Luis Ortiz’s post-fight victory lap will end with a hard decision to make.
BoxingScene.com has confirmed that the International Boxing Federation (IBF) has sent out a letter to both Ortiz and Filip Hrgovic on Monday, giving both heavyweight contenders three days to accept an invitation to enter talks for a final title eliminator. It comes on the heels of Ortiz’s come-from-behind sixth-round stoppage of former IBF titlist Charles Martin in their semi-final eliminator this past Saturday at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Florida.
“Challenge accepted by Filip Hrgovic,” Nisse Sauerland, Hrgovic’s co-promoter exclaimed upon receipt of the correspondence from the IBF. “[Three] days and counting for Luis Ortiz to accept.”
Miami’s Ortiz (33-2, 28KOs; 2NC) entered Saturday’s Fox Sports Pay-Per-View headliner with the understanding that such a next step would be in the works. The Cuban southpaw agreed to a fight with Martin, with the winner to move within one fight of becoming the mandatory contender to the IBF heavyweight title held by unified WBA “Super”/IBF/WBO/IBO titlist Oleksandr Usyk (19-0, 13KOs).
Hrgovic (14-0, 12KOs)—a 2016 Olympic Bronze medalist for Croatia who also trains out of Miami—has spent much of 2021 watching numerous heavyweights in the IBF rankings bypass the opportunity to enter a title eliminator. The 6’6” contender believed to have such a fight in place when co-promoter Matchroom Boxing won a purse bid hearing to secure the rights to an ordered final elimination bout between Hrgovic and Michael Hunter II (20-1-2, 14KOs).
Those plans quickly fell apart when Hunter decided to move in a different direction.
Hrgovic has since fought twice. Both have come against unbeaten but untested competition, each ending in a third-round knockout. The most recent outcome came December 5, when Hrgovic tore through Emir Ahmatovic as part of a DAZN show from MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
The hoped-for-plans by the IBF would pit arguably the division’s two most avoided contenders. Hrgovic has endured his own struggles to land relevant opposition, even with two promoters working around the clock on his behalf.
Ortiz—who turns 43 in March—has experienced much of the same really throughout his twelve-year career. The longtime top contender remains defined by his pair of competitive knockout losses to then-WBC heavyweight titlist Deontay Wilder, primarily because most of the rest of the division tends to look away when his name is mentioned.
The win over Martin was arguably the most significant of Ortiz’s career. It is certainly the best name on his resume since a December 2015 stoppage win over then-top ten contender Bryant Jennings.
The opportunity is now in place for Ortiz to accept an invitation to sit down with the division’s other boogeyman, though one that comes with a countdown clock.
Refusal by either party to enter such talks will prompt the IBF to go down the list of its current top fifteen contenders in search of the highest ranked available—and willing—heavyweight.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox