Oleksandr Usyk could soon discover his next IBF mandatory challenger after Tony Yoka accepted a final eliminator against Filip Hrgovic.
Hrgovic has endured a frustrating search for a heavyweight opponent, seeing bouts against Luis Ortiz and Joseph Parker fail to materialise, but Yoka accepted the invitation from the IBF just before the three-day deadline.
“Tony Yoka has formally accepted tonight in writing the challenge to fight Filip Hrgovic in a final IBF Final Eliminator for the heavyweight world championship,” Nisse Sauerland, who represents Hrgovic, posted on Twitter.
“‘El Animal has found a dance partner.”
Hrgovic and Yoka, both unbeaten heavyweights, have fought before at amateur level, most famously in the super-heavyweight semi-finals at the Rio 2016 Olympics.
Frenchman Yoka emerged victorious and went on to win the gold medal, with Hrgovic taking bronze, but their next fight will be for an opportunity to challenge IBF, WBO and WBA champion Usyk.
For now, Usyk is set to defend his belts in a rematch with Anthony Joshua this year.
Hrgovic, the highly ranked Croat, has 12 knockouts from his 14 victories, while Yoka has nine from 11.
Hrgovic’s frustrating search comes to an end
Yoka agreeing to the final eliminator brings an end to Hrgovic’s search for a fight.
Ortiz, 42, was not able to accept a fight with Hrgovic due to a hand injury sustained in his victory over Charles Martin on January 1.
Parker, who impressed in a one-sided win against Derek Chisora last month, was the next contender ordered by the IBF.
But Parker’s manager David Higgins told Sky Sports that he is dealing with an elbow injury.
“There is an economic problem with Hrgovic,” Higgins added.
“[Hrgovic] has attained a high ranking but has no fan base so the money on offer is laughable for somebody like Parker.”
Britain’s Joe Joyce, who was beaten by Yoka in the 2016 Olympic final, would have been next in line to be targeted to fight Hrgovic had Yoka, ranked number 5 by the IBF, not accepted.
Sky Sports Boxing schedule
Sunday January 16 – Top Rank in New York
Joe Smith Jr vs Steve Geffrard – WBO light-heavyweight title
Sunday January 30 – Top Rank in Tulsa
Robson Conceicao vs Xavier Martinez – WBC super-featherweight title eliminator
Saturday February 5 – BOXXER in Cardiff
Chris Eubank Jr vs Liam Williams
Claressa Shields vs Ema Kozin – IBF, WBA and WBC middleweight titles
Saturday February 19 – BOXXER in Manchester
Amir Khan vs Kell Brook
Frazer Clarke’s pro debut
Saturday February 26 – BOXXER and Top Rank in Glasgow
Josh Taylor vs Jack Catterall – undisputed super-lightweight titles
Saturday March 5 – Top Rank in Fresno
Jose Ramirez vs Jose Pedraza