Filip Hrgovic remained unbeaten, but not without some controversy, as he came off the canvas to take a decision over Zhilei Zhang in their IBF heavyweight eliminator on the Usyk vs Joshua 2 undercard.
Official scores were 114-113, 115-112, and 115-112, all for Hrgovic. Bad Left Hook’s unofficial score was 115-112 for Zhang.
Hrgovic (15-0, 12 KO) was dropped in round one by Zhang (24-1-1, 19 KO), and while it wasn’t a huge knockdown, he definitely felt the power from the Chinese fighter several times in the bout, while Zhang seemed to take Hrgovic’s shots pretty well.
But make no mistake, both of these big guys were landing some thunderous blows throughout the fight, and even when it was clear that both men were pretty well gassed, they kept finding reserves of energy for spurts of big offense.
It was a grueling, hard-hitting fight, and one where both deserve real credit. Hrgovic is going to lose some of the hype for this, which is both fair and unfair; fair because most expected him to win without near as much trouble as this fight gave him, unfair because he put on a great effort and showed just how tough he is.
But did he look like the bogeyman of the division, someone everyone reasonably avoided? Not really, no. Zhang took it to him for a lot of the fight, and for two judges to only find four rounds for him seems, to me, pretty wild. But that’s what we got.
Hrgovic will now await the winner of tonight’s main event, though his status of IBF mandatory is no guarantee that he’ll get the next crack at Oleksandr Usyk or Anthony Joshua.
Callum Smith KO-4 Mathieu Bauderlique
Smith (29-1, 21 KO) convincingly wins the WBC eliminator at 175, knocking Bauderlique (21-2, 12 KO) smack out in the fourth round on a devastating left hook. Bauderlique had been down once before that in the round, as well.
The 32-year-old Smith looks sharp and strong at 175, and I think Buddy McGirt’s plan to turn him into a bit more of a pressure fighter seems to be a good call. He’s now going to be a mandatory for Artur Beterbiev, at least for the time being. Beterbiev also has the IBF and WBO titles, and has a WBO mandatory due against Anthony Yarde, which was meant to happen Oct. 29 but has been postponed.
With Beterbiev out until some point in 2023, Smith will have to wait for any enforced mandatory — in part because Beterbiev has proper political/promotional backing and is unlikely to get stripped by the WBC while shelved. So as promoter Eddie Hearn said post-fight, it’d be smart to just make sure he’s kept active. Maybe you don’t put him in with a top 175 or anything, but keep him from accumulating rust.
Badou Jack SD-10 Richard Rivera
All three judges scored it 96-94, two for Jack and one for Rivera. Some real controversy with an eighth round that went a minute too long and did so in Jack’s favor. That’s inexcusable, frankly; it’s not the first time in history it’s happened, of course, but I mean, this is supposed to be a world-class event and it’s a high-level, meaningful fight.
For what it’s worth, Bad Left Hook had this 95-95 on our unofficial card, and Jack (27-3-3, 16) just does not look like a proper world-level cruiserweight. That would be asking a lot for anyone to come up from 168 to cruiser over a career and still be effective, let alone given that Jack is 38 years old and has a lot of tough miles.
That said, he was definitely the better boxer here, and can still fight. He also was able to use his veteran skills and toughness to not let this fight get away from him when Rivera (21-1, 16 KO) made it difficult by being awkward, energetic, and just kinda weird to fight at times.
It’s a hugely tough blow for Rivera, 31, who really thought he’d won this fight, and you can make a totally fine argument for him. That eighth round was also awful and fully went against him, because when he should have been getting a breather, Jack was landing big shots.
It was also a good fight, and you hope Rivera gets another decent chance, maybe even a rematch, but if Jack is serious about going after a world title, a rematch wouldn’t make real sense on his end. He’s not getting any younger and the time to strike is now. It’s going to be very difficult anyway.
Ziyad Almaayouf TKO-1 Jose Alatorre
This was Almaayouf’s pro debut, a Saudi native now living in California. He got cracked a little here in the opening moments by Alatorre, who was also turning pro, and this turned into a little firefight real quickly.
In the end, “Zizo” had too much fire, and scored a pair of knockdowns before the ref stopped it late in the first round, which was a fair call. Almaayouf fought at 140 here, he figures to stick there or maybe try 135 as he inches his career forward. He’s 22, has some upside, trained by the great Buddy McGirt so that’s no joke.
Ramla Ali TKO-1 Crystal Garcia Nova
This lasted 65 seconds, officially. Nova (10-3, 10 KO) has a truly nothing record, even by women’s boxing standards with the lack of depth and all that, and did not come to fight here. Basically as soon as Ali (7-0, 2 KO) landed a decent combination, she was down and done, had no interest in continuing. Kind of an embarrassing showcase, in all honesty, and for a fight that was pushed as being significant as much as this one was, it was just a lousy look.
Ali, 32, says she’ll be going up to 10-rounders soon, which of course is the championship distance in women’s boxing. Can’t blame her, she got a real workout in this eight-rounder.
- Bader Al Samreen TKO-4 Fuad Tarverdi (1:16)
- Andrew Tabiti RTD-5 James Wilson (3:00)
- Ben Whittaker UD-6 Petar Nosic (59-55, 59-55, 60-54)
- Daniel Lapin UD-8 Jozef Jurko (80-72, 80-72, 80-72)
- Daniel Lapin UD-8 Jozef Jurko (80-72, 80-72, 80-72)