Tony Yoka accepts Filip Hrgovic challenge for IBF heavyweight title eliminator
Tony Yoka has accepted an invitation by the IBF to face Filip Hrgovic in a world title elimination bout, Team Sauerland, which promotes Hrgovic, announced Thursday afternoon.
The winner of the fight will become the mandatory challenger for titleholder Oleksandr Usyk.
Yoka and Hrgovic would be a compelling fight between two young unbeaten heavyweights. Both have fought and defeated modest opposition since turning pro in 2017.
Both are familiar with one another as they squared off in the Olympic super heavyweight semi-finals in Rio de Janeiro in 2016, with Yoka winning a close split-decision. Yoka would defeat Joe Joyce in the gold medal match in another close fight that many thought Joyce did enough to win.
Yoka (11-0, 9 knockouts) took the fight after Joseph Parker and Luis Ortiz passed on the opportunity offered by the IBF to face Hrgovic. Parker declined because of a possible fight he had lined up later this year and Ortiz just fought on January 1, overcoming a knockdown to defeat Charles Martin by knockout.
The 29-year-old Yoka was scheduled to fight Martin Bakole tomorrow night in his hometown of Paris, France, but a recent surge of COVID-19 cases from the Omicron variant prompted strict crowd limitations that led to the eventual cancelation of the card.
Yoka last fought on September 10, stopping Peter Silas in the fifth round of a clash between unbeaten heavyweights. He also has wins over Alexander Dimitrenko, Michael Wallisch, Johann Duhaupas, and Christian Hammer.
Hrgovic (14-0, 12 KOs), who resides in Zagreb, Croatia, dropped previously-unbeaten Emir Ahmatovic three times before ending matters in round three on December 4. That win took place less than three months after Hrgovic stopped Marko Randonjic, who was also unbeaten.
The 29-year-old has stopped his last seven opponents, including knockout wins over Rydell Booker and Eric Molina.
Eddie Hearn, who co-promotes Hrgovic, also announced Thursday that he has reached out to Top Rank, which co-promotes Yoka, to begin preliminary discussions on the fight.
Francisco A. Salazar has written for The Ring since October 2013 and has covered boxing in Southern California and abroad since 2000. Francisco also covers boxing for the Ventura County (California) Star newspaper. He can be reached by email at [email protected] or on Twitter at FSalazarBoxing