Wladimir Klitschko has backed Filip Hrgovic to become a future heavyweight king
Filip Hrgovic's co-promoter: "He believes he can beat Joshua - and so do we. But it's just a question of getting those fights, and we will"
By Richard Damerell
Last Updated: 25/06/20 12:18pm
Wladimir Klitschko has given words of guidance to Filip Hrgovic, an unbeaten contender who seeks to become the next dominant champion at heavyweight.
The Croatian was summoned to the closing training camps of Klitschko's career, where he received precious advice from the former unified king, in between a stringent examination of his skills during rounds of sparring.
Hrgovic was still yet to throw a professional punch when he journeyed to the Stanglwirt, Klitschko's HQ, to offer assistance and perhaps gain a modicum of respect from their punishing sessions in the Austrian mountains.
The highly-regarded amateur would receive first-hand experience of the piston-like jabs and ramrod right fist as 'Dr Steelhammer' prepared for the aborted Tyson Fury rematch, and that final Wembley fight with Anthony Joshua.
Klitschko had conducted his expert assessment. He was impressed.
"Filip is extremely talented," he told RTL last year.
"He showed in the past, through his Olympic record and his professional record. I have been sparring with him and he was really, really tough, even in my best days back then.
"I think he is gonna become a champion, absolutely. Does he have a chance? Absolutely, yes."
The European gold medallist received a parting message of goodwill from Klitschko before he travelled to Brazil in the summer of 2016.
Hrgovic could not quite live up to the Ukrainian's expectations as he settled for a silver medal following a slender defeat to France's Tony Yoka.
"I was with Klitschko just before the Olympic Games, and his coach Johnathon Banks and Wladimir as well, were 100 per cent sure that I will become an Olympic champion," Hrgovic said.
"But I didn't. I lost in the semi-final. They gave me a lot of good words and that gave me confidence. Everywhere I came, I got good words."
The 28-year-old has since justified this praise in the professional ranks with 10 successive wins, including a ruthless knockout of Eric Molina, a former world title challenger in his last fight.
Days before his meeting with Molina, he confirmed how he had wanted to replace the injured Joseph Parker in a potential battle with Derek Chisora. This audacious offer was declined as Chisora instead overwhelmed David Price at The O2, but it was a clear indication of Hrgovic's fearless ambition.
Co-promoter Nisse Sauerland is plotting a path towards the world titles, which are currently held by the British duo of Anthony Joshua and Tyson Fury, although Hrgovic is loitering menacingly, having broken into the IBF and WBC top 10.
"As far as ambitions go, it's backed up by that pedigree," Sauerland told Sky Sports. "He believes he can beat Joshua - and so do we. But it's just a question of getting those fights, and we will.
"If the Joshua fight came tomorrow, he'd take it for the right conditions, but I've said this a million times: 'Why would they fight him?' He needs to get into a position where no-one can get away from fighting him."
Hrgovic is fully aware of his status as the high-risk slot machine in a heavyweight casino where players prefer easier lucrative reward.
"From the beginning, I feel ready for everyone. That's it," admitted Hrgovic, just days before his win over Molina.
"But 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."
His sole opportunities to test the world's best have been under the restrictions of sparring, although he did famously inflict a gaping cut on David Haye that ruined an impending fight with Fury in 2013. At the Londoner's cavern-like gym under the Vauxhall arches, Hrgovic also pitted his power against the destructive Deontay Wilder, which resembled a reckless shootout, rather than an educational training session.
Rising British contender Fabio Wardley engaged Hrgovic in brutal rounds during a Miami training camp last November and revealed how his demeanour darkened once they entered the ring.
"Hrgovic himself, you can see from how he trained, he's a well-schooled athlete," Wardley told Sky Sports.
"That long jab, that straight right hand as well. He'll be a good contender for the division.
"In the sessions around [sparring], he's laughing and joking, he's chilled out, but once sparring goes, it's a different mode entirely. He wants it revved up. He wants those sparring sessions as close to a hard, tough fight as he can replicate.
"You as a sparring partner, your job, he expects you to bring that war element to it, that pure warrior boxing spirit to the sparring sessions."
Sauerland, who has worked with the combustible Chisora, and the skilled Kubrat Pulev, suggests that Hrgovic possesses a steely edge that even sets him apart from Klitschko.
Undoubtedly he's the best heavyweight I've ever worked with. Undoubtedly. He's got it all.
Nisse Sauerland on Filip Hrgovic
"He's an interesting guy. Top man, but you wouldn't want to get on the wrong side of him.
"I think Wladimir is a little softer than Filip. Filip is just a natural-born fighter.
"Undoubtedly he's the best heavyweight I've ever worked with. Undoubtedly. He's got it all."
A long-reigning champion is yet to emerge since Klitschko's titles were ripped away and then scattered during Fury's hiatus from the sport.
Joshua regained his three belts in a December rematch with Andy Ruiz Jr after a three-year spell at the summit, while Fury only started his second spell as a champion in February following his demolition of Wilder.
An undisputed clash with the Brit duo could provide a sole ruler, but for how long?
Hrgovic's sole ambition is to establish order in the top division with his own supremacy.
"Yeah, everyone is looking for that," he said. "That's my goal. I have time. I can box for, I don't know, 10, 13 more years.
"I have time."