Filip Hrgovic got off the floor to scrape home with a narrow but unanimous decision over Zhilei Zhang in their IBF heavyweight final eliminator, a result that drew plenty of boos from the placid crowd in Jeddah.

In an incredibly grueling fight that saw both fight on past the point of exhaustion, Hrgovic seemed to box the first half of the fight through a fog after being knocked down by a punch that landed on the back of the head. But he finished the stronger to earn the nod on all three judges’ cards – two judges having it 115-112 and one 114-113.

“I was losing the fight in the later rounds I pushed myself and gave everything,” Hrgovic said. “For the knockdown, I wasn’t hurt, I just lost balance. But he surprised me.”

It’s 14 years since Zhang won a silver medal at the Beijing Olympics, six since Hrgovic left Rio aggrieved at only having a bronze medal.

But there was to be a shock in the first as Hrgovic found himself on the floor.

The right hook landed round the back of the head and he then seemed to drag Hrgovic down, but the referee began counting and Hrgovic did not complain.

Indeed, the Croatian seemed unsteady as Zhang landed another left but Hrgovic saw out the round.

Early in the second round Hrgovic started ti land the right, but Zhang fired back with a big left and they then started exchanging big shots.

At the start if the third round, a clash of heads left blood flowing from a cut on Hrgovic’s hairline. But it was Zhang who came forward throughout the round, sting Hrgovic with a series of straight left.

The Croatian was livelier at the start of the fourth, as he invited Zhang forward and fired back with both hands, but Zhang was soon back on top as he walked Hrgovic down and landed clubbing shots and one big uppercut.

Zhang kept on top in the fifth round, finishing with a flourish and Hrgovic was rocked early in the sixth round, with Zhang landing a series of hooks and uppercuts as Hrgovic staggered around the ring. Hrgovic fired back as Zhang caught his breath, but he trudged back to his corner looking despondent at the end of the round.

A big exchange at the start of the seventh round seemed to rock both of them and when Hrgovic landed a hard right, there was a nod of acknowledgment from Zhang, They both finished the round looking tired.

Hrgovic was now getting on top and, after they both landed in an exchange, Hrgovic started to put his punches together. After one left hook, Zhang complained he was caught on the back of the head, but the referee told him to fight on.

The action slowed to a pedestrian pace in the ninth round, as they plodded after each other. From somewhere, Zhang landed a series of punches that rocked Hrgovic and made him cling on. Then, as Hrgovic through a left, Zhang landed a hard left which turned Hrgovic around, with the bell then coming to the Croatian’s aid.

There was a big effort by Hrgovic in the tenth round as he produced a concerted attack to head and body, although Zhang did a better job than he had of walking through the shots.

Hrgovic was up on his toes at the start of the eleventh, but Zhang landed a solid left. Zhang was on the floor near the end of the round, as he slipped but took so long going down that Hrgovic landed a hot before he touched the canvas.

The pair looked exhausted in the last round, but Hrgovic finished the stronger, as Zhang staggered across the ring at the final bell.

Zhang and his corner were fuming at the verdict and the crowd booed, although it was a tight fight and Hrgovic finished well.

Jordanian lightweight hope Bader Al Samreen extended his unbeaten record to six fights as he stopped Faud Tarverdi in the final round of their four-rounder.

Tarverdi came forward throughout, but Al Samreen’s right made the difference every time it landed, as he rocked Tarverdi repeatedly.

Early in the fourth round, a right uppercut dropped Tarverdi and with Samreen landing a series of heavy punches, referee David Irving stepped in to stop the fight at 1:16.

Ron Lewis is a senior writer for BoxingScene. He was Boxing Correspondent for The Times, where he worked from 2001-2019 - covering four Olympic Games and numerous world title fights across the globe. He has written about boxing for a wide variety of publications worldwide since the 1980s.