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The IBF Allows Usyk To Hold Onto IBF Title

The IBF Allows Usyk To Hold Onto IBF Title featured image
Ukrainian undisputed heavyweight champion Oleksandr Usyk will presumably not be stripped of his IBF title after the sanctioning body confirmed the upcoming June 1st bout between Filip Hrgovic and Daniel Dubois to be for the IBF interim title instead of the IBF world title. (Photo by Fareed Kotb/Anadolu via Getty Images)

The International Boxing Federation (IBF) has reportedly ruled the upcoming June 1st bout between Filip Hrgovic and Daniel Dubois to be for Hrgovic’s interim title rather than the vacant IBF heavyweight title; indicating that Oleksandr Usyk will not be stripped unlike what had previously been expected based reports from earlier this year. This presumably means that Usyk’s petition to hold onto the IBF title has been successful, with him likely allowed to defend his title for his upcoming December 21st rematch against Tyson Fury.

While the news will likely be met with great jubilation by Oleksandr Usyk (22-0, 14 KO’s) and his team, the IBF’s decision simultaneously confirmed it does not operate on the basis of remaining consistent to their own rules. Unsurprisingly, the IBF neglected to form their own press release regarding this decision, with sportswriter Dan Rafael first breaking the news after apparently obtaining a letter from the IBF confirming the upcoming interim heavyweight title bout between Filip Hrgovic (17-0, 14 KO’s) and Daniel Dubois (20-2, 19 KO’s) to remain as such.

BREAKING: The IBF has issued a letter notifying all involved parties that it will officially sanction Hrgovic-Dubois for the interim heavyweight title on Saturday’s 5 vs. 5 card,Rafael Tweeted on May 31. “Usyk will remain undisputed — for now.

While the letter did not appear to directly mention that Usyk would be allowed to retain his title, the IBF’s announcement confirming the Hrgovic-Dubois fight to be for the IBF interim title―and not the world title―suggests this will be the case.

The IBF’s decision contradicts any perception of them being a consistent and reliable sanctioning body, driving back to Oleksandr Usyk’s own breach of the IBF’s rules which required him to face IBF interim champion Filip Hrgovic last year.

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IBF rule 5.D (sub-rule “b”) dictating the forfeiture of a champion’s title if the obligations to fight the mandatory challenger are not met.

IBF rule 5.D was presumably the basis for which Oleksandr Usyk was set to be stripped following his May 18th undisputed heavyweight bout given the IBF’s mandate for him to face Hrgovic had been given in November of 2022. Later in 2023, Usyk would receive an exception to negotiate with Tyson Fury (34-1-1, 24 KO’s) amidst the 60-day period he had been given to negotiate with Hrgovic, but talks for the heavyweight undisputed bout were derailed until the two finally stepped into the ring this year on May 18th.

Following the IBF’s mandate for a Usyk-Hrgovic match and the collapse of the Usyk-Fury negotiations in 2023, Oleksandr Usyk went on to fight Daniel Dubois (20-2, 19 KO’s) later that year in a supposedly mandated bout where the fighters’ World Boxing Association (WBA) “super” and “regular” titles respectively were to be unified. However, the WBA’s “unification fights” between “super” and “regular” belts are not mandated bouts―hence the absence of any reports indicating purse bid proceedings would happen while Usyk and Dubois were negotiating for their eventual August 2023 bout.

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WBA rule C (Championships), sub-rule 28 (Mandatory Contender Selection) confirming mandatory challengers are picked from a pool of ranked contenders.

As Dubois was recognized as a world champion through his WBA “regular” title, Usyk’s match with Dubois was not a mandatory match.

The WBA also establishes the difference between unification fights and mandatory fights in their rules, confirming that the match between Usyk and Dubois was neither.

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WBA rule 6 (Definitions) explaining their official definitions of what constitutes as a unified and world champion.

The WBA’s own rules help establish that the bout between Oleksandr Usyk and Daniel Dubois did not supersede the IBF’s mandate for Usyk to fight Hrgovic. In essence, the IBF’s inability to re-order a bout between Usyk and Hrgovic―after the collapse of negotiations between Fury and Usyk―all while allowing Usyk to fight Dubois is indicative of the sanctioning body’s ineptitude.

The significance of the undisputed heavyweight bout and the general rule of unification fights trumping any sanctioning body’s mandates allowed Oleksandr Usyk to defend his IBF title against Tyson Fury on May 18th, but with the expectation that Usyk would be stripped of his IBF title afterwards. This was supposedly due to a rematch clause that would prevent Usyk from facing Hrgovic in a long-overdue mandatory match.

However, the IBF seems to have opted not to strip Usyk after all; directly contradicting their decision to strip Terence Crawford (40-0, 31 KO’s) last year over a rematch clause that saw him obligated to fight Errol Spence Jr (28-1, 22 KO’s) rather than then-incumbent IBF interim welterweight champion Jaron Ennis (31-0, 28 KO’s). Notably, it took IBF roughly around 3 months to strip Crawford of his IBF title after he indicated he was bound to a rematch with Spence.

The inconsistency in how the IBF applies and enforces its own rules firmly signifies the sanctioning body is either corrupt or inept; making any decision they make in the future less inclined to be taken seriously. This is exemplified by their lack of consistency when it comes to Usyk; first ordering him to face Hrgovic, only to subsequently neglect to re-order the bout upon the collapse of the initial Fury-Usyk negotiations―resulting in Usyk fighting Dubois in a fight that was not actually mandated by the WBA.

The IBF only made matters worse after dictating that Usyk would be stripped of his IBF title over a rematch clause after facing Fury―only to end up reversing that decision. The glaring comparison between this reversal and their choice to strip Crawford only reinforces the notion that the sanctioning body is unfit to be sanctioning bouts at this point in time; proving to be unable to remain consistent throughout 2023 and 2024.

Combined with the IBF’s lack of overall transparency, this situation showcases how detrimental sanctioning bodies can be to the sport of boxing when left completely unchecked and unregulated.