Eddie Hearn believes there might be a silver lining to Filip Hrgovic’s somewhat disappointing performance in his last fight.

Hrgovic, the highly regarded Croatian heavyweight contender, was able to defeat China’s Zhilei Zhang last month on the undercard of the Oleksandr Uysk vs. Anthony Joshua heavyweight title unification match (WBO, WBA, IBF) in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, but many observers were conflicted about the verdict, with not a few claiming that Zhang deserved to have his hands raised.

The win turned out to be something of a let down for Hrgovic, who had previously been regarded in some circles as one of the most avoided fighters in the sport. Fighter after fighter pulled out of an IBF elimination bout involving Hrgovic, including Joseph Parker and Luis Ortiz. It as Zhang (24-1-1, 19 KOs) who decided to finally answer the bell against Hrgovic (15-0, 12 KOs).

Hearn, who co-promotes Hrgovic with Nisse and Kalle Sauerland, said he thinks his charge’s subpar outing may turn out to be blessing in disguise, that more top contenders will be open to fighting the Croatian now that they have seen him in far less intimidating form.

“I don’t think Hrgovic boxed that great,” Hearn acknowledged on The DAZN Boxing Show. “Unfortunately, his father passed away recently. I don’t know if that affected his camp. But Zhang’s underrated. He’s a good fighter. He’s a huge, huge guy. He was 126 kilos going into that fight.

“I do rate Filip Hrgovic. I think he’s an outstanding fighter. And, you know, as our co-promoters Nisse and Kalle Sauerland said, maybe people will want to fight him now. Because they never wanted to fight him before. Trust me. They never wanted to fight him.”

Controversial or not, with the Zhang win behind him, Hrgovic has now put himself in position to be the mandatory challenger for the IBF heavyweight crown, which is currently held by Ukraine’s Usyk, who also holds the WBA and WBO titles. Usyk retained his belts with a split decision win over Joshua in their 12-round rematch.

Hearn said that he expects Hrgovic to vie for the IBF title in as little as “two fights’ time.

“Filip Hrgovic is now the mandatory challenger for Oleksandr Usyk,” Hearn said. “When that IBF wheel of fortune comes back around, which is probably in two fights’ time, he’ll have one more fight and then wait for a shot at the world heavyweight title. And he’ll be much better the next time.”