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The Heavyweight Bogeyman

Matt McGrain

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When a heavyweight is defeated in the manner that undisputed heavyweight #1 Wladimir Klitschko defeated Alexander Povetkin at the end of 2013, he usually has the good grace to disappear.

Ernie Terrell went 7-4 after Ali spent fifteen rounds turning his face into luncheon meat in their infamous “what’s my name!” encounter from 1967; behind the hideous beating he absorbed against a furious Rocky Marciano in their 1953 rematch, the excellent Roland LaStarza managed just 3-4 before hanging them up for good.

It is physical, yes.

Professional athletes of this standard, whether they are a surgeon of Ali’s calibre or a cannonball of Marciano’s density, do damage. They shift organs. They grind bone. But it is also psychological. Fighters, in reaching the summit of their personal Everest only to be confronted by an animal so in excess of their own evolutionary prism that they are, in essence, chanceless, perhaps don’t want to climb again. Every blow absorbed, every meal missed, every first step taken by a toddler to whom the fighter is a stranger, is for a reason in the beginning – The Title, The Title, but when The Title seems no longer a possibility it becomes easier to stay down, to clinch instead of punch, to run instead of box. Terrell and LaStarza found the end of their string in the ring of the dominant champion that bloodied their respective eras, and with that string providing a definitive measurement of their abilities, certain realities had to be accepted.

Yesterday in Moscow, Povetkin reversed this trend, finalising his rehabilitation with a sensational first round knockout over #10 heavyweight Mike Perez.

Perez is an impressive scalp almost regardless of circumstances. A superb body-puncher capable of deploying a high workrate (when he’s in the mood), Perez is a rarity in the modern heavyweight division on two different scores and his technical gifts and counter-punching ability certainly put him in the “handful for anyone” category despite certain doubts concerning his temperament (and his commitment to training). These doubts deepened after the injury tragically inflicted upon Magomed Abdusalamov by Perez during their rousing 2013 encounter in New York. In the wake of this contest, doubts surrounding Perez’s already questionable temperament deepened, but he was desperately unlucky against Bryant Jennings the following summer, missing out on a draw by virtue only of a point deduction in the final round. Jennings had been pushed to the absolute brink by a more talented fighter who could not match his athleticism. That said, Jennings adapted superbly, eschewing his reach advantage to come inside and make a fight of it after being cleanly out-boxed over the first three rounds.

Neither man was disgraced in that contest, but what it meant for Perez was that he was to enter his showdown with Alexander Povetkin last night in Moscow with, having knocked out cruiserweight journeyman Darnell Wilson in two rounds earlier this year, and drawn with the ranked Carlos Takam in January of last year, a 1-1-1 ledger for 2014 and 2015. Despite the bad luck, tragedy and slick counter-punching that had defined his previous 30 months in the ring, a loss would have sent Perez bumping roughly down the ladder to gatekeeper status.

More shockingly, a loss would have had the same impact upon Povetkin.

Re-watching Perez-Jenkins this morning, I was struck by how efficiently Harvey Dock managed the Cuban’s fouling early in the fight. Every time, without exception, that Perez placed his forearm or any weight across the American’s neck or back, the referee stepped in to separate the two. What would Povetkin have given for such a referee the night of his contest with Wladimir Klitschko?

Luis Pabon was the third man in the ring the night of Povetkin’s shot at king Klitschko, and as the champion over and over again drew the Russian in with his enormous reach before placing his full 241lbs on the smaller man’s back, crushing him, literally, with his superior size, the referee neglected to act. It was an exhausted Povetkin who was repeatedly barrelled to the canvas by the champion as the fight descended into a physical and technical mis-match. Much spleen was vented in the aftermath concerning Wladimir’s solution to Povetkin’s rushing tactics, but the scorecards of the three judges, bereft of any instruction from Pabon to remove any points from Wladimir’s total, sang out their scores as a choir: 119-104. Povetkin had been outclassed and had absorbed a horrific beating in the process.

When he returned, Povetkin did so against the perfect opponent, Manuel Charr. The enormous Lebanese, who boxes out of Germany, was neither ranked nor particularly dangerous, but he was known, courtesy of his crack at Vitali Klitschko’s alphabet strap, and he was durable. He promised a comeback victory and a good workout. Povetkin’s triumph was no surprise but the manner, perhaps, was. Charr, who had been stopped just once on a cut, was blasted out in seven, the finishing left-hook/right-hand combination so spectacular as to remind one of Joe Braddock’s near decapitation at the hands of Joe Louis. Returning to ranked competition, Povetkin did a similar job on Carlos Takam, dropping him in the ninth, following fluid combinations with a monster right hand, before landing a glorious left hook to end proceedings in the tenth.

This performance pricked my ears a little; Povetkin, perhaps, was not going to go the way of Terrell and LaStarza. But what was his role to be? That was decided in last night’s contest with Mike Perez.

Perez came out showing measured aggression, probing with the jab before launching a two-handed attack over the top. Povetkin gave ground and then re-took his territory in the middle of the ring. When he threw his first one-two it was clear that Perez was surprised by the speed with which Povetkin punched; he made no attempt to counter. When, after leading with his own one-two seconds later he was caught by a lightning-fast right-hand to the top of the head, Perez lost his feet. He stammered backwards, hurt, and not just physically but neurologically – he was suffering not from messages of pain but from messages of disaster, his nerve endings alerting his brain to the fact that he no longer had complete control over his body.

It is worth reiterating at this point that Perez, like Charr, like Takam, has never been stopped; his chin was tested by Magomed Abdusalamov, among the hardest punchers in the division when he repeatedly reached the Cuban’s chin; Jennings, too, repeatedly landed clean, crisp shots to little affect. But here was Perez, grasping for the canvas. Seconds later, when Povetkin stepped out of a half clinch to give himself room for the shortest of right hands, Perez was suddenly on the ground looking up. Closed-faced, he defeated the count, and stepped tenderly towards the gallows. A sweeping left sent Perez crashing into the ropes and out of the rankings and made Povetkin once more the preeminent heavyweight in the world with a name other than Klitschko.

Generationally, it makes no sense. On paper, Povetkin’s time had come and gone. In reality, he looks better than he did before Wladimir beat the contendership out of him. He almost looks faster but in reality it is a new sharpness that appears to have gripped his offense. The punches that Povetkin is throwing are absolutely deadly.

His ability to absorb the beating that Terrell and LaStarza could not is partly a matter of physiology. He is made of different stuff and that stuff has reacted differently. Partly it is circumstantial; such is Povetkin’s promotional support in Russia that he was able to reintroduce himself immediately to good money – and to draw ranked fighters to the Moscow fortress that served him no advantage against Klitschko. But I wonder, too, if he is not driven by a certain sense of injustice. As I wrote in coverage for that fight, “if heart is the greatest attribute to which a fighter can lay claim, then Povetkin was a great opponent indeed, for in the eighth he showed as much as any heavyweight who has ever stepped into the ring.” Povetkin really tried against Klitschko and to a degree was let down by an incompetent referee. After the fight he made all the right noises, calling Wladimir the better fighter, but having reviewed the footage it must irk him that his heart-fuelled stab at the title was rendered chanceless by officiating. Perhaps the top of the mountain holds no fear for him, despite the agonies he suffered there, for this very reason.

Regardless, such was the margin of the defeat of Povetkin by Wladimir Klitschko that despite his ranking above some of the other top heavyweight contenders by virtue of his wider and deeper resume, he was not really in any discussion over who is to meet Wladimir Klitschko next. Even when he was restored to the #1 contender’s berth ahead of the likes of Tyson Fury, Deontay Wilder and Bryant Jennings, nobody expected Wladimir to drop everything and rematch Povetkin at the expense of the next generation; but Povetkin’s destruction of Perez in mere seconds has made him something new, even though that thing has yet to take on any real form. Ethereal in his identity, without a belt, or a route to the legitimate heavyweight king, Povetkin has become a bogeyman to the division and most especially to the two men jostling for a shot at Klitschko next. Do not expect to hear talk of either Tyson Fury or Deontay Wilder matching the #1 contender in an attempt to cement their own status as contenders. They will both neatly sidestep the man policing the world heavyweight title and wait for the call. The reason is a sound one: he would beat either one of them.

Povetkin will haunt Wilder and Fury now until they have had their title shots, or have been shorn of any belts. He will dog Wilder’s comeback. He will be made to lurk but will do so in the full glare of the #1 contender’s slot that has been made his until such time as he is beaten, something that only Wladimir Klitschko can do, but equally, something he has already done and something he is unlikely to do again any time soon. The champion has his own problems.

Made to look, for the first time, old, by Jennings, who in turn was made to look limited by Mike Perez, who in turn has been blasted out in mere seconds by a vastly superior Povetkin, Klitschko is poised at the far edge of an illustrious career. This combination has ushered in a game of thrones for the biggest seat in boxing. The heavyweight division is much maligned, but in my view the last few months have made it fascinating once more, a twisted web. In the middle of this web sits an ageing spider that has been preying upon all manner of intruders into his domain for an incredible eleven years – arranged around him are suitors positioning themselves in the belief that they are the right man to take advantage of his advancing years.

Should someone surprise us by doing so, or if Wladimir should reach the end of his ride, Povetkin’s haunting of the division will end with another title shot.

What price, King Povetkin?

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Tyson Fury is the 2018 TSS Comeback Fighter of the Year

Arne K. Lang

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Tyson Fury

When the TSS year-end award season rolls around, some choices are no-brainers and others are head-scratchers because there are so many worthy candidates. Selecting Tyson Fury as our 2018 Comeback Fighter of the Year was a no-brainer.

When Fury left the sport for what would ultimately be a 31-month layoff, it soon became evident that we might never see him again. It wasn’t just that his heart was no longer in the game. He fell to pieces, letting his weight balloon to almost 400 pounds.

We would learn that there was more to the story. Fury was abusing cocaine and alcohol and had mental health issues that he readily acknowledged. He told reporters that he was seeing a psychiatrist who had diagnosed him as bipolar and manic depressive.

But Fury pulled himself together and gradually worked his way back to where he was fit to fight again. He returned to the ring on June 9 in Manchester in a supporting bout to Terry Flanagan’s140-pound title defense against Maurice Hooker. In the opposite corner was Sefer Seferi, a 39-year-old puffed-up cruiserweight.

The fight was a travesty. Fury, 11 inches taller and 66 pounds heavier, hardly worked up a sweat and the same could be said of his Albanian opponent who quit after four rounds.

For his second comeback fight, Fury chose a man nearer his own size, former sparring partner Francesco Pianeta. They met on August 18 in Belfast on a show headlined by hometown hero Carl Frampton. Fury won the contest easily in the eyes of the referee who awarded him all 10 rounds, but he wasn’t impressive. Indeed, the fight had no indelible moments.

In the post-fight press conference following the Pianeta fight, Fury’s promoter Frank Warren announced that the self-styled Gypsy King would fight WBC champion Deontay Wilder next and that the fight would materialize in late November in Las Vegas. As it turned out, the match came to fruition in Los Angeles at the Staples Center on Dec. 1.

It was widely assumed that Warren was blowing smoke. Surely Fury needed more rounds to shake off all the rust after his long spell of inactivity and self-abuse. But to some it made perfect sense that Fury would take on such a daunting assignment at this juncture. The cynics holding this view said that Fury was a certified loon and the longer the wait before he was thrust into a big money fight, the greater the chance that he would do something stupid and it would all fall apart.

The oddsmakers made Wilder a 7/5 favorite. In Las Vegas, there was late money on Wilder. At one large property, the odds shot up to 11/5 on the day of the fight.

After 40 pro fights, Deontay Wilder was still rough around the edges. Fury, it was widely understood, was the better boxer. But Wilder could take a man out with one punch and it figured that he would clock the Gypsy King who figured to tire in the late rounds if he could last that long.

By now every serious boxing fan is familiar with the details of the Wilder-Fury fight. Suffice it to say that Wilder did clock him in the late rounds, not once but twice, the second compliments of a left hook that knocked a staggering Fury down hard in the final round. The punch, wrote London Guardian scribe Kevin Mitchell, would have anaesthetized a horse.

The punch pulled the fight out of the fire for Deontay Wilder. For five long seconds as he lay prone on the canvas, Tyson Fury looked dead as a mackerel.

But hold the phone.

By some miracle, Fury was able to beat the count – just barely – and, more astoundingly, he got the best of the milling during the remainder of the round.

When the decision was announced – it went into the books as a draw – Fury didn’t bellyache. He had a look of satisfaction on his face as referee Jack Reiss simultaneously raised his hand and the hand of his opponent. Afterwards, he would say that he was certain that he had won enough rounds to earn the decision, but that if he had ranted and raved it might have started a riot. Indeed, whenever there is an especially large delegation of British boxing fans there is a hooligan element. And the Wilder-Fury fight played out before a large delegation of Brits who left the premises justifiably disgruntled but orderly.

At the post-fight press conference, the Gypsy King did something charming. He burst into song, leading the media in a rendition of Don McLean’s “American Pie.” Yes, over the years, to his everlasting discredit, Fury has hurt people with words that were misogynistic, homophobic, and even anti-Semitic. But at moments like these the big galoot is so cuddly that it’s hard not to love him.

As comebacks go, Fury’s was strange. He wasn’t coming off a loss and he didn’t win. But he emerged from a very dark place and gave a performance that was not only redemptive but inspirational.

The 2018 TSS Comeback Fighter of the Year was a no-brainer.

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Eleider Alvarez Forged the 2018 TSS Upset of the Year

Jeffrey Freeman

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Alvarez

HBO World Championship Boxing called it quits in 2018 but not before airing the Sweet Science (TSS) Upset of the Year: Eleider “Storm” Alvarez’s jaw dropping seventh round knockout of Sergey Kovalev to win the WBO light heavyweight title at Atlantic City’s Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, formerly President Trump’s Taj Mahal.

The legendary cable network that broadcast the Douglas-Tyson shocker in February of 1990 retained its reputation as a theatre of the totally unexpected on that Saturday, August 4. It was supposed to be a return to elite form for the Russian Kovalev (now 32-3-1 with 28 knockouts) and a chance for promoters to make boardwalk boxing great again.

For the 34-year-old Colombian Alvarez, successfully transplanted to Montreal, Quebec, Canada in 2009 by Groupe Yvon Michel, it was the realization of a bold prediction that fell upon mostly deaf ears: “Kovalev will be a very difficult fight but I will be the new WBO champion of the world.”

Right on both counts.

Alvarez (booked as a +400 underdog) appeared to gain an early advantage with impressively aggressive boxing skills but Kovalev wasn’t going anywhere without a fight and he pummeled Alvarez in the fourth round with his long jab and solid power punches—outlanding him 3 to 1.

Alvarez returned to his corner down on the scorecards.

Max Kellerman may have been able to see what Alvarez was doing to win the first three rounds but ringside judges Carter, Pasquale and Ortiz did not. Regardless, Alvarez pumped his fist in celebration, well aware he’d just taken the best of ‘The Krusher’ without being too badly hurt by any of it. “I wanted to show him I have a good chin,” he said after the fight of the assault.

The fifth and sixth were fiercely competitive with both rounds being won legitimately by Kovalev who presently began showing signs of fatigue while Alvarez (24-0 with 12 knockouts) recovered from the fourth round drubbing he’d proudly endured; his left cheek bloodied. If Kovalev’s plan was to outbox Alvarez and win a decision, he lacked the stamina needed to go six more rounds.

Alvarez answered the bell for the seventh ready to make good on his stormy forecast calling for rain on Kovalev’s parade. With a minute and twenty seconds left in the frame, Alvarez feinted a left jab to the body; following up full-speed with a looping right hand to the side of Kovalev’s unprotected head. Kovalev wobbled backwards onto the seat of his pants, decked by a jabby boxer assumed to be a light hitter with a trio of surgically repaired right knuckles.

Up fast at the count of “four” from American referee David Fields, Kovalev was in the eye of the storm now. Alvarez went for the kill with poise and precision. A right uppercut rocked Kovalev’s head back. A left jab had a similar effect. A right cross strafed his face. With 40 seconds left in the round, Alvarez connected with a ferocious left-right combination and Kovalev fell again. And again—Kovalev got up quickly but this time in no condition to continue and he could no longer protect himself. Alvarez walked straight in and landed a clubbing right around Kovalev’s guard. Kovalev collapsed onto all fours and Fields immediately waved it off as Alvarez celebrated.

A new light heavyweight star was being born.

Asked if he wanted to face HBO undercard winner Dmitry Bivol in a WBO/WBA unification match-up, Alvarez indicated a willingness to face all comers. “I’ve been waiting five years to fight the best in the division. I’m now among the best at 175. Whatever comes, I’m ready.”

It won’t be a long overdue confrontation with promotional stablemate Adonis Stevenson. The 41 year-old “Superman” was beaten into a medically induced coma by new WBC champion Oleksandr Gvozdyk on December 1 in Quebec City. What’s coming instead is an immediate rematch with Kovalev, scheduled for February 2, 2019 in Frisco, Texas—streaming live on ESPN. Alvarez probably needs another KO to retain his new title. The three official judges in the first fight did him no favors and Texas is infamous for dodgy officiating and sketchy scoring.

Believing that he needs to be in better shape if he hopes to avenge his latest defeat, Kovalev is fielding yet another new trainer, new International Boxing Hall of Famer, James “Buddy” McGirt. Says Krusher of this ‘last chance’ sequel: “I’ll be ready [this time] and I will take back my title.”

Time will tell.

Despite taking an ambulance ride to the hospital after getting his ass officially kicked, Kovalev went on record claiming Alvarez was “lucky” to get the knockout victory. Kovalev’s loyal promoter Kathy Duva may have convinced her guy it was a fluke but a result like that is surely no accident. “Sergey was clearly winning when he just got caught,” she casually explains. “It happens.”

No Kathy, it happened. It happened. The Sweet Science 2018 Upset of the Year. My Alvarez-Kovalev II prediction: It happens again. Alvarez TKO in nine, Kovalev calls it quits.

Other Notable 2018 Upsets: Roberto “Rifle” Ramirez’s second round beat down of Dejan Zlaticanin in June, Francis Chua’s split decision over Kye McKenzie on the Horn-Mundine undercard Down Under, Emanuel Navarrete’s victory against Isaac Dogboe for the WBO 122 lb. title on the Lomachenko-Pedraza undercard at MSG, and as written about by TSS’s own Matt Andrzejewski, Hassan Mwakinyo’s shocking TKO of Sam Eggington in the United Kingdom.

UPSET PICK POSTSCRIPT

It’s funny how “boxing experts” often claim to have picked the surprise winner of a prize fight only after said fight is over. At a packed press conference in New York City to announce the summer title bout between Kovalev and Alvarez, I couldn’t find a single media member or industry insider willing to entertain the notion of an upset, much less an Alvarez knockout.

Face-to-face with Kovalev, Alvarez looked and sounded like a sure-fire winner to me. Where Alvarez appeared fit and ready to fight that day if need be, Kovalev struck me as a little too fat and happy for his own good. After Kovalev was knocked down and out on HBO, social media was full of ‘I told you so’ tweets from ex post facto smart alecks and keyboard warriors.

What I observed in the lead-up to the fight led me to conclude the 35 year-old Kovalev was not taking his relatively unknown opponent as seriously as he should have been. Kovalev’s middle finger morphed into a peace symbol. He actually said it wasn’t his goal to knock Alvarez out!

Ultimately, I was the only reporter out there who could read the writing on the wall, noting last May what a “high risk, low reward” fight this was for Kovalev; one with the potential to “go all wrong” for him. I couldn’t have been more right. While most (if not all) fans and media regarded the result as a foregone conclusion, I wrote that Kovalev would be UPSET by Eleider Alvarez.

He told me, I told you.

It happened.

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Filip Hrgovic is the TSS 2018 Prospect of the Year

Matt McGrain

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Filip Hrgovic

So awash is boxing with prospects currently that picking just one has proved so excruciating that I floated a different idea with The Sweet Science’s fearless editor.

“What about selecting a prospect from each division?”

“Egad,” he literally replied.  “I wouldn’t go that far…would be a good story though. But for now we need to recognize just one fighter for historical continuity.”

He’s right of course; the Prospect of the Year for The Sweet Science goes back a bit and it’s an honor to pitch in. As for that divisional breakdown? I’ll have 17 nominees for you in January.  Watch this space.

As for today, I offer you the 6’6 Croatian, “el Animal”, 7-0, 233lbs, 26-year-old, Filip Hrgovic.

This is something of a controversial pick, I think. I don’t lean towards potentiality in heavyweights as a rule. They’re slower, generally less organized, less compact and a questionable chin is a fiercer impediment to a heavyweight of class than the equivalent in any other division. In short, the heavyweight division is a place of hammers and anvils, and if you are shy the latter, journeymen will find you out.

I’m wary, too, of relying upon a fighter’s amateur achievements to protect them from professional doubts. Too many times Audley Harrison; too many times David Price. Hrgovic drew the eye in 2010 though, beating up Tony Yoka and Joseph Parker on his way to winning the World Youth Championships. Times have changed too in that the World Series of Boxing offers an amateur/professional crossover, a nursery for the paid ranks and one in which Hrgovic excelled.

That is the past, however.  What of the future?

Trainer Pedro Diaz is clear: “Filip is ready for a title fight,” he offered in the build up to his last fight with Kevin “Kingpin” Johnson, “right now.  You can all see it.”

Diaz, a late 2018 addition to the Hrgovic camp, is an inspired choice. An eastern European and a tall one, Hrgovic is already being tarred with the “robotic” brush unearned by Vitali Klitschko and questionable even in relation to Wladimir Klitschko, but his fluidity is limited to the jab right-hand. Diaz, a veteran of the Cuban amateur system who has worked with the likes of Miguel Cotto, Guillermo Rigondeaux and the legendary Felix Savon, is the right man to de-program any mechanical tendencies in a charge young and hungry enough to learn. Hrgovic will never be Eusebio Pedroza but already he punches to the body more smoothly than was the case a year ago.

Promoter Nisse Sauerland, too, thinks that Filip is in for “a big 2019.” Croatia Week after discussions with the heavyweight prospect claim that a title fight is possible as early as next year.

That seems ridiculous for two reasons, which I’ll get to momentarily, but first, what does the man himself say about it?

“I go really, really fast,” he told press in his vastly improved English this December.  “They put me in the fast track.”  A smile, then: “I enjoy it.”

“In 2019,” he adds, “I am coming for all the belts.”

In 2018, Hrgovic ran 5-0 and there was a discernible step up in his two most recent contests.  First he met Amir Mansour, the New Jersey fringe contender who had lost just twice, once on a freak cut (Mansour bit his tongue while beating up Dominic Breazeale and could not continue due to breathing difficulties) and once in being out-pointed by the skilled Steve Cunningham over ten rounds. Hrgovic stopped him in less than nine minutes. As I wrote at the time covering that fight “Hrgovic looked nothing less than a natural fighter and a special one. He cracked an elite jaw and solved a singular puzzle with no more effort than if he had been sparring a straight-backed amateur.”

Next up was Johnson, and again Hrgovic impressed but this time he did not dazzle. Variety is not a strong point and Diaz will know now that his man needs work on his left hook and serious work on his feinting, which is almost non-existent.

Hrgovic likes one plane of attack, one-two, at distance. This combination is highly evolved, however. He goes up and down, he has a short cross, a wild looking overhand right in the style of Deontay Wilder and a straight right-hand down the pipe behind that busy jab. People have derided this final punch as “slow”. This is not entirely accurate and while his hand speed is not dizzying, his mechanics are excellent and therefore the right hand is heading in as near behind the jab as is technically possible. This is important because it barracks his greatest asset: his accuracy.

Hrgovic is already wasting very little. Johnson is no longer the fighter that extended Vitali Klitschko the full distance back in 2009 but equally, Hrgovic was clearly landing at a higher rate than the deadly Vitali. Hrgovic hardly missed Johnson with a serious punch. The fighters who were his equal in this attribute after seven professional fights who are currently active are also both on the pound-for-pound list.

Stylistically, he’s going to struggle with someone really good at closing the distance to mid-range, say a Luis Ortiz type, and he is fortunate that modern interpretation of the rules has all but eliminated the great in-fighter, but anyone who remains at his preferred range, outside, is going to be in for a tough night. The very best would be able to outbox him though, and the very best are in possession of the titles and the top contender spots.

This is the big problem with Hrgovic’s “I’m coming for all the belts” statement.  His ambition is to be admired and by December 2019 he could be 10-0 and ranked among the ten best heavyweight on the planet; indeed, he has already started to pop up on some of the less reputable ABC rankings. But however many times he fights next year the heavyweight timeline for 2019 basically looks like Wilder-Fury II and Joshua against the winner of Whyte-Chisora in the first part of the year, with the winners from those fights squaring off in London around November.

Whatever kind of 2019 Hrgovic has, he’s beginning it behind both Oleksandr Usyk and Jarrell Miller and, when the dust settles, is likely to remain so given the way Eddie Hearn continues to corner the market.

So a title shot in 2019 is not just premature physically – Hrgovic needs to work on the left hand, defense and feinting as well as stamina, never having gone past the eighth – but politically.  March 2020 is the earliest he could hope to visit a title ring and even then probably only if Wilder emerges on top of the pile.

What Hrgovic should be gunning for by the end of 2019 is the loser of Chisora-Whyte, perhaps on a London undercard.  If he prefers the United States, his eventual target should be Jarrell Miller and that would be obtainable come the end of next year.

The main reason I make Hrgovic the one to watch however, is that in 2019 we are going to find out about him. It might not be “his year”, it really might not be, but, it will be the year we find out if he can take a punch.

If he has the heart to carry him to the top.

If he’s real.

And that’s a prospect I’m rather looking forward to.

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