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Filip Hrgovic Slams Anthony Joshua For Being “Privileged”, Implies He Has Been Discriminated Against

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JEDDAH, SAUDI ARABIA - AUGUST 20: Filip Hrgovic reacts after the Final Eliminator for the IBF Heavyweight World Title fight during the Rage on the Red Sea Heavyweight Title Fight at King Abdullah Sports City Arena on August 20, 2022 in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. (Photo by Francois Nel/Getty Images)

Croatian heavyweight Filip Hrgovic has joined the line of fighters that has criticized Anthony Joshua for being privileged or overrated, continuing a tradition of heavyweights that believe Joshua has not attained his current position in the sport on merit but through what is often alluded to as luck or privilege. However, with Joshua now seemingly in form and having dispatched multiple opponents that have trash-talked him, can a future match-up between Joshua and Hrgovic prove the Croatian heavyweight right?

Most recently, Deontay Wilder (43-3-1, 42 KO’s) carried the same tune, arguing that Anthony Joshua (28-3, 25 KO’s) had a manufactured career; a notion that ironically applied to Wilder himself given the state of his resume. A few weeks after his comments, Wilder suffered a one-sided loss to Joseph Parker (35-3, 23 KO’s)―a fighter that Joshua had beaten years prior in a heavyweight unification bout.

Former Olympic competitor and current IBF interim heavyweight champion Filip Hrgovic (17-0, 14 KO’s) recently decided to echo Wilder’s past comments as he went on to explain why he believed Joshua got ahead.

He didn’t go through all the sh** that I went through, not [during] his amateur career, not his professional career,Hrgovic told Tru School Sports during a recent interview.

I had so much trouble, such a difficult path, and that made me stronger. He gets everything on a plate. Olympic gold on a plate, [in the] professionals… okay, he worked hard but whoever he wants to fight, ‘hello Joshua, here you go’.

This guy gets everything on a plate, and for me it’s different. It’s very different. That made me strong mentally, and that makes me confident that I’m going to beat him. I had so many troubles, it’s like my weakness. And now that weakness, in that moment, becomes my power because I’m there, I’ll get my chance, and I’ll eat him for breakfast.

Filip Hrgovic’s issues as both an amateur and professional are well-documented. During the 2016 Olympics, Hrgovic suffered a highly-contentious loss to Tony Yoka (11-3, 9 KO’s) during the semi-finals. While Yoka went on to win the Olympics after again controversially defeating British heavyweight Joe Joyce, the corruption that led to Yoka’s wins during the finals have been heavily scrutinized.

Like Yoka, Joshua’s own gold-winning run during the 2012 Olympics was criticized to an extent, and referenced by Filip Hrgovic during his interview. While Joshua eventually defeated Robert Camarelle in the final on points, with officials scoring the fight 18-18 and deciding to hand the win towards Joshua who was a key representative of the London Olympics as a British native, Joshua’s win was still seen as controversial and an appeal by Italy followed suit to further drum up the controversy.

The appeal was eventually rejected, allowing Joshua to retain his Olympic gold medal and the British heavyweight went on to have one of the most prevalent heavyweight careers of his era, fighting in at least ten world title fights while managing several defenses of his title[s] over roughly half a decade.

Unlike Joshua, Hrgovic faced more disappointment since his controversial loss to Yoka in 2016. Upon turning professional in 2017, Hrgovic found himself bereft of many of the same opportunities Anthony Joshua had and notably faced lesser opponents as opposed to Joshua―who already had four world title fights by the time Hrgovic made his pro debut.

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RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – AUGUST 19: Tony Victor James Yoka of France reacts after fighting Filip Hrgovic of Croatia in the Men’s Super Heavy 91kg Semifinal 1 on Day 14 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Riocentro arena on August 19, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

While Filip Hrgovic did eventually become the IBF interim champion in 2022 after beating Zhilei Zhang (26-2-, 21 KO’s) [controversially] by unanimous decision on the undercard of Joshua-Usyk II, Hrgovic notably had a much harder road to getting in a world title contending position given the lack of opportunities he was faced with―with the only top 15 heavyweight on Hrgovic’s resume remaining Zhang.

During his career as a professional, Joshua did find himself with more opportunities due to being one of the most recognizable heavyweights following his Olympic win, as opposed to Hrgovic who did not manage to attain a significant reputation following his controversial loss to Tony Yoka during his own Olympic run.

However, putting aside the difference between the two fighters’ reputation after they competed in the Olympics in separate years, there are numerous other factors that help or stifle a fighter’s career; especially when it comes to finding opponents that are willing to fight him. While some of those factors might pertain to Joshua’s popularity or marketability, which would make opponents more willing to face him with there being a higher chance to earn substantial money, there are countless fighters in the past that managed to become renowned through merit rather than just privilege or popularity.

Manny Pacquiao is the foremost example of this case, having managed to carve out a career that saw him become as recognizable as American rival Floyd Mayweather Jr, despite Pacquiao’s limitations in speaking the English language and having had faced unknown opposition in lower―and overlooked―weight classes for a large chunk of his career.

Filip Hrgovic also implied discrimination as a cause for his inability to garner the opportunities he has sought, speculating that his Croatian nationality might have prevented him from gaining world title opportunities sooner.

When you come from Croatia, you’re f*****,” Hrgovic stated. “When you come from a small country, you are f*****. Okay, he [Anthony Joshua] has charisma, he’s like a star and he works hard, but he gets everything he wants.

Whoever in the world he wants to fight―if he needs easy or hard fights, whatever he wants, he gets. I cannot develop my skills if I’m not fighting, and I can not get fights because I don’t have big TV, and they don’t pay big money, and my promoter can’t make money, so I’m f*****.

I can’t raise my skills or reach my potential without good fights, and all these guys from the United States or Great Britain, or Mexicans, they can do whatever they want because they have millions of people who are supporting them, and big TV, big money, so the promoter can pay for the opponent.

Hrgovic also referenced Lithuanian welterweight Eimantas Stanionis (14-0, 9 KO’s) who hadn’t fought for two years due to facing similar issues. The Croatian heavyweight further hammered down on the attention that fighters of certain nationalities receive, as opposed to boxers from lesser-known countries such as him and Stanionis, alluding to a form of discrimination in this sense.

In retrospect, Filip Hrgovic did highlight an uncomfortable truth within the boxing industry where fighters of certain nationalities are favored due to often being considered more entertaining attractions or marketable, yet as stated before, the popularity of a fighter is dependent on many different factors that cannot just be attributed to where a fighter comes from.

Ultimately, every fighter should be able to reach the heights they wish through merit, but boxing is―similar to any other sport―dependent on garnering the publicity and views it needs to sustain itself as an industry. Fighters from countries not known for their boxers are therefore often overlooked, as Hrgovic explained.

While Mexican, British and American fighters do tend to be looked at more favorably when it comes to organizing boxing events, it takes more than just nationality for a fighter to become a highly-recognized and respected boxer, and in any case Filip Hrgovic is far from the only boxer from a small or lesser-known country that has not reached the heights they wished to attain.

In fact, when observing the boxing landscape, there are larger countries than Hrgovic’s native country of Croatia that do not have a lot of substantial recognizable fighters at the top level, suggesting a boxer’s development and popularity is more nuanced than it immediately seems. There are several countries in the world known for producing top-flight and recognizable boxers despite being similar in size to Croatia’s population or economic strength, while there are also more prevalent and developed countries that have less representation in boxing―and as a result fewer recognizable top fighters than Croatia.

Ultimately, Joshua won the matches he needed to to raise his profile and stock, which would have turned out otherwise had his career gone in a similar way to Tony Yoka who went on to lose thrice in 2022 and 2023 to severely drop his stock as a heavyweight contender.

Currently, Hrgovic is presumably waiting to fight over the full IBF heavyweight world title which is expected to be relinquished following the May 18th undisputed bout between Tyson Fury (34-0-1, 24 KO’s) and Oleksandr Usyk (21-0, 14 KO’s), with Joshua being tipped to be in line to face him next due to being the highest-ranked contender on the IBF’s rankings after Hrgovic―giving the Croatian a potential opportunity to turn his situation around and attain the position and status he craves if he manages to beat Joshua like he intends.