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 artist promising to leave it all in the ring with the stakes so high.
“I’ve been waiting for this opportunity for more than 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 so that means he’s a good boxer, but he is too slow on his feet, and I believe I have better the 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 is going to 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 very happy that this fight is going to happen,” said Zhang. “I’ve been waiting on an opportunity – now it’s here and I’m not going to let 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 for 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 is going to light up the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, where fans can witness the next Heavyweight Champion of the World in action.”
“I love the Heavyweight dust-up between Filip Hrgovic and Zhilei Zhang,” said Eddie Hearn. It’s been a long-time coming for someone to step up to the plate and fight Filip, credit to Zhilei and his team for taking on the challenge. Both men carry huge power, and they know that victory takes them one step closer to sport’s ultimate prize – Heavyweight champion of the World. There won’t be a backwards step taken when they rumble, it’s going to be fireworks on an already electric night.”
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 blockbuster main 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.