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 on Saturday August 14 in Saudi Arabia.
IBF heavyweight rankings: Next mandatory?
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 mandatory challenger 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 was then on the #2 Charles Martin and #4 Michael Hunter.
Hunter then claimed that despite the two being ordered to meet by the IBF, former world champion Martin pulled out (through injury).
‘The Bounty’ then veered away from an eliminator against unbeaten Croatian prospect Filip Hrgovic (12-0 with 10 wins inside distance) and will instead face Mike Wilson in what is being billed as a WBA eliminator on June 19. Hunter is down to #11 in the latest IBF rankings released in early May.
Hrgovic IBF options?
The end result – as ever – is a little confusing. As of now there is no confirmed IBF title eliminator – just a number of options to fight Hrgovic (now #4), per promoter Eddie Hearn. He says they are Joseph Parker, Dempsey McKean, Zhilei Zhang and Martin Bakole (now in the top 15).
One notable newcomer in the IBF top 15 is former champion Andy Ruiz, who had a short-lived spell as king in 2019 after dethroning Anthony Joshua. Ruiz Jr returned on May 1 from a 17-month absence to outpoint fellow Cali man Chris Arreola on a FOX PPV in Carson.