FORCED OUT : Two-time WSL champion John John Florence of Hawaii advances to Round 4 of the 2019 Margaret River Pro after winning Heat 3 of Round 3 at The Box on June 1, in Margaret River, Western Australia.
FORCED OUT : Two-time WSL champion John John Florence of Hawaii advances to Round 4 of the 2019 Margaret River Pro after winning Heat 3 of Round 3 at The Box on June 1, in Margaret River, Western Australia. Matt Dunbar/WSL via Getty Images

Champ exits world title race

INJURIES suck.

You could blame it on Rio after a crazy, unmakeable air attempt but now the champ is down and out, it's anyone's go in the top nine of the World Surf League.

The world title door has swung wide open.

Two-time world champion, Hawaii's John John Florence, is out of world title contention after rupturing his ACL and is recovering after successful surgery.

The big question is who will step up and take his place and become the new ratings leader and ultimately win the world title?

Florence had this year's world title sown up with two firsts and was well on the way as the most progressive and innovative surfer on tour.

But as he gives a thumbs up from the hospital bed with both legs wrapped up and heavily bandaged, trying to pick this year's world men's champion is a bit like picking a winner at the Melbourne Cup.

John was a sure bet, and on the way to be the quickest world champ ever but that's done and dusted now.

So, who's it going to be?

The Steve Bradbury factor is in full swing with as many as nine potential champions in contention.

The top three at this stage include California's Kolohe Andino, now the new leader in the wake of Florence's forced withdrawal.

The Californian has yet to win a CT, with two seconds so far, and a win at this week's Jeffreys Bay event would have him grab pole position.

Following hot on his heels is arguably the fastest, most radical on tour, Filipe Toledo, who is defending JBay champion and fresh from a win at the last event in Saquarema.

If Toledo successfully defends, he will soar to the lead and be hard to overtake.

Next in third is the South African sentimental favourite, Jordy Smith, whose best result was a runner-up to Toledo in Brazil.

Is this the turning point for Smith who would become only the third world champion after Martin Potter in 1989 and Shaun Tomson in 1977?

Next cab off the rank is Kanoa Igarashi who won his first CT at Bali.

The back five include Italo Ferreira, Kelly Slater, Gabriel Medina, who is notoriously a thoroughbred who chases down the contenders as he did last year with three wins in the second half, and then sadly Australia's Julian Wilson and Ryan Callinan, who will need a wet track to storm home to create an upset.

Don't forget there are two throwaways where each competitor can ditch two of their worst results from the 11 events.

We are at the halfway mark and event 6 at Jeffreys Bay will have a crucial bearing on the 2019 men's world title.



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