IT’S rare in boxing that a replacement opponent will turn out to be better than the original, but in the case of Filip Hrgovic’s switch from Gary Cornish to Amir Mansour, this might well be the case.
Hrgovic, a hot prospect at 5-0 (4), was originally set to face Cornish on September 8 in Zagreb, Croatia, his first pro fight in his home country. This plan, however, was scuppered due to Cornish being ruled out on medical grounds.
Enter Mansour, known as ‘Hardcore’, who has agreed to fill the void. Mansour, 23-2-1 (16), is a sturdier, more consistent heavyweight than Cornish, and only last year scored a good win over fellow American Travis Kauffman. As well as this, he has beaten high-end journeymen like Fred Kassi, Kelvin Price, Maurice Harris and Dominick Guinn, and been stopped only once (against Dominic Breazeale, someone he also knocked down, in 2015).
“I haven’t had much time to study Mansour yet,” says Hrgovic, a 2016 Olympic bronze medallist. “I know he’s a southpaw and slightly shorter than my original opponent, so I will have to alter my training accordingly. But as I always say, you have to be able to beat anyone if you want to become world champion.
“The technical and physical aspects of my preparation will remain the same. I have to be prepared for a tough fight against someone who will definitely have a lot of motivation to put me down.
“I never want to rank boxers, so I will not say whether this is a tougher test, but Mansour being better ranked internationally with a lot of experience definitely make him a serious threat.
“I believe Mansour will be motivated to show his value by beating me and claiming the WBC International belt. That being said, I will not let him grab that chance. It will be two great champions fighting hard on September 8 to gain the respect they deserve.”
Hrgovic might not want to say it, but I can: Hrgovic vs. Mansour, on paper at least, is a much better fight than Hrgovic vs. Cornish, and an even better one given the short notice. Well done, promoter and matchmaker.
Just as impatient as Filip Hrgovic is Joe Joyce, the silver medallist from the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio.
Six years older than Hrgovic at 32, Joyce, it could be argued, doesn’t have time to waste, yet this shouldn’t take away from the ambition of the man, nor the speed at which he’s looking to progress.
Like Hrgovic, he’s 5-0 (5), but already Joyce has a Commonwealth heavyweight title to his name. Moreover, as impressive as the wins are the call-outs, aimed at the likes of Dereck Chisora, Dillian Whyte and Luis Ortiz, and the intent signalled in appointments of Abel Sanchez as head coach and Al Haymon as his eyes on the ground in America.
It all amounts to preparation, I suppose. Joyce, when he’s ready, will have the team in place, and all the experience required, to make the most of his opportunities – of which where are plenty in the wide-open heavyweight division.
“We want to improve,” Joyce’s coach Abel Sanchez told Sky Sports. “Everything is a weakness and we will improve the weaknesses. If we only look at strengths, then we won’t get better. I look at things to improve. We will video-tape him, so he sees the improvement, and can replicate the things that we want him to do.
“We’re hopeful that by the end of this year he has had a couple of fights. Depending on who he is matched against, people will demand a certain level of fight for him. I hope he has significant fights. By the first quarter of next year [he will face world-class opponents].
“There is no time-frame because it depends on how Joe develops. By the end of next year, he will be 11-0 or 12-0 and ready to challenge for Joshua’s titles, Deontay Wilder’s title, or whoever has them at the time.”
That’s the thing. Because many of today’s heavyweights are so inexperienced, relatively speaking, there’s a real possibility that reigns will be short-lived and upsets will be commonplace in the next couple of years. It’s what makes the division so exciting, and so unpredictable, and it’s what makes Joe Joyce eager to get a move on and show us what he’s got.
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
This appears to be the approach Comosa AG are taking with the announcement that season two of the World Boxing Super Series will feature not only bantamweights and super-lightweights but cruiserweights – the undoubted stars of season one – when it kicks off later this year.
The cruiserweights, lest we forget, produced the best fights in season one and created hardcore heroes in the form of Aleksnadr Usyk, the eventual winner, Murat Gassiev, Mairis Briedis and Yunier Doticos. If it’s more of the same in season two, few will complain.
“Season one paved the way for Aleksandr Usyk to write history and take home the first-ever Muhammad Ali Trophy,” said Kalle Sauerland, Comosa’s Chief Boxing Officer.
“The cruiserweight edition of the Ali Trophy gave the world spectacular match-ups in the quarter-finals, ‘Fight of the year’ contenders in the semi-finals, and we witnessed Usyk as a pound-for-pound best with his amazing performance in the final. We are really looking forward to continuing the success of this exciting weight class in season two.”
The eight confirmed cruiserweights will apparently be announced in the coming days.
“People can expect a very strong line-up,” added Sauerland.
“There will be some remarkable names from season one, the highest ranked challengers and, as always in the World Boxing Super Series, a huge geographic spread.
“We now have all three weight classes in place and we cannot wait to share the Ali Trophy action with the whole world.”
Talk about a hard act to follow.