: The IBF has updated their heavyweight rankings, with Filip Hrgovic #1, Otto Wallin #2, and Anthony Joshua #3.
Instead of Joshua fighting Hrgovic for the IBF title if it becomes vacant next year, it’ll be Wallin (26-1, 14 KOs) who fights for the belt. Eddie Hearn has talked about Joshua fighting Hrgovic for the IBF belt, but he’s not going to let that happen.
Hearn is saving Joshua for the Fury fight, and he’s not going to let him get anywhere near a fighter that could ruin those plans, like Hrgovic (16-0, 13 KOs) and especially the knockout artist Deontay Wilder.
Putting Joshua in with Hrgovic would be bad news because AJ can’t take a punch anymore at this point in his career and is too spineless to be counted on to win that contest.
Those guys hit too hard and would surely derail Joshua’s chances for a $100 million+ payday clash against Fury in Saudi Arabia. Until the Fury mega-fight happens, Hearn will continue to keep Joshua safe by matching him against the cellar dwellers in the heavyweight division, fighters with little power.
The winner of the Oleksandr Usyk vs. Tyson Fury contest will be stripped of the IBF title if they fail to defend it against the mandatory Hrgovic, which they obviously have no intention of doing. Fury-Usyk has a two-way rematch clause, which means it can be triggered by either fighter.
IBF’s updated heavyweight rankings
1 Filip Hrgovic
2 Otto Wallin
3 Anthony Joshua
4 Deontay Wilder
5 Frank Sanchez
6 Joseph Parker
7 Jared Anderson
8 Daniel Dubois
9 Agit Kabayel
10 Arslanbek Makhmudov
If Fury wins, Usyk will use the rematch clause to force a second fight. Likewise, if Usyk is victorious, Fury will want his get-back and force a second fight. The IBF title will either be vacated or stripped from the winner.
This was a smart move by the International Boxing Federation to elevate Wallin to the number two spot. This is because Wallin is more likely to accept a fight with Hrgovic than Joshua, who is being angled towards a mega-fight with Tyson Fury.
As far as the Hrgovic-Wallin fight goes, if the southpaw Wallin can handle the rabbit punching of Hrgovic, he’s got a good shot at winning. Hrgovic’s stamina is terrible, and highly vulnerable to getting outboxed and outworked by his opponents.
In recent fights, the 2016 Olympic bronze medalist Hrgovic has regressed, showing signs of stamina and chin problems. He was clearly beaten by Zhilei Zhang last year, but the judges gave him a controversial 12 round decision in Jeddah, Saudu Arabia.
The southpaw Zhang dropped Hrgovic and beat the living daylights out of him in the first eight rounds. In the championship rounds, Zhang faded, allowing Hrgovic to win some rounds. This writer had Zhang winning 8-4, but the judges saw it differently, giving the decision to Hearn’s fighter Hrgovic.
Still, Zhang appeared to have won the fight when it ended, but surprisingly, the judges gave it to Hrgovic. Interestingly, there was no move by Hrgovic’s promoter Hearn to run it back with Zhang.
Instead of giving Zhang a rematch, Hrgovic fought Dempsey McKean and had all kinds of problems with him before taking him out with a series of textbook rabbit punches in the twelfth round last August in London.
Hrgovic looked awful throughout the fight, but he turned it up in the twelfth with his well-placed shots behind the head. Yeah, he probably should have been penalized for the rabbit shots, but what the heck? If the referee was willing to allow it, what can you say?
Wallin gave Tyson Fury the toughest fight of his career in 2019, busting up his right eye with left hands, and had him looking like he’d been run over by the end of the contest.