Filip Hrgovic and his team hope that from the first IBF-sanctioned heavyweight fight of 2022 comes the chance to move within one win of challenging for his first major title.
Luis Ortiz emerged victorious in dramatic fashion, rallying from two knockdowns to score two of his own in a sixth-round stoppage of former IBF heavyweight titlist Charles Martin atop the January 1 Fox Sports Pay-Per-View event from Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Florida. The bout was billed as a title eliminator, though with work to do as Ortiz now replaces Martin as the number-two contender in the IBF heavyweight rankings.
Hrgovic is currently ranked number-three by the New Jersey-based sanctioning body.
On Monday, the IBF gave both boxers three days to confirm the desire to participate in a final eliminator, to determine the next IBF mandatory challenger for unified titlist Oleksandr Usyk (19-0, 13KOs). Just as Miami’s Ortiz (33-2, 27KOS; 2NC) has for years claimed to be the division’s boogeyman, the unbeaten Hrgovic (14-0, 12KOs) feels his pain.
“From our side, we’re happy that someone is in place to take the challenge against Filip,” Nisse Sauerland, Hrgovic’s co-promoter—along with Matchroom Boxing—told Boxingscene.com. “If it’s Ortiz, then it’s Ortiz.”
The 2016 Olympic Bronze medalist for Croatia—who now trains in Miami—spent most of 2021 aiming to secure an opponent for a final elimination bout. One was believed to be in place, when an ordered bout between Hrgovic and top American contender Michael Hunter made its way to a purse bid hearing which was won by Matchroom. Hunter opted out, instead agreeing to a multi-bout deal with streaming platform Triller where he has spent his last two fights.
Hrgovic has since fought twice, scoring back-to-back third-round knockouts versus unbeaten but untested opponents. The 6’6” heavyweight took out Marko Radonjic after three rounds last September in Klagenfurt, Austria, an event that came as a consolation prize after several IBF-ranked contenders refused to share the ring with him.
In his most recent start, Hrgovic needed less than seven minutes to ruin the unblemished record of Emir Ahmatovic this past December at MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. The fight was taken with the intention of next focusing on the outcome of Ortiz-Martin, with hopes that the winner—Ortiz—will agree to a fight that will position the winner to challenge for the unified heavyweight title.
“We’ve obviously been through the rankings a couple of times. Ortiz may have been injured at the time (of the IBF’s previous order),” notes Sauerland. “We hope that Ortiz will take up the challenge and we look forward to a great heavyweight spectacle. We have nothing but respect for Luis Ortiz and believe he will make it a good fight.”
Usyk is currently awaiting a fight date for his contractually bound rematch with former two-time unified heavyweight titlist Anthony Joshua (24-2, 22KOs). The rotation for mandatory title defenses could leave the IBF challenger behind the WBA, though the latter has its own complications to sort out before identifying a challenger.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox