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Filip Hrgovic: The Bogeyman of the Heavyweight Division

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  • Filip Hrgovic: The Bogeyman of the Heavyweight Division

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    By Arne K. Lang

    In theory, a victory over Filip Hrgovic would translate into a lucrative date with IBF/WBA/WBC world heavyweight champion Oleksandr Usyk. The IBF has decreed that Hrgovic’s next fight will be a “final eliminator” with the winner becoming Usyk’s mandatory opponent. But finding a dance partner for Hrgovic has proven to be quite a challenge.

    Perhaps we should have italicized “In theory” as a way of noting that in the chaotic world of professional boxing, an organization’s decree is often brushed aside as it were nothing more than lint on a black tuxedo. Speculation about Usyk’s next opponent centers around Anthony Joshua and Tyson Fury. Joshua has the contractual right to a rematch but Fury’s people are purportedly willing to pay him a handsome step-aside fee to allow Fury to go first. Filip Hrgovic, eliminator or no eliminator, wouldn’t be at the head of the queue.

    The original IBF eliminator pitted Hrgovic against Michael Hunter. Matchroom won the purse bid. After indicating that this was a fight that he adamantly wanted, Hunter had second thoughts and refused to sign the contract. Feeling that Matchroom low-balled him (reportedly, his share of the purse would have paid him $404,444), Hunter opted instead for a multi-fight deal with Triller which threw him against softie Mike “White Delight” Wilson and presumptive softie Jerry Forrest against whom he escaped with a draw.

    The 43-year-old Cuban ex-patriot Luis “King Kong” Ortiz would subsequently get the assignment that Michael Hunter spurned, earning this bestowment with his sixth-round stoppage of Charles Martin on New Year’s Day. But that attractive pairing went by the wayside when Ortiz was diagnosed (or so he said) with a fractured left hand.

    Ortiz’s unavailability opened the door to an eliminator between Hrgovic and former title-holder Joseph Parker who amped up his game in his Dec. 18 rematch with Dereck Chisora. But Parker also backed off, saying he had elbow trouble.

    Next in line? Perhaps Hrgovic’s former amateur rival Tony Yoka whose match with Martin Bakole in Paris, scheduled for next weekend, has been postponed indefinitely because of the Covid resurgence. Regardless, Hrgovic has supplanted Dillian Whyte as the most-avoided heavyweight on the planet. (Hey, here’s an idea. Why not match Hrgovic against Whyte? No, that just makes too much sense.)

    Filip Hrgovic

    Filip Hrgovic was well-seasoned when he turned pro in 2017 at age twenty-five. He compiled a 25-4 mark in the semi-pro World Series of Boxing en route to winning a bronze medal at the Rio Olympics.

    He was this publication’s 2018 Prospect of the Year, an award he sewed up with a third-round stoppage of veteran U.S. tough guy Amir Mansour. Hrgovic’s performance, said Matt McGrain, was flawless: “He cracked an elite jaw and solved a singular puzzle with no more effort than if he had been sparring a straight-backed amateur. Hrgovic has won eight straight since that fight, the last seven inside the distance, elevating his record to 14-0 (12).

    Amir Mansour wasn’t Hrgovic’s original opponent, nor was Hrgovic’s most recent foe, Germany’s grossly overmatched Emir Ahmatovic, a last-minute sub for California journeyman Scotty Alexander who got cold feet.

    Prior to that fight, which was on the undercard of the Dec. 4 show at the MGM Grand headlined by the match between Devin Haney and Jojo Diaz, Hrgovic expressed his frustration with promoter Eddie Hearn who promised him a fight with a big-name opponent but wasn’t able to make it happen.

    And the beat goes on.

    Check out more boxing news on video at the Boxing Channel