Filip Hrgović v Amir Mansour
Arena Zagreb, Zagreb, Croatia
Vacant World Boxing Council International Heavyweight Title
I don’t usually pick against hot prospects fighting at home, because the opponent usually has the odds stacked against him in all departments, including the referee and judges. However, sometimes there is enough value in the price, and the banana skin is so slippery, it is worth a punt.
Filip Hrgović is a big betting favourite (1/100) with good reason. An Olympic bronze medalist at Rio 2016 and gold medalist at the 2015 European Championship in Samokov. He has a good amateur background spanning over a decade.
A big super-heavyweight measuring 6-foot 6-inches (1.98 m) and usually weighing in around 220-225lbs. Hrgović will have a big height advantage over his shorter opponent (6-foot 1-inches), but it is likely they will weigh a similar weight, as Mansour is well-muscled and bulky (last fight 224 lbs).
Big things are expected of Hrgović, who turned pro last year and has a record of 5-0 with 4 knockouts so far. Talk of the first ever Croatian heavyweight champion puts added pressure on the young prospect. The fight will take place in his home city of Zagreb, and German promoters Sauerland have big hopes for their fighter. This will put a lot of emphasis on Hrgović getting the win by decision; Mansour maybe fighting against Hrgović, the referee and judges at the same time.
If all that has not put you off making the bet, now for the good news.
Hrgović was originally due to fight Scottish heavyweight Gary Cornish, who will all due respect has a padded record. The only two names on his resume, Anthony Joshua and Sam Sexton beat him convincingly. His skillset can be described as a limited. Cornish has pulled out of the fight due to an injury and Mansour has been brought in as a late replacement. Cornish would have been a decent test and a good stepping stone fight for Hrgović who I expect would have stopped the Scotsman. Mansour is a whole different animal. He will come to fight and win and brings decent power to the table. I can’t help but think this has come too early for the youngster.
The fight is for the vacant WBC International heavyweight title, which in fact Mansour had fought for in his previous fight. The American southpaw went on the road to fight highly touted Russian prospect, Sergey Kuzmin, in Moscow. Kuzmin is also an amateur European championship SHW gold medalist. Big things were expected of fighter who was 11-0 before the Mansour fight. Not respecting the script, Mansour was troubling the bigger fighter with his hand speed and movement. Un the fourth an accidental clash of heads allowed the doctor to jump-in and stop the fight. The contest was ruled a draw.
While Hrgović has the amateur experience he is very green in the pros, having fought five limited opponents who put up little resistance. Mansour has been a pro for over 20-years with a record of 23-2-2 with 16-wins by KO. One of his losses was a TKO loss to Dominic Breazeale, who would fight Anthony Joshua for the IBF heavyweight title in his very next fight. However, Mansour was handily beating Breazeale and already scored a knockdown, when a freak tongue injury caused him to not come out for the 5th round, and quit on his stool.
His other loss was a 12 round decision loss to Steve Cunnigham, in which he lost despite knocking Cunnigham down twice, and with the help of a slow count from the ref. His draw with Kuzmin aside, he also drew with unbeaten prospect Gerald Washington, even though around 99% of boxing fans thought Mansour was the winner. Washington secured a title fight straight afterwards.
Mansour’s record is not deep for a 20-year veteran, due to the fact he was imprisoned for 8-1/2-years for narcotics offences. He resumed his boxing career in 2010 on his release.
At 46, you would expect Mansour to be slowed with an empty gas tank. Mansour fought to a 12 round decision win only last year. He was throwing a high volume of punches until the final round and even shook his opponent with his power in the last minutes. Hrgović, on the other hand, has never fought championship rounds. He went 8-rounds once against Irishman Sean Turner earlier this year to win a UD. He was the clear winner against the 5-foot 11-inch fighter, but Turner was able to catch the Croatian on numerous occasions with telegraphed shots.
The fact Hrgović is so hittable is a big reason I am taking a punt on the underdog. He has a very amateur style still, moving in and out in straight lines, and throwing pitta-patta punches. He can move well for a big man, but is often caught flat-footed throwing combinations or too slow to get out of there. There is a clear lack of experience in his style, when adjusting to the pro game. He will really need to show something different from his first five fights to beat the wiley old veteran. If slower journeymen can beat Hrgović to the punch and catch him cleanly, Mansour will connect with him at some point and we will see if he can withstand the power.
Hrgović has not filled out his frame yet. He is tall and fairly lanky for a super-heavy. When he has been caught -though never in real trouble – has looked slightly unsteady and unbalanced due to his body shape. Mansour can exploit this by getting inside and unleashing hooks. He had good success with the lead right-hook against Kuzmin.
Mansour is a very underrated fighter and often avoided by all the big names. He has sound fundamentals, a good defence, fast hands, decent movement, determination, a will to win, and a decent chin. Hrgović, is going to be in for the toughest fight of his career. The pro game is a different sport to the amateurs and this could be a step too far and too soon.
I remember back to when Olympic medalist – David Price – took on 41-year-old veteran Tony Thompson. The American was seen as a stepping stone to bigger things, but Thompson won by TKO, and repeated the feat in an immediate rematch. It was too soon for Price, and he never fully recovered his confidence from the shock defeats. I can’t help but think this will transpire in a similar fashion.
Betting Odds & Tip
The best price available at the time of writing is 17.0 for Amir Mansour outright on Betfair.
I will place a small 0.5 unit stake on Mansour outright. You could cover the draw at 34.0 if you were concerned about that outcome, however, I will just stick with the outright for now.
In-play at that price, I would increase the stake, but I have not found any action at the moment. The markets for this fight are not so popular.
Mansour will have to overcome a lot of obstacles to win this fight, but at 16/1 the value is too good to turn down when picking boxing underdogs in the long run.