Filip Hrgovic vs. Zhilei Zhang in the works, IBF title eliminator possible
By Jeff Aronow: Promoter Nisse Sauerland is negotiating a fight he hopes will be an IBF heavyweight title eliminator between Filip ‘El Animal’ Hrgovic and Zhilei Zhang.
The 29-year-old Hrgovic (14-0, 12 KOs) and his promoters are frustrated at the slow progress in landing a world title shot after the 6’6″ Croatian captured a bronze medal in the 2016 Olympics.
One BIG problem that Sauerland and Hrgovic have is that there’s already an IBF heavyweight title eliminator scheduled for January 1st between former IBF champion Charles Martin (28-2-1, 25 KOs) and former two-time world title challenger Luis ‘King Kong’ Ortiz (32-2, 27 KOs) at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, in Hollywood, Florida.
Given that the ‘Prince Charles’ Martin vs. ‘King Kong’ Ortiz fight has ALREADY been set up for an IBF title eliminator, it would appear that Hrgovic’s fight with the two-time Chinese Olympian Zhang (23-0-1, 18 KOs) will need to be a secondary IBF title eliminator if approved by the International Boxing Federation.
In that case, the Hrgovic vs. Zhang contest winner might need to wait until possibly 2023 or 2024 before they get a title shot. The excellent news for Hrgovic is he’ll still be young in two years from now, as he’ll be 31 and presumably still in his prime.
“We’ve gone through the IBF list twice. We have offered everyone in the top 10, then the top 10, the fight,” said promoter Nisse Sauerland to Sky Sports on his efforts to get Hrgovic an opponent for an IBF heavyweight title eliminator.
“We are ready for ‘Big Bang’ Zhang, and he will meet a pent-up, angry Croatian warrior. If Zhang is ready and willing? We will do that. People are ducking Hrgovic and won’t fight him,” said Sauerland of Hrgovic.
Hrgovic turned pro in 2017, and he and his promoters at Sauerland believe he’s ready to compete in an IBF title eliminator.
It’s got to be a little frustrating for Hrgovic because he would like the speedy express trip to a world title shot that we saw with Anthony Joshua following his 2012 Olympic gold medal victory.
After turning professional in 2013, Joshua’s promoter Eddie Hearn got him a world title shot in his third year in the pro ranks against then IBF champion Charles Martin in 2016. Hrgovic hasn’t had the same luck getting a title shot, and you can argue that his lack of a vast fan base has hampered his efforts.
If Hrgovic were as popular as Joshua, he likely would have already gotten a chance to fight for a world title.
Unfortunately, Hrgovic has had problems getting an opponent willing to step up to face him. Michael Hunter had been mentioned as a possibility, but the fight has failed to materialize.
Last Saturday, Hrgovic stopped Emir Ahmatovic in the third round on the undercard of Devin Haney vs. Joseph ‘Jojo’ Diaz Jr. card at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. Hrgovic dropped Ahmatovic on three separate occasions before the contest was halted.
Seven-year professional Zhang is coming off a second round knockout win over Craig Lewis on November 27th at Madison Square Garden in New York on the undercard of the Teofimo Lopez vs. George Kambosos card on DAZN.
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