Joseph Parker could receive his chance at world title redemption faster than expected after an IBF heavyweight eliminator has collapsed in the Kiwi boxer’s favour.
Michael Hunter was set to fight Croatia’s Filip Hrgovic to find the next mandatory challenger for Anthony Joshua’s IBF title, but the American has since withdrawn without explanation.
Hunter’s withdrawal has seen him plummet to 11th in the IBF’s updated heavyweight ranks, leaving the No.1 spot vacant and Parker up at No.5 following his controversial win over Derek Chisora.
Parker’s rise is key with the next highest-ranked available fighter set to be offered Hunter’s place in the bout with Hrgovic.
Of the boxers above Parker in the IBF’s ranks, Charles Martin has already passed on the opportunity to fight Hrgovic and Oleksandr Usyk is already preparing to fight Joshua as the mandatory challenger for the WBO belt.
Parker said after his fight with Chisora he’d happily take a rematch with the Brit, but with this new bout potentially on the table, manager David Higgins may change course to a bout that could actually favour his fighter more.
Hrgovic, a 28-year-old who claimed bronze at the 2016 Rio Olympics in the super-heavyweight division, holds a 12-0 record but has yet to fight any big names in the division.
His most notable wins are over Kevin Johnson and Eric Molina.
Regardless of if Parker takes the fight or it is offered to another fighter, the winner of the eliminator faces a long wait to actually get their title shot.
The IBF staged the most recent heavyweight title fight, with Joshua defending the belt against Kubret Pulev in December, meaning they fall to the back of the queue now of the four major sanctioning bodies.
In addition to that, Joshua is set to take on WBC champion Tyson Fury for an undisputed title fight, with a rematch clause likely to be part of the deal for that bout.