Anthony Joshua duly carried out his IBF obligations last December in London when he knocked out mandatory challenger Kubrat Pulev in nine one-sided rounds.
Now the next question is who will follow Pulev as next man up for the champion. The belt by the way will be up for grabs next when Joshua is expected to face WBC king Tyson Fury in a huge unification battle. Likely in June or July, likely in the Middle east.
IBF heavyweight rankings: Next mandatory?
After the 39-year-old Pulev came up very short in his title bid against Joshua at SSE Arena, Wembley, the big question is who will replace him as the top contender for the IBF world heavyweight title?
With #3 in the IBF heavyweight rankings Oleksandr Usyk set to battle Joe Joyce instead for the interim WBO title, the focus has been squarely on the #2 Charles Martin and #4 Michael Hunter.
Hunter though has now claimed that despite the two being ordered to meet by the IBF, former world champion Martin has pulled out (through injury).
‘The Bounty’ also claims that means a fight between himself and unbeaten Croatian prospect Filip Hrgovic (12-0 with 10 wins inside distance) is the next option. It would be an intriguing scrap, so we await news of if, when and where it will happen.
IBF ordered Me vs Charles Martin eliminator and he pulled out. That leaves Me vs Hrgovic. Been waiting for this. #BOUNTY
— Michael Hunter ll (@MichaelHunterII) February 23, 2021
Further down the list, New Zealander Junior Fa (now 19-1) drops out of the top 15 following his first professional defeat – a points loss to fellow Kiwi Joseph Parker on that huge Auckland show in February.
Seasoned veteran Luis Ortiz moves up into Fa’s previous spot at #9 while Bulgarian Pulev is #10 with Britain’s Joe Joyce at #11.
Aussie Demsey McKean, Swede Otto Wallin and Chinese star Zhilei Zhang claim positions 12-14 while another Briton – Hughie Fury (cousin of Tyson) moves into the final spot. Tom Schwarz drops out to make way for the younger Fury.