Compared to boxing’s other sanctioning organizations, the IBF steadfastly follows its rules, is consistent about maintaining its schedule of mandatory title fights no matter how big of a star the titleholder is and regularly sanctions eliminators between its top-rated fighters to produce those mandatory title challengers.
I certainly have my issues with the IBF’s often head-scratching rankings and the constant recycling of defeated mandatory challengers, but at least the New Jersey-based body follows its rules and rarely uses interim titles. When it does, it is when it makes sense -- in the event of an injury to a titleholder. With that, here’s a look at the status of its world titles:
Heavyweight: Anthony Joshua (17-0, 17 KOs) is in an optional period, and the hope by most was that he would face former champion Wladimir Klitschko in a huge fight on Dec. 10. But with time running short to promote such a massive fight, Klitschko nursing a calf injury and the WBA still not yet committing to sanctioning the bout for its vacant title (a deal-breaker for Klitschko), Klitschko will sit out until spring while Joshua will fight on Dec. 10, quite possibly against British countryman David Price (21-3, 18 KOs), the onetime top prospect who turned out to have no chin. If it happens, expect an easy night at the office for AJ.
Cruiserweight: Unified titleholder Denis Lebedev (29-2, 22 KOs) will make his IBF mandatory defense against Russian countryman Murat Gassiev (23-0, 17 KOs) on Dec. 3 in Moscow. It’s a potentially explosive and exciting fight and also matches two of the best trainers in the world, Freddie Roach (Lebedev) and Abel Sanchez (Gassiev).
Light heavyweight: Three-belt unified titleholder Sergey Kovalev (30-0-1, 26 KOs) makes his mandatory defense against Andre Ward (30-0, 15 KOs) on Nov. 19 in Las Vegas on HBO PPV. Quite simply, this is perhaps the most significant fight of 2016, as it matches undefeated elite fighters whom everybody ranks among the pound-for-pound elite.
Super middleweight: James DeGale (23-1, 14 KOs) is scheduled to face WBC counterpart Badou Jack (20-1-2) on Jan. 14 in a title unification fight. They both retained their titles on the same card in April, and the hope was the fight would take place before the end of the year, but it was added to Showtime’s schedule for January.
Middleweight: Unified titleholder Gennady Golovkin (36-0, 33 KOs) is in an optional period with the organization and is trying to finalize a top-notch fight with his WBA mandatory challenger (and secondary titlist) Daniel Jacobs (32-1, 29 KOs) for early 2017 after they were unable to get it done in time to take place Dec. 10, as initially planned.
Junior middleweight: Jermall Charlo (24-0, 18 KOs) will make his mandatory defense against Julian “J Rock” Williams (22-0-1, 14 KOs) on Dec. 10 (Showtime) at the Galen Center in Los Angeles. This is one of the top fights that can be made in the weight class.
Welterweight: Kell Brook (36-1, 25 KOs) took a shot at Golovkin in a September middleweight title fight and got knocked out in the fifth round. He is recovering from orbital bone surgery and can ask for a 60-day medical exception for his mandatory defense against rising star Errol Spence Jr. (21-0, 18 KOs). However, most believe Brook will vacate and settle in at junior middleweight. That would leave Spence to face Jeff Horn (15-0-1, 10 KOs) for the vacant title following Horn’s ninth-round knockout of Rico Mueller in a title eliminator on Oct. 21.
Junior welterweight: On Dec. 10 in Los Angeles, on the same card as Charlo-Williams, Australia’s Lenny Zappavigna (35-2, 25 KOs) will face Russia’s Sergey Lipinets (10-0, 8 KOs) in an eliminator that will produce the mandatory challenger for Russian titleholder Eduard Troyanovsky (25-0, 22 KOs).
Lightweight: Robert Easter Jr. (18-0, 14 KOs) won the vacant belt by split decision in a terrific battle with Richard Commey on Sept. 9. Easter's mandatory defense will come against the winner of an eventual eliminator between Commey (24-1, 22 KOs) and Denis Shafikov (37-2-1, 0 KOs) and must take place by Jan. 8. Who wouldn’t want to see a rematch with Commey? Shafikov is tough as nails also. Either would make for a good fight.
Junior lightweight: Liam Walsh (21-0, 14 KOs) won a unanimous decision against Andrey Klimov on Oct. 8 to become the mandatory challenger for Jose Pedraza (22-0, 12 KOs).
Featherweight: Lee Selby (23-1, 8 KOs) will be notified on Nov. 9 that his mandatory defense against Jonathan Victor Barros (41-4-1, 22 KOs), a former titleholder, is due, but the sides already are negotiating.
Junior featherweight: Jonathan Guzman (22-0, 22 KOs) won the vacant title by 11th-round knockout of Shingo Wake on July 20. He is slated to fight Dec. 31 in Japan against Yukinori Oguni (18-1-1, 7 KOs). Luis Rosa Jr. (22-0, 10 KOs) will face Ryosuke Iwasa (22-2, 14 KOs) in a title eliminator to produce the next mandatory on Nov. 19 at the Foxwoods Resort in Mashantucket, Connecticut.
Bantamweight: A purse bid is scheduled for Thursday for the title eliminator between former flyweight and junior bantamweight titlist Omar Narvaez (46-2-2, 24 KOs) and Emmanuel Rodriguez (15-0, 10 KOs). The winner will become the mandatory challenger for titleholder Lee Haskins (34-3, 14 KOs).
Junior bantamweight: Jerwin Ancajas (25-1-1, 16 KOs) outpointed McJoe Arroyo to win the title on Sept. 3. Teiru Kinoshita (25-1-1, 8 KOs) and Arroyo (17-1, 8 KOs) are in negotiations for an eliminator to produce the next mandatory challenger.
Flyweight: Johnriel Casimero (23-3, 15 KOs) retained the belt by 10th-round knockout of Charlie Edwards on Sept. 10. Kevin Satchell (16-0, 3 KOs) and Komgrich Nantapech (22-3, 15 KOs) are negotiating the title eliminator.
Junior flyweight: Titleholder Akira Yaegashi (24-5, 12 KOs) is sidelined with a rotator cuff tear and unable to make his mandatory defense, so an interim title fight between the leading available contenders, Fahlan Sakkreerin Jr. (31-4-1, 16 KOs) and Milan Melindo (34-2, 12 KOs), is scheduled for Nov. 26 in the Philippines, Melindo’s home country. Yaegashi will have to face the winner upon his return.
Strawweight: Jose Argumedo (18-3-1, 10 KOs) will make his defense against mandatory challenger Jose Antonio Jimenez (17-5-1, 7 KOs) on Oct. 29 in Mexico.