Meet Filip Hrgovic: Once Called a "Fatty", Now a World Title Challenger

By 4 December 2019

December 4, 2019 - This Saturday at the Diriyah Arena in Saudi Arabia, Filip Hrgovic (9-0, 7 KOs) is scheduled to defend his WBC International Heavyweight Title against former world title challenger Eric Molina (27-5, 19 KOs) on the undercard of the huge rematch between Andy Ruiz Jr. and Anthony Joshua, who fight for the IBF, WBA, WBO and IBO World Titles. 

The Croatian star is enjoying the spotlight and is looking to make a statement on the biggest stage this weekend, but reaching stars wasn’t easy for Hrgovic, whose biggest support has always been his family. 

Filip was born on the 4th of June 1992 in Zagreb. His father Petar works for Croatian Motorways and was born in Livno, Bosnia and Herzegovina while his mom Iva was born in the capital of Croatia, graduated with a BA in kinesiology and has been focusing on raising five children. Filip has an older brother and sister, Ivan and Ivana, while older than him are Matija and Marta. There was also his grandfather, who Filip looked up to. 

“I am regretting that my grandad Stipe, to whom I was particularly attached to, didn’t experience my greatest success,” Filip once said.

As a kid, Filip gained extra weight and, therefore, in elementary school earned the nickname “fatty”. He was bigger than his peers and was often reprimanded due to his bad behavior in school. 

“I was naughty, playful, at least that's what I think about myself. I was a playful, but naive kid, we were all doing some nonsense, but it was always me who got in trouble,” said Hrgovic. 

Even though he is a well-renowned name in professional boxing nowadays, the first sport he got to know was basketball, as he was hoping to lose weight when he was eight years old. A few years later, he even won the national championship with the club Dubrava, but soon he retired due to back and knee injuries. 

Next, he dived into swimming, but not for too long. In 2005, for the first time, he started practicing box in Sesvete near Zagreb, his home district. He started learning the trade in the boxing club Leonardo under the guidance of coach Leonardo Pijetraj. His parents, especially his mother, met his decision to go into boxing with reluctance. However, no-one could stand in his way as he fell in love with the sport. 

Hrgovic said earlier this year: “It was difficult for them to accept it, but they had no choice. Mom can barely watch me fight.” 

That didn’t stop Filip from dominating on a junior and senior level where he was winning title after title. He was dominating so hard that he got carried away in 2013. During a closed sparring session in a gym in the UK, Hrgovic sliced open David Haye's left eyebrow with a wayward right elbow. The Brit was preparing for a multi-million-pound fight against Tyson Fury but had to postpone it, therefore losing a lot of money. 

“That cut cost him five million pounds, which was the agreed fee for the fight. I am sure he still hates me for that,” Hrgovic said last year. 

Nevertheless, in August 2015, Hrgovic announced himself to the world in a different light. He won the gold medal at the European Amateur Boxing Championship, first Croat to do so after legendary Mate Parlov, who won gold in 1971 and 1973. He didn’t stop there. In 2016, a medal was shining around his neck once more. At the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, he won the bronze medal. 

The next step was to become a professional, but that wasn’t easy on him. He waited for the first fight for 14 months. 

“'It was the most stressful and the worst year of my career. I hope that it doesn’t happen again. Not only because I wasn't boxing, but also because it took me months to get used to the new rules of the game because professional boxing is not just a sport, it's a business.” 

A business he quickly learned how to handle. At the end of 2017, he won his first professional fight against Brazilian Raphael Zumbano Love. There was no stopping him then or now. He was beating opponent after opponent after opponent and currently holds a record of 9-0, 7 KOs. The last time he was victorious was in August against Mexican Mario Heredia, who he fought as a married man for the first time. 

In June this year, he tied the knot with his long-time girlfriend Marinela Caja, in Sesvete. Filip and Marinela, who is two years younger than him, have been together for the past six years. 

This Saturday, however, he is looking to win for the 10th time as a professional and already has his sights set on the World Title. 

“It feels great to be here in Saudi Arabia,” said Hrgovic, who took part in a public workout today with his coach Pedro Diaz. “To be a World Champion, you have to be willing to fight all over the world. It is part of the job, and as I always say, a ring is a ring no matter where it is. I’ve boxed all over the world as an amateur, and I’m excited to fight in Saudi Arabia. 

“I have always said I want to fight the best in the division and my team and I will not avoid anyone. We offered Chisora to fight me when Joseph Parker canceled their fight, and they refused, so I would like to fight him next.” 

Filip’s life story has so far been incredible, but something tells us the best of him is yet to come. 

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