IBF: Bernard Hopkins can unify titles before making his mandatory defense

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The IBF has declared that Bernard Hopkins can unify titles before being forced to make his mandatory defense.

Yesterday it was reported that the IBF was ordering Bernard Hopkins to face the winner of a fight between Nadjib Mohammedi and Anatoliy Dudchenko. Mercifully, it's been reported today that the IBF is going to allow Hopkins the chance to unify the light heavyweight titles before making his mandatory defense.

In an interview with RingTV.com, IBF president Darryl Peoples informs us that a unification takes precedence over a mandatory for the IBF.

"In the IBF, a unification takes precedence over the mandatory. Bernard's been ordered to commence negotiations. He is the champion. He can ask to unify the titles without requesting an exception."

"As soon as their fight is over, he'll be ordered to begin negotiations," said Peoples. "But he can ask to unify the titles and that would take precedence over his mandatory."

Dudchenko was also interviewed by RingTV.com, and is apparently under the impression that Hopkins won't be able to temporarily skip the mandatory. Hopefully, someone fills him in soon.

"He thinks I am not relevant and that the IBF will just let him fight an Adonis Stevenson unification. I tell you this…I only fight for the IBF. This is the true champions' title…when I finish business with Mohammedi, I will hold Hopkins to defend the title with me. I have no plans to step aside for any amount of money. I started boxing for legacy, not finance. When I am long gone, I want people to remember me for my battles, not my bank account."

It's very possible that Hopkins would have just skipped a fight with either Dudchenko or Mohammedi if the mandatory defense would have been forced. But he has also stated clearly that he wants to unify the light heavyweight division, so he obviously would want to retain the IBF belt. Therefore, this rule is a godsend, enabling Hopkins to pursue fights with Adonis Stevenson and Sergey Kovalev without fear of being stripped by the IBF for not facing guys who have zero business being in the ring with him. Kind of like his fight with Beibut Shumenov.

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