Croatia’s Filip Hrgovic may be the top rising name in the heavyweight division today, as the 2016 Olympic bronze medalist (he lost a controversial semifinal bout to Tony Yoka of France) is starting to make some noise and catch a few eyes.
The 28-year-old Hrgovic has run his record to 10-0 (8 KO) and has already trounced some veteran names like Amir Mansour, Kevin Johnson, and Eric Molina, the most recent being Molina last December on the Ruiz-Joshua II undercard in Saudi Arabia.
Recently, co-promoter Nisse Sauerland said that they’re looking to plot a course toward a mandatory title shot for Hrgovic, as they’re trying to get ahead of things and believe that top names will look to avoid fighting him for as long as possible, unless they’re forced into it.
“I think at this stage of my career, these big names avoid me because I’m not popular at this moment, and they cannot gain a lot from that victory, but at the same time, I’m very dangerous. I think that’s the problem, in my opinion. I’m looking forward to fighting more big names in future, and that will be the way I come to mandatory position one day.”
It might seem early to start saying Hrgovic is being “ducked” or whatever, and it is, in a sense, but this is also boxing. Sauerland has been around the game a long time, he knows how the politics of the sport work. Hrgovic being a Croatian fighter doesn’t give him a natural, huge fan base to kickstart popularity, and popularity matters more than qualifications a lot of the time. If you’re dangerous and not a name, the top guys more often than not will stay away.
In that sense, I’d say Sauerland is doing the smart thing. Get ahead of it all, get ahead of the point where Hrgovic is truly qualified as a contender but the big stars won’t want anything to do with him. Quietly maneuver in and force a shot.