Filip Hrgovic’s attempt at intimidating Daniel Dubois with his fast start failed to cause him to break last Saturday night in their heavyweight match-up in Riyadh.

The strategy worked against the 31-year-old Hrgovic (17-1, 14 KOs) because Dubois (21-2, 20 KOs) matched his aggression and met him with resistance that he wasn’t expecting.

Dubois, 26, used his superior conditioning and power to wear down Hrgovic, cutting him over both eyes to force a doctor’s stoppage in the eighth round.

By that point in the fight, Hrgovic was bleeding and exhausted from the fast pace. It looked like Hrgovic had trained for this kind of grueling shootout requiring him to absorb punishment and battle hard for three minutes of every round.

Going into the fight, the oddsmakers had the IBF mandatory challenger Hrgovic as the favorite, and a lot of boxing fans expected Dubois to either mentally quit like he’d done twice before or get knocked out by one of the big shots from the 6’5′ Hrgovic.

Hrgovic’s Intimidation Strategy Backfires

“When you put all those eggs in one basket like, ‘I’m going to be able to intimidate him, and he’s going to fold to my mental and physical presence,’” said boxing expert Paulie Malignaggi to Probox TV, talking about how Filip Hrgovic attempted to put the scare in Daniel Dubois last Saturday night in Riyadh, but then crumbled when he failed to fold mentally in their 5 vs. 5 competition.

Hrgovic had boasted about himself in the run-up to the fight, seeming cocky to the point where he came across like Dubois was going to be an easy victory for him. During his interviews, he had a look in his eyes like he knew he was going to win, and be the next opponent for Anthony Joshua to fight in September at Wembley.

“When you put all those eggs in that basket, and it doesn’t happen, you suddenly find yourself in a resistance you weren’t expecting,” said Malignaggi. “You always have to be ready for resistance, and I’m not sure Hrgovic was ready for that resistance he got back from Dubois.”

Hrgovic was almost dismissive of Dubois, and he clearly didn’t view him as being on the same level as him. Dubois didn’t like his attitude, and you could tell in the final press conference that he couldn’t wait to get in the ring to prove him and his doubters wrong. He had little to say when it was his time to speak and cut his remarks short.

The Fight’s Unexpected Turn

“The beginning of the fight was rather exciting. They both landed big shots. Hrgovic landed some good right hands,” said Malignaggi. “Dubois landed some good right hands and hooks, too. It looked like they were really going at it. You were like, ‘Someone is going down here,’ and then all of a sudden, Hrgovic, it seemed like everything drained out of him.”

At the beginning of the fight, it looked like Hrgovic was going to knock out Dubois because he was landing some vicious right hands that were harder than the shots that he’d been hit with in his losses to Joe Joyce and Oleksandr Usyk. But Dubois wouldn’t fold this time, and he kept firing back. Hrgovic looked uneasy from the pressure that Dubois was putting on him, and he knew that he’d bitten off more than he could chew this time.

There was one instance in the fourth round where Hrgovic nailed Dubois, right a right hand, but he fired a right-hand counter a faction of a second after being hit. It caught Hrgovic by surprise, and he snapped his head back hard as the round ended. This was the beginning of the end for Hrgovic because they suddenly lost energy, looking fatigued and rubbery-legged.

“‘Oh, this guy is still here, and I’m wearing out.’ It’s almost like he didn’t expect to have to be there once he hit him with a few right hands, and now you are not mentally prepared for that kind of resistance,” said Malignaggi. “It’s tough to suddenly prepare for it in the moment when you’re already inside the ring there.

“It’s good to see a doctor that actually does stop the fight when he’s supposed to. Two bad cuts for [Hrgovic],” said Malignaggi.

“He didn’t complain about the stoppage at all; that tells you a lot about where he was,’ said Chris Algieri about Hrgovic.

When the referee stopped the fight in the eighth, Hrgovic knew that he was in trouble because Dubois had hammered him in that round, especially in the seventh. He was in bad trouble in round seven, and it was surprising that he made it out without getting dropped.

The Crumbling of Confidence

“Even his body language was kind of poor a round or round and a half before that, too,” said Malignaggi about Hrgovic. “He was like, ‘I can’t really do anything here.’ Talk about the confidence. He didn’t look confident anymore. The last round and a half, he was kind of moseying around the ring, and Dubois was stalking him and had the confident body language.

Hrgovic was done from the sixth round, and he was offering up little by that point in the fight. His work rate dropped to next to nothing, and there was no power on his shots. In contrast, Dubpois looked gleeful, hitting Hrgovic at will with shots and hammering him against the ropes.

“It was a really impressive win for Dubois from the physical standpoint and from a mental standpoint,” said Malignaggi.

No one expected Dubois to be the mentally stronger fighter than Hrgovic in this fight because the Croatian fighter had seemed so confident during the promotion. His promoter, Eddie Hearn, seemed to believe as well that the victory was in the bag, and I think he may not have realized that he’d picked the wrong guy for his fighter.

I had watched how Hrgovic had struggled in his fights against Demsey McKean and Zhilei Zhang, and knew that he wasn’t as good as he and others thought he was. He also didn’t look in great shape for this fight.

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