Filip Hrgovic doesn’t buy Luis Ortiz’s excuse.

The Croatian contender has been angling for a chance to square off against a fellow top-ranked name in an IBF eliminator for the past year but has been unable to entice anyone of note. That trend continued recently when his team offered the Cuban southpaw Ortiz a chance to participate in the fight that would catapult the winner into a world title shot, only to receive word that Team Ortiz declined the proposal.

As previously reported, Ortiz (33-2, 28 KOs) suffered a hand injury during his bout with Charles Martin, whom he knocked out in dramatic fashion at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, Florida on Jan. 1.

“Of course I know why, he don’t want the smoke, man,” Hrgovic told IFL TV. “There’s no such official reason, so we all can figure out what is the reason: He didn’t want that fight. It’s IBF eliminator, it’s a great chance for everyone. I don’t understand. But it is what it is.”

Nisse Sauerland, Hrgovic’s promoter, said in the same interview that it has been a “frustrating” experience trying to match Hrgovic in a tough fight, while noting that he doesn’t think it is necessarily in Ortiz’s best interest to fight a high risk-low reward fighter such as his charge.

“He’s 42,” Sauerland said of Ortiz. “Does he want to fight a young, hungry animal like Filip Hrgovic? No. This could be his last fight. So I think he’s looking for a cash-out fight.

“For us, it’s frustrating. Because when someone after a fight says you’ve  gotta come through me, and we’ve waited through a semi-final eliminator. It’s a frustrating thing. We thought he was going to take it. Obviously we’re disappointed — he claimed that he had an injured hand. It is what it is. We just got to move on.”

After Ortiz’s refusal, the IBF sent a letter to Joseph Parker, whose team also declined the invitation, citing pay.

BoxingScene’s Jake Donovan reported that France’s Tony Yoka is the next heavyweight within the IBF rankings to have received a request to face Hrgovic in the eliminator. Yoka (11-0, 9 KOs) was supposed to face Martin Bakole in Paris on Jan. 15, but that fight was canceled in light of new Covid-19 restrictions.  

Sauerland is dismayed by the number of fighters who will not even entertain a discussion about facing the 29-year-old Hrgovic (14-0, 12 KOs).

“If you’re in the top-10 of the division in the IBF, it doesn’t show much confidence in your ability if you're turning down a fight without even negotiating,” Sauerland said. “Let’s say we got with a young kid, [Tony] Yoka…If he turned down Filip without even negotiating, then what does that say about him as a fighter, your confidence level?

“Filip, I know, will. If I said to him, [fight] King Kong – not Ortiz, the real King Kong – tomorrow, he’d do it, he’d jump on it, because he has the mentality that he will fight anyone.”