Filip Hrgovic Outpoints Zhilei Zhang in Gritty Seesaw Battle!
In his most recent tour of duty, Filip “El Animal” Hrgovic (15-0, 12 KO’s) took on Zhilei “Big Bang” Zhang (24-1-1, 19 KO’s) in an IBF heavyweight eliminator. The two would lock horns at the Jeddah Superdome located in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Pundits have been high on Hrgovic going back to his amateur days when he won the European Championships in 2015 and captured a Bronze medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Hrgovic has stormed the competition as a pro, barely working up a sweat. But that doesn’t mean he’s not faced his share of frustrations. Ranked #3 (IBF), he was ordered to fight an eliminator in February 2021. But the 30-year-old from Zagreb, Croatia had to bow out from the important fight after the passing of his father. With that tragedy now behind him, and the grief processed, El Animal is ready for the biggest fight of his career.
In Zhang, Hrgovic faced an adversary who also carried an impressive amateur pedigree as he is a two-time Olympian. Ranked #15 (IBF), the big man from China is a bit of a mystery to many fans. But the 39-year-old came into this fight full of confidence due to entering the bout riding two back-to-back stoppages. Unsurprisingly, Big Bang predicted he would take Hrgovic out.
BACK AND FORTH
The opening round proceeded initially in generic feel-out fashion. Hrgovic pressed and controlled the action until a sweeping wide right hook put the Croatian on the canvas. Despite going down, Hrgovic found his feet and carried on as if nothing ever happened. Over the course of the second, he regained control. Then at the top of the third, an accidental headbutt opened a cut high in the hair of Hrgovic.
During the fourth, Big Bang picked up the pace and went to the body well. After another beneficial round, Zhang appeared to buzz the Croatian in the closing moments of the fifth. El Animal didn’t do anything but circle the ring and get punched hard in the head in the sixth. At this point, Hrgovic was displaying a rather glum and defeated demeanor. Impressively, the Croatian enjoyed a very dominant seventh.
DIGGING DEEP LATE
While it was clear that both men were rather exhausted barreling down the stretch, it was Hrgovic who took control of the action. Over the course of the final round, Zhang seemed to muster all his might still to stay up. Given the competitiveness of the match, there was some suspense waiting on the decision. Yet, when the cards were read, Filip Hrgovic prevailed by way of unanimous decision to the tune of 115-112 (twice) and 114-113. With the fight secured, it’ll be interesting to see who El Animal pens a fight with next.
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By: Bakari Simpson