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Oleksandr Usyk Files Exception With IBF To Retain Title, Hrgovic Expected To Be Promoted To Full Champion

Oleksandr Usyk Files Exception With IBF To Retain Title featured image
Ukraine's Oleksandr Usyk arrives for a heavyweight boxing world championship fight against Britain's Tyson Fury at Kingdom Arena in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on May 19, 2024. Oleksandr Usyk beat Tyson Fury by split decision to win the world's first undisputed heavyweight championship in 25 years on May 19, 2024, an unprecedented feat in boxing's four-belt era. (Photo by Fayez NURELDINE / AFP) (Photo by FAYEZ NURELDINE/AFP via Getty Images)

A petition from Ukrainian undisputed heavyweight champion Oleksandr Usyk to retain his IBF title has arrived on the International Boxing Federation’s (IBF) doorstep, placing the sanctioning body on the precipice of one of the most important decisions of the year as IBF interim champion, Filip Hrgovic, remains in the position to be promoted to full champion after being denied an opportunity to face Usyk for two years.

According to The Ring’s Jake Donovan, Oleksandr Usyk (22-0, 14 KO’s) petition was launched the week after his May 18th victory over Tyson Fury (34-1-1, 24 KO’s) which saw him gain Fury’s WBC heavyweight title to unify with the rest of his world titles; including the IBF.

However, despite his historic achievement, Usyk has still not managed to meet his obligations to meet Filip Hrgovic (17-0, 14 KO’s) in the ring. Hrgovic was made the IBF mandatory challenger in November of 2022 but the Ukrainian champion never managed to arrange a match with Hrgovic; opting to face Daniel Dubois (20-2, 19 KO’s) rather than Hrgovic to consolidate his WBA “super” title with Dubois’ “regular” belt. Hrgovic also currently holds the IBF interim title, likely for the purpose of promoting him to full champion in the scenario the holder of the IBF belt would be unable to fulfill the IBF’s mandate.

Earlier that same year, Oleksandr Usyk had already received an exception from the IBF to face Tyson Fury in an undisputed bout rather than mandatory challenger Hrgovic; though negotiations between Fury and Usyk eventually broke down, leading to Usyk to make the choice to fight Dubois in August of 2023.

Fury and Usyk eventually did step into the ring a year later on May 18th, 2024, but that match itself had been threatened by the IBF who sought to strip Usyk; a decision that was avoided under the condition that Usyk would need to vacate his title after May 18th due to a rematch clause in his bout contract with Fury―which would prevent him facing Hrgovic.

Despite Oleksandr Usyk having not managed to fulfill his obligations as the holder of the IBF belt, his petition suggests a lack of awareness or indifference as to the process of mandates; a position Usyk has put himself in by facing Dubois while he had the opportunity to fight Hrgovic.

The IBF also bears responsibility in this case, having had enough time to strip Usyk when he had proved unable to face his mandatory challenger within a year after Hrgovic was designated as the mandatory. As the IBF’s rules state, champions have a limited time window of one year to defend their titles against mandatory challengers.

Oleksandr Usyk Files Exception With IBF To Retain Title image 1
IBF’s rule 5.A pertaining to mandatory obligations within the heavyweight division.

While unification fights can trump over these mandates when needed, usually resulting in exemptions, Oleksandr Usyk essentially forfeited his title by stepping into the ring with Daniel Dubois and continues to remain eligible to be stripped according to the IBF’s rules.

In the likelihood of such a scenario, Filip Hrgovic would then be promoted from IBF interim to full champion; though the IBF still appears undecided on this issue―with there being no indication they will make a decision anytime soon despite Hrgovic being set to face Dubois upcoming Saturday on June 1st in a defense of his interim title. Potentially, the winner of Hrgovic-Dubois could also become promoted to IBF champion shortly afterwards.