By William Lloyd: Eddie Hearn is still steaming at Michael Hunter for not accepting the fight against Matchroom Boxing heavyweight Filip Hrgovic for an IBF title eliminator.
Hearn doesn’t understand why Hunter (19-1-1, 13 KOs) would choose to fight former cruiserweight Mike Wilson in a WBA title eliminator rather than facing the arguably more dangerous 2016 Olympic bronze medalist Hrgovic for the IBF title elimintor.
The answer is obvious, but Hearn is still peeved about Hunter walking away from the clash against Hrgovic. What the International Boxing Federation will do now is work down their top 15 list to find the next available heavyweight that will agree to fight Hrgovic.
Hearn says Joseph Parker, Dempsey McKean, Zhang Zhilei, and Martin Bakole are options for Hrgovic to fight. However, Bakole previously turned down a fight against Hrgovic in the past, which would make it unlikely he’ll agree this time.
If it’s McKean that gets the fight with Hrgovic, the IBF might as well given him the mandatory position before the match because it’s obvious which of the two will win.
Hearn angry about Hunter not accepting the fight
“I think it’s a f*** joke, to be honest with you,” said Hearn to iFL TV about Michael Hunter choosing to not face Hrgovic in an IBF title eliminator.
“You’ve got Hrgovic out training in Miami, ready to fight, a consummate professional. You’ve got Michael Hunter, who we’ve been negotiating with for six weeks about this fight.
“Then we can’t reach a deal, and he’s posting nonstop. ‘The Bounty Hunter.’ Bear in mind, this fight is to be the mandatory for the IBF world title.
“You’re going to fight either AJ or Tyson Fury or you’re going to fight for the vacant world title if you win that [IBF title elimintor] fight.
“So we went to purse bids, and no one even turned up for the purse bids apart from me. I didn’t put a low offer in, which I could have done.
“I put a nice big offer in. Hrgovic, over the moon. Hunter, not just happy, goes on social media, posts posters about the fight. ‘Yeah, I’m going to become mandatory.
“And yeah, the Bounty Hunter. Yeah, no one can beat me.’ Then he goes completely quiet, doesn’t answer any emails, and then goes and fights Mike Wilson. I think he was in ‘The Beach Boys.’
“I’ve had Mike Wilson in Monaco and fought Gassiev [Editors’ note: Wilson fought Denis Lebedev in Monaco, not Gassiev in November 2018] for the world title. [Editor’s note: No world title was on the line for Lebedev vs. Mike Wilson].
“I mean, he wasn’t even a big cruiserweight. What is Michael Hunter doing? I feel sorry for Hrgovic. Now we’re going down the list with the IBF, but what a time-waster,” said Hearn.
It’s an easier fight for Hunter to take on Mike Wilson than the huge 6’6″ Hrgovic. Hunter is essentially a pumped-up cruiserweight rather than a legitimate heavyweight, so he’s better off not fighting Hrgovic.
When Hunter was with Matchroom, he wasn’t given too many interesting fights after defeating Bakole and Sergey Kuzmin. He was put in with Alexander Povetkin in 2019 and fought him to a 12 round draw.
After that fight, Matchroom didn’t renew Hunter’s contract, which was strange. Povetkin then turned around and knocked out Matchroom fighter Dillian Whyte.
Martin Bakole is a remote possibility
“He’s [Martin Bakole] #15, so it has to go all the way down the [IBF] list to get to Bakole,” Hearn said about Bakole being a remote possibility for Hrgovic.
“But I’ll tell you something right now; there are not many people that want to fight Hrgovic, and a lot of them are not available. [Alexander] Usyk is there, and you got [Agit] Kabayel who has got a fight there.
“You’ve got other fighters that are quite frankly. And you’ve got Dempsey McKean. You’ve got [Zhang] Zhilei. I think he’s #14. You’ve got [Joseph] Parker, Parker might fight him.
“He’s got the Chisora rematch. So it could go to Bakole, but it has to go through everybody else first. But the most annoying thing about the situation is the time wasted.
“If he [Hunter] was never going to fight Hrgovic, why didn’t he say, ‘I’m going to move on? I’m going to go and fight Mike Wilson.’
“But the whole idea is to win a world title and become mandatory. By the way, that’s a 50-50 fight against Hrgovic [for Hunter].
“Hrgovic is a favorite due to his size. So I don’t know. He obviously didn’t back himself, and I like Michael Hunter. I think it was a bit s*** really,” Hearn said.
Bakole (16-1, 12 KOs) has won his last five fights since losing to Hunter by a tenth-round knockout in 2018.
It’s unlikely that the IBF will get as far as the #15 spot where Bakole is before one of the higher-ranked contenders like Parker, Zhang, or McKean agree to take the fight with Hrgovic.
It’s not an easy task beating Hrgovic, but if those guys get lucky and land something big, they could knock him out and grab the IBF mandatory spot.
What’s unsettling is Hearn saying that the winner of the Anthony Joshua vs. Tyson Fury fights could vacate the IBF title without fighting the mandatory.
That means that whoever faces Hrgovic still might not get the match against Joshua or Fury to make life-changing money. It’s good to fight for a world title, but not if it’s vacant against a non-popular contender.
Other possibilities: Parker, Zhang, and McKean
“It could be Parker [that fights Hrgovic]. Usyk is there, but he’s obviously fighting [Joe] Joyce. It could be Zhang, it could be McKean, it could be Bakole.
“They’re [IBF] going to go down [the list]. Kabayel has a fight scheduled. Kabayel, what’s happened to him?
“He’s fighting [41-year-old journeyman] Kevin Johnson. That was just announced yesterday [for June 5th,” said Hearn.
Parker or McKean will likely agree to fight Hrgovic for the chance to grab the IBF mandatory spot. Parker was supposed to be fighting Derek Chisora in a rematch, but he might prefer to battle Hrgovic for the mandatory position.