UPDATE: Filip Hrgović has been forced to delay his IBF Heavyweight World Title Final Eliminator against Zhang Zhilei following the death of his father.
Having waited over a year for his opportunity to earn a shot at Oleksandr Usyk’s Heavyweight crown, the Croatian star was set to face Olympic Silver medallist Zhilei on the undercard of Canelo Alvarez’s blockbuster clash with Dmitry Bivol on May 7 at the T Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
“We could not in good conscience allow Filip to enter the ring during this tough time.” said Hrgović’s promoter Kalle Sauerland. “We would like to thank the IBF, Daryl Peoples, Zhang Zhilei and our partners Matchroom Boxing for their understanding and compassion in this matter. Pero Hrgović was a big part of the team and will be forever missed by us all. Filip will take some time out now to be with his family before resuming his training. We look forward to announcing a new date soon for this exciting Heavyweight clash to determine the next challenger for the IBF World Title and wish both Zhilei Zhang and Scott Alexander good luck in their fight tonight”.
The IBF World Heavyweight Title Final Eliminator between Filip Hrgović (14-0, 12 KOs) and Zhilei Zhang (23-0-1, 18 KOs) will take place on the Canelo Alvarez vs. Dmitry Bivol undercard on May 7 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
Hrgović has been hunting a dance partner for a showdown to name the mandatory challenger for the IBF World Title held by Oleksandr Usyk. The 29-year-old Olympic bronze medal man has cut a lethal swathe through the pro ranks to sit in a prime position for a deserved shot at the big prize, ending all but two of his fights inside the distance and not going past the fifth round in his last seven outings.
A host of Heavyweights were offered the clash with the dangerous Croatian, but not until it came to #13 ranked Zhang was a dance partner found, with the lofty Chinese star accepting the challenge. The 38-year-old has been circling for a major showdown, and ‘Big Bang’ gets his wish against Hrgović in Sin City with the two KO artists promising to leave it all in the ring with the stakes high.
“I’ve been waiting for this opportunity for more than a year,” said Hrgović. “Finally, I have an opponent willing to face me for the chance to fight for the IBF World Title. So many fighters turned down this challenge, so credit to Zhang for being brave enough to accept.
“I know he’s a good opponent. He won silver at the Olympics, which means he’s a good boxer, but he is too slow on his feet, and I believe I have better qualities. My speed, stamina, and footwork will be too much for him. I will break him down, and I will beat him.
“I’m now only one fight away from my dream of boxing for a World Title, and nothing will stop me. Canelo is the face of boxing, and I’m excited to get this opportunity on such a big show. I’m ready to show the whole world that ‘El Animal’ is coming!”
“I am thrilled that this fight will happen,” said Zhang. “I’ve been waiting on an opportunity – now it’s here, and I’m not letting it pass.
“When no one else from the top 15 wanted to face Hrgovic, I told myself that I had to do it for me and the sport of boxing. This is the most important fight of my whole career. I’m all in. Don’t miss it!”
“Finally, we’ve found an opponent willing to accept the challenge,” said promoter Kalle Sauerland. “Having gone through the IBF rankings twice, Zhang has stepped up to face Filip Hrgović in an IBF World Title final eliminator. We now have ‘El Animal’ versus ‘Big Bang’ for a shot at the biggest prize in boxing. This epic battle will light up the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, where fans can witness the next Heavyweight Champion of the World in action.”
Hrgović vs. Zhang is the latest addition to what promises to be a stacked card in Las Vegas, with Montana Love and Gabriel Valenzuela also set to square off in a mouth-watering Super-Lightweight battle in support of the main blockbuster event as pound-for-pound Mexican king Canelo looks to become a two-time World ruler at 175lbs against long-reigning WBA champion Bivol on Cinco De Mayo weekend.
Tickets will go on sale starting at $105 (plus fees) on the following dates and times (all times PT) at AXS.com.
- AXS, Fighter, DAZN, and Matchroom (codes) Pre-Sales: Tuesday, March 22, from 10:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.
Public On-Sale: Wednesday, March 23 at 10:00 a.m.