Filip Hrgovic says his heavyweight rivals are swerving him and he is awaiting an opportunity to showcase his world title credentials against some of the biggest names in the division.
The Croatian returns to the ring for the first time since December 2021 on the undercard of Anthony Joshua’s rematch with Oleksandr Usyk on Saturday August 20 when he faces China’s Zhilei Zhang in a final eliminator for the IBF crown.
It is a fight that had been due to take place on the Canelo Alvarez-Dmitry Bivol card in May before being pushed back in light of Hrgovic’s father passing away.
Prior to then, there had been well-documented issues when it came to finding an opponent willing to face the 30-year-old. That being despite the prospect of a shot at Usyk’s IBF belt.
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« Definitely [people avoid me], » Hrgovic told Sky Sports. « A lot of people didn’t want to fight me. I had a big opportunity to become IBF mandatory challenger so a lot of people reject the fight and one of the reasons is that I am dangerous and everyone knows they’re going to have a hard time fighting me.
« Another reason maybe is I don’t put so much money on the table like some other guys from Great Britain or USA.
« But I’ll make my way to the top, hopefully I become mandatory and nobody in the future could avoid me anymore. I just wait for my opportunity for the big names and big fights to show I’m the best. »
Hrgovic, who is No 3 in the IBF rankings, has been biding his time and building an unbeaten record of 14-0 (12 KOs) in view of a place among the elite.
The Olympic bronze medallist can appreciate why high-profile fights may have not yet landed at his doorstep, but insists he just needs one chance to demonstrate why he warrants more recognition.
« When I become mandatory I think it will be easier for my opponents to match me because everyone who beats me, if they beat me, they know they’re becoming mandatory, » he said.
« I think this fight, if I win, will change a lot of things and it will be easier for me. I come from a small country, without big TV and a big market, so I know it is harder for me than guys from Great Britain or USA. »
He is ambitious and self-assured, but realistic about the position he finds himself in, acknowledging there are fights to be made among the chasing pack amid his pursuit of the division’s front-runners.
Beyond August 20 in Saudi Arabia, he is very much open for business.
« I want to fight all the best fighters of this era, » he added. « I want to fight everyone, starting with guys like (Martin) Bakole or (Joe) Joyce, or Frank Sanchez, and then Joshua, Wilder, Usyk. I want to fight them all, of course.
« I really like all the hard fights, I hope they will happen in the next five years.
« The best years of my career are in front of me. This was just warming up. I hope all these big fights will happen. »
Bakole boosted his own stock in May when he defeated Olympic champion Tony Yoka, who had long-been linked with a fight against Hrgovic which never materialised due to contractual agreements to face the former.
The upcoming clash between Joseph Parker and Joe Joyce, meanwhile, presents another avenue of interest for Hrgovic.
« Of course, that’s a great fight and facing the winner will be great, » he said. « I think all of us prospects, you have a few who are considered the best like Fury, Usyk, Joshua, but all the rest of us we need to fight each other to get the best to get the chance to fight for a world title.
« There are a lot of prospects and good fighters, we need to fight each other. A lot of people look to avoid hard fights and get a big pay-day and that’s it. I would like to fight all these good guys. »
The focus for now remains on a dangerous Zhang, the 39-year-old seeking to extend his own unbeaten record of 24-0-1 having produced a first-round knockout of Scott Alexander in May.
« I think he’s a really good opponent, I take him really seriously, » said Hrgovic. « He has big amateur career, he’s undefeated in professionals, he’s southpaw, he’s big, he has fast hands, but I think I’m a different kind of animal, you know?
« It will be hard for him to deal with my aggression and my speed and footwork, but I think he’s a good fighter. »
As warm-up to Joshua-Uysk II, a title eliminator almost two years in the making offers Hrgovic a platform on which to make a statement.
« It’s a big stage, a big event, and can’t wait to get there and fight, » he said. « You need to have all segments, all the tools to compete with the best and I think I have enough power, I have good speed, good feet, good defence, good chin.
« I think I have a really good abilities to be the best one day. Good technique, good pace, I throw a lot of punches for a big man.
« I think I have all the abilities and I hope I’ll show that in the future. »
Anthony Joshua’s huge heavyweight rematch against Oleksandr Usyk is on Saturday August 20, live on Sky Sports Box Office. Book Usyk vs Joshua 2 now