Unified light heavyweight titleholder Bernard Hopkins was ordered on Tuesday to make a mandatory defense against the winner of the elimination bout between Anatoliy Dudchenko and Nadjib Mohammedi, who meet June 21 at the Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs in Wilkes-Barre, Pa.
The 49-year-old Hopkins (55-6-2, 32 KOs), the oldest titleholder in boxing history, set another age-related record when he became the oldest fighter to unify world titles when he easily outpointed Beibut Shumenov on April 19 in Washington, D.C.
Hopkins hopes to instead unify belts with lineal champion Adonis Stevenson in the fall, provided Stevenson wins a May 24 defense against Andrzej Fonfara.
The IBF, which sanctions one of the belts Hopkins holds, typically allows unification fights to take precedence over a mandatory defense as long as the request is made in accordance with its rules.
But Dudchenko's manager, Vince Caruso, plans to make it as difficult as possible for Hopkins to gain the exception.
"Currently, Bernard Hopkins is under the delusion that he can just make his own rules, bypass his mandatory and go straight to a bout with Adonis Stevenson," Caruso said. "Anatoliy and Naj Mohammedi have earned the right to face each other in an elimination bout and the winner be rewarded with a title shot. We expect Mr. Hopkins, as a world champion, will comply with the IBF's rules."
In the letter the IBF sent to Hopkins ordering the mandatory defense, the organization congratulated him on his victory against Shumenov and added, "Your mandatory defense will be due on or before July 26, 2014. Normally the IBF would notify you approximately 60 days prior to your due date as to whom the mandatory challenger is and you will be required to negotiate the mandatory at that time.
"However, due to circumstances beyond our control, the eliminator for the mandatory challenger cannot be completed until June 21, 2014. As soon as that fight is over, you will be notified to start negotiations with the winner. In the event you are unable to negotiate the mandatory, the IBF will call for purse offers to determine who will promote the fight, when and where."
Dudchenko-Mohammedi headlines a "Fight Night" card on NBC Sports Net.
"This is a great opportunity for both fighters to showcase their skills in the very hot light heavyweight division," said Jolene Mizzone, matchmaker for promoter Main Events. "What makes this fight even more exciting is that the winner is going to be the mandatory challenger and will face champion Bernard Hopkins."
That is, of course, if Hopkins is not granted an exception. He also could vacate the belt and would still have another. Dudchenko (19-2-0, 13 KOs), 35, of Ukraine, and now living in Los Angeles, has won 16 fights in a row since 2008. This will be his first fight since signing with Main Events.
"I started fighting to become a world champion," he said. "Every fight is a step closer to my dream. I've waited for this opportunity my entire career."
Mohammedi (34-3-0, 20 KOs), 29, of France, will be fighting in the Unites States for the first time. He has won 10 consecutive fights since a loss in 2011.
"Nadjib is happy and proud to fight in the United States for the first time," manager Christel Aujoux said.