The Ongoing Saga Of Filip Hrgovic: The Most Avoided Heavyweight Contender In The World

By James Slater - 01/06/2022 - Comments

Back in July of last year, an article appeared on ESB which asked if Filip Hrgovic was the most avoided heavyweight contender on the scene. Back then, Eddie Hearn spoke about the frustration of trying to get a Top-15 ranked fighter to agree to face Hrgovic in a final eliminator. Yes, just one fighter. Hearn said how nobody – as in nobody – showed any interest. Fast-forward to today, and Hrgovic is in the exact same position: nobody in the IBF rankings wants to fight him.

So far, Luis Ortiz has turned down the offer to fight the 29-year-old Croatian in an IBF final eliminator; Ortiz saying he has an injured hand and would not be ready for April. Joseph Parker, the next contender in the IBF rankings, was then approached. He took a pass, with “no reason” given. Next in line is Tony Yoka – will Hrgovic and his team have better luck getting the unbeaten Frenchman to agree to fight him?

Speaking with Sky Sports, Kalle Sauerland, who represents Hrgovic, said “the rankings become a mockery” when fighters continually choose to avoid other top contenders. The case of Filip Hrgovic really is something else, however. Just what is it that seemingly all the top contenders that are offered the fight see that is so frightening? Is Hrgovic really that good? We know the tall, powerful Croatian has a superb amateur background and he has undeniable skills. Yet you would think all concerned would be able to find ONE top-ranked heavyweight willing to face him. So far, not so.

“We have gone through the rankings before,” Sauerland explained. “This isn’t about rejecting financial terms because fighters are rejecting us before we even discuss that. They are rejecting an opportunity to fight for the world title.”

Indeed, if one of the remaining IBF-ranked fighters does agree to fight Hrgovic and manages to defeat him, he is bang in line for a shot at the IBF title (currently the property of Oleksandr Usyk). But so far, no takers. Hrgovic must be BEYOND frustrated now. And so should the boxing fans who care about fairness be frustrated. What’s the matter with these so called hungry fighters who want nothing more than to become world champion?

“All we can do is lobby the IBF to continue through the rankings as soon as possible or make Filip a direct mandatory,” Sauerland said.

It might come to that. Hrgovic is so avoided, yet at the same time willing to fight the best, he may have to be made the mandatory challenger for the IBF belt without fighting; as much as Hrgovic wants to fight. Truly incredible.

Hrgovic, 14-0(12) simply has to be looked at as the most avoided heavyweight contender out there today; there is no debate any longer. Last summer, Hearn was exasperated at the way good fighters such as Ortiz, Andy Ruiz, Michael Hunter and others had not shown any interest in taking a fight with Hrgovic – and some six months on, nothing seems to have changed. At all.

“It’s probably the most frustrating thing going, because we’ve been going down the IBF [rankings], probably every day, trying to find someone willing to step in the ring with Filip Hrgovic,” Hearn said. “The latest one was Martin Bakole. Billy Nelson (trainer of Bakole) said we wouldn’t be ready for August but would be ready for September, we said okay, a bit disappointing but let’s go ahead, and now I’m being told he wants a warm-up fight.

“Someone in that top 15 has got a chance to fight Filip Hrgovic in a final eliminator for Anthony Joshua. And we have gone through – and I don’t want to shame everybody – we have gone through the whole rankings and we’ve yet to find one person who will do it. We need to make a fight for Filip Hrgovic, because he’s waited too long now. I think people look at Hrgovic and they think, ‘I don’t think I can beat Filip Hrgovic.’ You look at the names, Charles Martin, Andy Ruiz, Luis Ortiz, Tony Yoka, just so many fighters who, if they win, you are mandatory to AJ! But I guess that shows you how much of a problem Filip Hrgovic is for people.”

Hrgovic, keeping busy, has beaten two little-known fighters since Hearn made the above remarks and now here he is, unfairly seeing precious prime months, if not years, pass him by. It is amazing how nobody wants a piece of the Croatian. The way things are going, inactivity may well prove to be Hrgovic’s biggest threat, not any other fighting man (how many lower-level, journeymen type guys can Hrgovic find to fight, much less test him?). Again, is Hrgovic that good, that dangerous, that not one ranked contender is willing to face him? We never hear any of the fighters Hearn mentioned speaking Hrgovic’s name, that’s for certain. Hrgovic is a fighter who, we must fully assume, is cursed with being too good for his own good.