Impatient Hrgovic calls out heavyweight contenders: Sign the contract!

By Sports Desk November 08, 2020

Filip Hrgovic has challenged fellow heavyweight contenders to stop avoiding him after dismantling Rydell Booker with ease to remain unbeaten.

The Croatian stopped his former sparring partner inside five rounds on the undercard to Devin Haney's points victory over Yuriorkis Gamboa, continuing his rise as he aims to step out of the shadows in a crowded division.

Hrgovic boasts a 12-0 record and while there are some notable names on the list of previous opponents – his professional CV includes knocking out former world title challenger Eric Molina in three rounds, as well as beating the experienced Kevin Johnson on points – the former amateur star is ready for a step up in class.

Speaking to DAZN after becoming the first fighter to stop Booker, the 28-year-old made clear he is growing "impatient" having been avoided in the past.

"I would like to fight the best in the division," Hrgovic said in his post-fight interview. "It will be hard for my promoters and my manager to put those fights together, but I want the best in the division.

"Come on guys, sign that contract! Everyone we sent a contract to declined. I'm not so tough - sign the contract!"

He added: "I'm impatient. I had a long amateur career, long WBSS (World Boxing Super Series) and I feel ready. I want a hard fight, a lot of Instagram boxers just talk, no one wants to sign a fight with me."

While admitting he is not quite ready to take on the leading names such as Anthony Joshua and Tyson Fury, Hrgovic called out plenty of others who he hopes will step up to face him.

Among the list were Alexander Povetkin and Dillian Whyte, who had been due to meet in a rematch on November 21 until the former contracted COVID-19.

"I need a couple of hard fights, a couple of big names at the level below those guys you mention [in Joshua, Fury and Deontay Wilder]," Hrgovic said.

"I'm looking for these kinds of fighters: Michael Hunter, Zhang Zhilei, Joe Joyce, Daniel Dubois, Povetkin, Dillian Whyte, Dereck Chisora... I want all these guys to fight.

"That will be my preparation for the best in the division."

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    Saul 'Canelo' Alvarez and Billy Joe Saunders will clash in a mouth-watering unification bout on May 8, promoter Eddie Hearn announced.

    Canelo defended his WBC and WBA middleweight titles via a brutal TKO after just three rounds against Avni Yildirim in Miami on Saturday.

    After being floored in the third round, Turkish challenger Yildirim managed to make it to the bell but his corner through in the towel before the start of the fourth at Hard Rock Stadium, where the gulf in class was evident from the outset.

    Following the mismatch, a blockbuster showdown against unbeaten WBO holder and Englishman Saunders (30-0) was confirmed.

    "It's Canelo against Saunders — May the 8th — venue announced shortly as he continues to move toward the undisputed championship at 168," Hearn said post-fight on DAZN.

    Canelo said: "He's a very difficult fighter. He wants to unify. We want to go for it. We need to go for it.

    "People talk whatever, but I'm a very mature fighter. I know how to control myself."

    The 30-year-old Canelo is looking to become the first undisputed champion at super-middleweight, with IBF holder Caleb Plant next on the list if he gets past Saunders.

    "It hasn't been done," Canelo said of being crowned undisputed champion "I want to make history.

    "At 168, no one has done it in the world. I want to make my own history."

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    Canelo dominated and made his move in the third round – a combination of jabs sending Yildirim to the canvas, and while the latter survived the round, he did not emerge from his corner for the fourth.

    "I wanted to have a great fight here," Canelo added. "I needed to knock [him] out, and that's what I did. That's what I had to do."

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    If Saul 'Canelo' Alvarez fails to defend his WBA and WBC super-middleweight titles against Avni Yildirim, it would amount to an upset of Tyson-Douglas proportions and probably beyond. 

    The unheralded Yildirim is the WBC's mandatory challenger despite dropping a technical decision to Anthony Dirrell in his last bout two years ago. 

    On his previous venture up to world level in 2017, the 29-year-old was demolished inside three rounds by Chris Eubank Jr. 

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    The relative lack of jeopardy in the fight means this week in Miami has served as something of a victory lap for Reynoso, the quiet sideman who might already have settled the argument for trainer of the year at this early stage. 

    Reynoso, 44, has built a stable that is the envy of many in the sport – a story that can be traced back to the moment a youngster walked into his gym in Guadalajara and changed both their lives.

    Fighting families ruling the world

    Reynoso enjoyed a brief amateur career but decided against mixing it in the pros, having already been bitten by the training bug. 

    He began working alongside his father Chepo when an alliance with another fighting family would prove life-changing. 

    A young Canelo came down to the gym with one of his boxing brothers, Rigoberto. He and Reynoso instantly hit it off. 

    "We are like family. Working with Eddy and Chepo has been a great experience," the boxer told Ring Magazine in 2016. "They've taught me discipline, hard work, respect and loyalty." 

    That loyalty came through its defining test in the aftermath of Canelo finding himself on the receiving end of a Floyd Mayweather masterclass in 2013. 

    The temptation might have been to ditch his little-known cornerman after being outclassed by Mayweather and seek out one of the sport's bigger names. For Canelo it was not even a consideration. 

    In 13 fights since that sole career defeat, the 30-year-old has won titles at light-middleweight, middleweight, super-middleweight and light-heavyweight, counting Miguel Cotto, Amir Khan, Julio Cesar Chavez Jr, Daniel Jacobs and Callum Smith among his victims. 

    There was also the small matter of a pair of blockbusters against middleweight king Gennadiy Golovkin. The first of two instant classics was called a draw, with Canelo edging the second on the scorecards. 

    A formidable blend of blistering body shots, slick combinations, miserly defence and impeccable head movement and counter-punching placed Canelo at the top of the boxing world, also making Reynoso a man in demand. 

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    Despite racing to a record of 16-0 at only 20 years of age, Ryan Garcia decided he needed a change after an unconvincing win over Carlos Morales. 

    Already identified as a future star of the sport by promoter Oscar de la Hoya and a huge hit with the Instagram crowd, Garcia needed a little substance to go with the obvious style. 

    "I've had a few meetings with Ryan, and he comes off as very disciplined, very happy and dedicated," said Reynoso after his appointment to head up Team Garcia. 

    "But he's a fighter who needs to work on how to go forward, how to go backward, his defence and counterpunching. He has some boxing bad habits we need to take away." 

    Not much to go at then? 

    Four victories followed in quick time, with Garcia's dynamite left hook – already something of a Reynoso stable trademark – flattening each of Romero Duno and Francisco Fonseca within a round. 

    That set up an intriguing crossroads showdown with London 2012 gold medal winner and two-time world title challenger Luke Campbell on January 2. 

    When the Briton caught Garcia flush on the jaw and decked him in round two, sceptics were ready to unload on a hype job and an Instagram fighter. 

    Such verdicts had to be torn up, however, as the youngster raged against adversity to stop Campbell with a brutal body shot in the seventh.

    It was a highlight reel knockout of technical precision as Garcia feinted his favourite shot upstairs before turning the left hook into Campbell's ribs. It was a stoppage that an elated Canelo was seen mimicking during dressing room celebrations afterwards. 

    Operating in the white-hot lightweight division, 'King Ry' is riding the crest of a wave, with Gervonta Davis, Devin Haney and maybe even Teofimo Lopez in his sights.

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    Six months prior to Garcia's move, undefeated featherweight champion Oscar Valdez claimed a March 2018 victory that was also not altogether satisfactory, although in far more painful circumstances. 

    A brutal battle with Scott Quigg, who failed to make weight, saw Valdez keep his WBO belt at the cost of a badly broken jaw. For his trouble, former super-bantamweight champ Quigg was bloodied by eye damage and a broken nose. 

    There are only so many wars a fighter can realistically subject themselves to over the course of a career and, once on the mend, Valdez also decided to turn to Reynoso. 

    A couple of low-key defences followed before he vacated the WBO belt and faced up to claims he was ducking rising star Shakur Stevenson. 

    Valdez, 30, had seen his star dwindle to such an extent that he was an almost a 4-1 betting underdog last weekend when he faced WBC champion and compatriot Miguel Berchelt in Las Vegas. 

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    "There's nothing better in life than proving people wrong," Valdez said. "I have a list of people who doubted me. My idols doubted me. Boxing analysts doubted me. 

    "They said Berchelt was going to knock me out. I have a message to everybody: Don't let anyone tell you what you can and can't do." 

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    Another man seeking to prove the doubters wrong with Reynoso's esteemed help is former unified heavyweight champion Andy Ruiz Jr. 

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    "He's lost about 20 pounds and he also has more muscle," Reynoso told Behind the Gloves this week. "He's not as fat as he was before. He can move his hips a lot better and that helps him move around in the ring. 

    "I'd love to see him fight Joshua again. With good training I think he could beat him. He's already beaten him. It just takes a little bit of discipline and a good training camp." 

    Proving the doubters wrong using the guidance of one of the sharpest minds in the sport today? Canelo, Garcia and Valdez can tell Ruiz plenty about that in the gym, all while under the watchful eye of Reynoso. 

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