This Saturday’s fight between Filip Hrgovic and Daniel Dubois will now have the IBF interim heavyweight title at stake when they meet in Riyadh. The fight’s winner could be elevated to full IBF champion if the title is stripped from undisputed four-belt champion Oleksandr Usyk.

It would be an unpopular move for the International Boxing Federation to strip Usyk before his rematch with Tyson Fury, as it would take some of the interest away from that fight.

Usyk (22-0, 14 KOs) beat Fury by a 12 round split decision earlier this month on May 18th. The December 21st rematch will have more value for Fury’s fans if he can capture all four titles, as he needs those belts to build interest for an all-British clash against Anthony Joshua.

Eddie Hearn’s Strategic Maneuvering

Promoter Eddie Hearn wants the IBF title to be at stake so that his fighter, Anthony Joshua, can face the winner of Saturday night’s Hrgovic-Dubois. Hearn promotes Hrgovic, and he wanted the IBF title to be at stake for Saturday’s fight with Dubois, but that’s not happening.

Hearn feels it’s important that Joshua capture the IBF title before he faces the winner of the rematch between Fury and Usyk. It would be a bargaining chip for Joshua if he was the IBF champion when Hearn started negotiations with the winner of that fight.

It’s unclear how much weight the IBF would give Joshua when negotiating with the Fury vs. Usyk 2 winner. Holding the IBF title will be more important for Joshua if he faces Fury because he needs to hold a strap to get a better financial deal against him.

The IBF Title’s Significance for Joshua

Joshua will already be the A-side in negotiations with Usyk so that the IBF belt won’t make much difference. He doesn’t need it to get the better deal. Joshua is already rich, so I don’t see how it matters much. The IBF title would be adornment, something for Joshua to carry into the ring if he faces Usyk. It’s only important if Joshua is facing Fury because he needs it for negotiations.

Unfortunately for Hearn, the boxing public wouldn’t view Joshua as a world champion if he’s facing Usyk because he’s already been beaten twice. Even if Joshua captures the IBF title, fans will view him as a ‘paper champion’ going into a trilogy clash against Usyk.

Joshua would be a champion on paper only, but the world would see him as the guy who was twice schooled by Usyk and went into a mental meltdown after the second loss in 2022.

That was so awful to watch. Since then, Joshua has beaten four creampuffs that Hearn has matched him against to rebuild him artificially, but he’s still the same flawed fighter that Usyk beat twice.

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