Joshua vs. Hrgovic: A calculated gamble by Hearn

By kenwills - 12/26/2023 - Comments

Promoter Eddie Hearn says Anthony Joshua will fight Filip Hrgovic next for the IBF heavyweight title once the belt is vacated.

Hearn seems to have decided he wants the unbeaten #1 IBF-ranked Hrgovic (17-0, 14 KOs) after his first round knockout win over Mark De Mori last Saturday night in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

Bigger money fights are available for Joshua, such as a clash against Deontay Wilder, WBO interim champion Zhilei Zhang, or Jared Anderson, but Hearn wants the 31-year-old Hrgovic, who he promotes.

The Allure of the IBF Title

Hearn isn’t saying what his true reason for wanting Joshua to face his fighter Hrgovic, besides perhaps selfish reasons, but AJ needs the IBF title as a bargaining chip for negotiations with the winner of the rematch between Tyson Fury and Oleksandr Usyk.

Also, it makes it a bigger fight on paper and with the fans because it would be for the undisputed again. These fights sell with the fans, giving Joshua a chance to fight for the undisputed instead of for just three belts.

Hearn has got things worked out in his mind and is being calculated about how he moves AJ. This could backfire with Joshua losing to the 6’5″ Hrgovic, who can punch and has a mean rabbit that he throws quite often. He pulls that out of his hat on a regular.

If Joshua loses to Hrgovic, Hearn will look like a royal dunce in the eyes of fans, but that’s a risk he’s willing to take. Going in the direction of matching Joshua against Zhang or Jared Anderson would have an even greater risk for AJ to lose, and Hearn would look just as bad.

Path of Least Resistance?

Those guys are better talents than Hrgovic, so Hearn is choosing to move Joshua in the path of least resistance by aiming him towards Hrgovic because the only thing he has to worry about going against him is getting hit in the back of the head. Joshua beats Hrgovic with no problem as long as he doesn’t get clobbered with a rabbit shot.

Hearn will likely have a quality referee working the fight who will immediately warn Hrgovic and start taking points off immediately if he persists in throwing rabbit shots. It wouldn’t be surprising if he’s disqualified, giving Joshua an easy victory. That’s very possible.

Hearn has been moving Joshua carefully his entire career, and when he has taken risks, they’ve been calculated in a way that he always expected to win. Even when Joshua has lost, it’s been in fights that he was supposed to have won.

They weren’t risky fights on paper. However, Hearn didn’t consider Joshua to be mentally fragile, having poor stamina and a weak chin.

For example, Hearn matched Joshua against Wladimir Klitschko when the Ukrainian star was 39 years old and showing signs of being past it. Hearn kept Joshua away when Wladimir was younger and still fighting at a high level.

When Hearn did make that fight, it was a calculated one in which Joshua had the best chance of winning, and the fight was staged in the UK in London, which increased AJ’s chances of winning.

“Tonight’s performance, you can say he is in that conversation,” said Eddie Hearn to Boxing News about Anthony Joshua being one of the best in the world after beating Otto Wallin.

“I watched him on the pads in the training room. I’ve not seen him hit like that for years. I’m just so happy to see him smiling after his performance. It was great,” Hearn said.

Come on, what is Hearn talking about? Joshua has ALWAYS looked good hitting the pads, even before his knockout loss to Andy Ruiz Jr. and his two defeats against Oleksandr Usyk.

AJ always looks like a champ hitting the pads, but he falls apart when his opponents punch back and push a fast pace that forces him to expend energy.

Otto Wallin was so sorrowful that he couldn’t push a face pace or punch back because he had zero speed, power, or talent. Hearn perfectly picked him, and there was nothing calculated about this fight. It was a gimme from the word go.

Hearn’s masterplan: Calculated control and controlled risks

It’ll be Hrgovic vs. AJ for the world title. I’m so happy to see him smiling and performing so well,” said Hearn.

Joshua needs that IBF belt to get the pot of gold against the Fury vs. Usyk winner. If Joshua defeats Hrgovic to capture the IBF belt, Hearn will look like a genius in the eyes of fans, and he remind them how he planned everything out.

However, if AJ gets beaten, Hearn may stay silent about him being the one who came up with the grand scheme. Instead of taking ownership, Hearn could attribute it off night for AJ.

Execution and confidence

“He put in the work, and he reaped the rewards. Yeah, he went in there, and he executed the game plan. I was very confident that he would. I told him that if he went out and he did those things, that it would be a mismatch, and that’s what it was,” said AJ’s trainer, Ben Davison, to Boxing News, reacting to his win over Wallin.

Otto Wallin was someone that Joshua could whip even with poor execution, so it’s a bit rich that Davison is trying to take credit for AJ winning by executing the game plan that he designed for him.

This is the type of fighter that Joshua beats even at his worst, which is now. He hasn’t improved since turning professional, and he’s still the same fighter who lost to Andy Ruiz Jr. and Usyk.

AJ’s opposition has gotten a lot worse lately, with Hearn matching him against three confidence-builder level opponents, Wallin Robert Helenius and Jermaine Franklin.

“More than anything, there was talk about this being a potential upset,” said Davison. “A lot of people picked Wallin to beat Joshua. I think the people that picked should be slightly embarrassed.

“Professionalism. very professional. He takes it very seriously, and that has been a fantastic addition and inspiration to the other fighters in the gym to see the standard that it takes,’ said Davison.

People don’t have to be embarrassed that they picked Wallin to beat Joshua because they made obvious choices, given how AJ has gone downhill.

What they didn’t figure on was Wallin looked like he hadn’t trained, with his physique not toned and having a slight belly on him. This isn’t the fighter that gave Fury pure trouble in 2019. Wallin has aged.

Dreams of Redemption

“In boxing, I think every fight is fight by fight. It’s a pleasure to work with, but we’ll see,” said Davison on whether he’ll work with Joshua for his next fight.

“Yeah, that’s a potential one,” said Ben on whether he’d like to see Joshua fight Joseph Parker next. “Being a little selfish, I’d like to have the opportunity to put the Usyk fight right. I don’t know if that’s doable. I’d like to help him do.”

If Joshua listened to Davison and fought Usyk in a trilogy clash and lost, that would probably be the last fight that he trained him. It’s reasonable to assume Davison would be fired straight away.

“I’m really confident that I could help him put that right. I’m very confident,” said Davison when asked if he was confident that Joshua could avenge his two losses to Oleksandr Usyk,

YouTube video