New York, NY, USA (October 10, 2023) - The IBF's recent update to its heavyweight rankings has placed Filip Hrgovic at the number one spot, Otto Wallin at number two, and Anthony Joshua at number three. While there had been talk of Joshua potentially facing Hrgovic for the IBF title if it becomes vacant, it appears that Wallin (26-1, 14 KOs) will be the one challenging for the belt. Eddie Hearn has expressed interest in a Joshua vs. Hrgovic matchup, but it seems he's prioritizing the Fury fight for Joshua and wants to avoid any potential risks to that mega-fight.
Hearn is taking precautions to keep Joshua away from fighters like Hrgovic (16-0, 13 KOs) and especially Deontay Wilder, who possess significant punching power. Joshua's vulnerability to punches at this stage of his career could jeopardize his chances of a lucrative showdown with Fury, expected to be worth over $100 million, in Saudi Arabia. Until the Fury fight materializes, Hearn will likely continue matching Joshua against less powerful opponents in the heavyweight division to ensure his safety.
The winner of the upcoming Oleksandr Usyk vs. Tyson Fury bout will be obligated to defend the IBF title against mandatory challenger Hrgovic. However, both Fury and Usyk have a two-way rematch clause, giving them the option to trigger a second fight. In either scenario, the IBF title is likely to be vacated or stripped from the winner.
Elevating Wallin to the number two spot in the rankings makes sense, as he appears more willing to accept a fight with Hrgovic than Joshua, who seems to be on a path toward a mega-fight with Tyson Fury.
In recent fights, Hrgovic has displayed signs of stamina and chin problems, particularly in his controversial win over Zhilei Zhang last year. Zhang had dominated Hrgovic throughout the fight, dropping him and winning decisively in the first eight rounds. However, the judges awarded Hrgovic the victory. Surprisingly, there was no effort to arrange a rematch with Zhang.
Wallin notably gave Tyson Fury one of his toughest fights in 2019, causing damage to Fury's right eye with powerful left hands. This performance highlighted Wallin's boxing skills and potential to challenge for a world title.