Widely considered one of the heavyweight division’s most avoided fighters, Michael Hunter finally has the chance to prove he belongs at the top table after the IBF ordered a bout between the American dangerman and Croatian contender Filip Hrgovic to decide its next mandatory challenger.

Previous IBF mandatory Kubrat Pulev was swept aside by Anthony Joshua last December and the winner of Hunter-Hrgovic will take their place in the world title queue after the dust has settled between unified champion ‘AJ’ and WBC king Tyson Fury in their projected two-bout series in 2021.

Hunter (19-1-1, 13 KOs) lost a WBO cruiserweight title bid on points against Oleksandr Usyk in April 2017, but has since established himself as a legitimate threat at heavyweight. The Las Vegas-based Hunter seemed unfortunate to draw with Alexander Povetkin in Saudi Arabia in December 2019 and has trumped fringe contenders Sergey Kuzmin, Martin Bakole and Alexander Ustinov in impressive fashion.

He faces his biggest heavyweight challenge yet in hulking Croatian Hrgovic (12-0, 10 KOs) who won a bronze medal at the Rio Olympic Games in 2016 and has been tipped to be one of the next wave of heavyweight stars after an impressive start to his pro career.

The IBF has given a limited timeframe for negotiation with Hunter-Hrgovic set to head to purse bids if agreement cannot be reached by this Friday (February 26).

Former title-holder Charles Martin had been in line to face Hunter for the IBF mandatory position but declared himself injured. Upon hearing the news, Hunter tweeted: “[The] IBF ordered me vs Charles Martin [in an] eliminator and he pulled out. That leaves me vs Hrgovic. Been waiting for this.”