Monday, April 23, 2018  |


Anthony Joshua-Deontay Wilder heavyweight title fight talks set to begin Thursday

Could one of the biggest fights and events that can be made in boxing be getting closer to becoming a reality?


The war of words between Deontay Wilder and Anthony Joshua, the men who would be king of the heavyweight division, has been going on for quite some time and escalated in the days following the successful defenses of each’s share of the title over the past two weeks.

But on Thursday, it will be their representatives who will fight it out in Manhattan as British promoter Eddie Hearn, representing Joshua, and Al Haymon and Shelley Finkel, representing Wilder, meet in an attempt to come to terms for a unification bout sometime next year.

“This fight has to happen in 2018,’’ Hearn told on Wednesday at an open workout for Saturday’s card at Nassau Coliseum headlined by a 12-round middleweight bout between Daniel Jacobs and Luis Arias. “If not, you get into a situation where fans will lose hope and boxing doesn’t get to see the fight it wants to see. It’s the biggest fight in boxing. And besides, it’s boxing. Someone could get knocked off.’’

Hearn, who sold 78,000 tickets to Joshua’s unexpectedly tough IBF title defense against Carlos Takam at Principality Stadium in Cardiff on Oct. 28 and 90,000 tickets to the fight that put Joshua on the map, his TKO of Wladimir Klitschko at Wembley Stadium in April, said he is agreeable to holding the fight in the U.S., acknowledging that even crowds like those can’t match the dollars to be generated in Las Vegas.

But before you rush out to buy your tickets, know also that Hearn is also sending out mixed signals, hedging his bets with talk of a possible Joshua-Joseph Parker fight in the interim and quick to remind everyone that with just 20 pro fights on his record, Joshua’s career is “in an embryonic stage.’’

“He’s great but he’s just a baby,’’ Hearn said of Joshua. “He’s still learning. But he could be in a learning phase and still beat Deontay Wilder.’’

A Wilder-Joshua unification bout is generally considered to be the most attractive match in boxing today, pitting the crude but fearsome-punching knockout artist Wilder, who KO’d an overmatched and undertrained Bermane Stiverne in the first round on Nov. 4 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, against the more-polished but far less experienced Joshua, who in his most impressive performance got off the floor to stop Klitschko in 11 rounds on April 29.

After dropping Stiverne – the only man to have lasted the distance with him in 39 pro fights — three times in their rematch, Wilder, 32, threw down a challenge to the 28-year-old Joshua.

“I declare war upon you. Do you accept my challenge?’’ Wilder said. “I’ve been waiting for a long time. I know I’m the champion, I know I’m the best. Are you up for the test?”

This week, Joshua returned fire, telling BBC Sport: “Let’s present him with an offer, and see how they feel about that. If Wilder’s not making an offer, we’ll do it on my terms. And if you want to stay at home like a little girl, this king has no problem travelling to knock out the champion.’’

The genesis for the meeting between Hearn, Haymon, who is Wilder’s “adviser,’’ and Finkel, who is his co-manager, came about when Hearn was a guest on a boxing podcast on Monday, during which both Wilder and Finkel called in.

“If you’re serious about making the fight, it will happen,’’ Finkel told Hearn. The two continued their conversation off-air and set up an early morning Thursday meeting at an undisclosed Manhattan restaurant. Hearn and the fighters will be holding a press conference for Saturday night’s show at a midtown Manhattan theater later in the  morning.

Speaking at the Mendez Boxing Gym in Manhattan on Wednesday, Hearn said he was eager to strike a deal for the fight, but also said he thought both fighters needed to raise their profiles in order to maximize their earnings for the bout.

“If they present us with the right terms, we could make the fight (Thursday),’’ he said. “But I think this fight is much bigger in the summer than it is in March and it’s much bigger in the fall than it is in the summer. If I were a sensible guy I’d say this fight makes more sense in a year to 18 months from now. But the fans want it now, so we have to weigh everything.’’

Hearn also said that if the two camps were unable to come to terms, he might consider matching Joshua with unbeaten Brooklyn heavyweight Jarrell (Big Baby) Miller, who he also promotes, in March. Miller is fighting Poland’s Mariusz Wach in a 10-rounder on the undercard.

“Miller is a guy that I would look at as a perfect first opponent in the U.S. for Anthony Joshua, and probably here in New York,’’ he said.

Or, Joshua could face Parker, the WBO titleholder from New Zealand who is unbeaten in 24 fights with 18 KOs. “That’s a dangerous fight, but it’s boxing, isn’t it?,’’ Hearn said. “That’s why we have to make the fight sooner rather than later. That’s why I say we have to make it in 2018.’’

The talk of other possible opponents for Joshua makes Finkel skeptical of Hearn’s sincerity to discuss terms for a showdown with Wilder.

“I’m just not confident he really wants to do this,” said the veteran boxing dealmaker. “I think we’re meeting  because he doesn’t want to be embarrassed that he didn’t even try.”

If Hearn has cold feet, it isn’t due to Wilder’s most recent KO. Like most observers, Hearn said he learned little from watching Wilder’s brief bout with Stiverne.

“I thought he does what he always does,’’ Hearn said. “He’s very reckless but he’s a very big puncher. The fight was a mismatch but at least he dealt with it in that fashion rather than dragging it out. So at least you have to give him props for that.”

Still, Hearn seemed to lean toward the belief that both Joshua and Wilder could benefit from having at least one more interim bout before going to a unification showdown.

“Neither guy’s profile in the States is huge yet,’’ Hearn said. “Right now, I think that fight could do a half-million pay-per-view buys but to be really successful we have to do a million-plus. To do that I think we need a collective plan to build up both guys.’’

Finkel believes the fight can do 1 million pay-per-view buys without a long build-up.

Asked if there was a possibility of Joshua and Wilder fighting separate opponents on the same card, Hearn said, “I don’t think Wilder’s ego could handle fighting on Joshua’s undercard.’’

Still, the British promoter seemed resigned to doing the fight on Wilder’s turf.

“I could sell 900,000 tickets to that fight in Wembley, but it only seats 90,000, and even so, I think you could generate as much money as you could in Las Vegas,’’ he said. “Really, Joshua is earning eight times more than Wilder per fight, but he is a champion, too, and we mustn’t disrespect him. He does have value, so we have to find somewhere between fantasy and reality to make the fight happen.’’

One possibly solution could be a two-fight deal, with one fight being held in the U.S. and the other in the U.K.

“Wilder wants to fight in the U.S. and we’d rather fight in the U.K.,’’ Hearn said. “This a superfight and these guys need each other. So why not do it two, or even three times?’’

First they have to make a deal to do it once.

  • Stephen M

    Strangely, I say: marinate!

    • It needs at least 6 months and Joshua needs to make his U.S. debut before it happens (if it’s to take place in Vegas and be PPV here in the Sates).

      • Stephen M

        It’d be a shame to have this fight while both are relatively unknown. Eventually it would be nice to see both of them do the late night talk show circuit. They are both fairly compelling, it could be big. And if one of them loses before hand? Well, it is a risk…

      • Triple C

        and no way it happens in March in the UK either due to stadium availability and weather. People need to accept that this ain’t happening for at least 7-8 months, which doesn’t mean there’s any quacking going on

      • Harry

        You’re right, Doug, but it’s good that fans put some pressure on Eddie Hearn, demanding Wilder vs Joshua, so he no longer talks about Whyte now. A two-fight deal would seem fine (there can be a rematch clause in the contract), but the first one should happen at Wembley. And Wilder’s team should agree to a 40:60 split of revenues in favor of Joshua. If Wilder beats him in England then this ratio should reverse for their rematch in Vegas.

      • Wade Wilson

        All Wilder needs is one hard skull and a badly landed shot for us to never see the fight. His right hand isn’t going to get less fragile.

      • Koninbeor

        Doug, why does Las Vegas generate so much more money than anywhere else? Is the gambling scene really that big of a factor? It’s just crazy how a 90,000 person gate can’t make up the difference.

    • Ewan Leaper

      Maybe one more fight for each guy would raise the profile but they are both vulnerable as hell, it’s risky to leave it too long. Miller would be ideal for Joshua to introduce himself because he’s big and unbeaten, talks a good game and is pretty woeful at the same time.

      • Stephen M

        I can’t disagree with you, but say that they do fight and it’s a blow out for one of the two. Who does the winner get after that? There is only Fury, and that is if and when he gets his shit together.

        • Ewan Leaper

          It’s a tricky one really, Parker is seen as the next best thing and I think he’s very average, probably not as good as the two old drug cheats Ortiz and Povetikin and not as interesting as the ancient drug cheat/lunatic that is the “Champ!”, Shannon Briggs 😂

          I don’t know about Wilder because he was wobbled earlier in his career but took good shots from Stiverne but Joshua strikes me as one shot away from disaster at any time and he’s going to get into trouble with his conditioning.

          He’s been elevated to a lofty position in boxing through casual fans who don’t know what they’re looking at and as soon as he gets stopped we’re going to see a fairly ignominious bursting of his bubble, which isn’t really fair but in keeping with the nature of fickle fans. He’s good to watch but I don’t particularly rate him.

          Wilder is no technician but he’s great to watch, an excellent athlete and a legitimate puncher. A fight with Joshua would be fun so I say bring it on as soon as possible- If it’s competitive then have another. After that it is a barren wasteland of a division, Fury was better than either of them will ever be but only time will tell if he can get his shit together as you say.

  • PrinceGian

    This fight needs to be made now. If they try to drag it out anything can happen, one of them could be injured or even lose a fight. I am putting my money on Joshua by KO

  • Dee Money

    “He’s great but he’s just a baby,’’ Hearn said of Joshua. “He’s still learning. But he could be in a learning phase and still beat Deontay Wilder.’’

    This is the same type of thinking (or at least stated line of reasoning) that led to the last marination. If you are still learning, still not ready for all comers, then don’t go winning a belt; if you have a title no ducking due to being unprepared.

    • Stephen M

      Guys who don’t duck, or delay a fight with, anyone in their own weight class are pretty rare. Just saying..

      • Dee Money

        I feel ya, I just hate the idea of a man holding a belt and then not fighting an opponent because they are too young/green.

        • Keano

          But Hearn will still make the fight. He isn’t De La Hoya

  • Alan Hitchcock

    I’m not sure either side wants it yet. By all accounts Wilder’s team made a pretty poor offer to Parker’s team. I’d actually prefer that one of them did fight Parker first, then everything is on the line. Then the winner fights Fury for lineal supremacy

  • Koninbeor

    This is where the belt system completely fails us. You have three champions in the division and not a single one of them is the #1 contender for any belt he doesn’t have. Really? Every alphabet organization truly thinks that the other organizations’ champions suck?

    • Wade Wilson

      I wouldn’t call it a “system” though!

      • Koninbeor

        It’s SOME sort of system. I think you have to be half crazy and kicked in the head by a donkey to figure it out, though.

        • Stephen M

          The sort of system would be banana republic anarchy.

          • Koninbeor

            I sure do like bananas.

  • Tiger Bradley

    I think Joshua fighting Baby Miller in the US in March and Wilder fighting a tune up both on free tv the next month will set up this fight for PPV in September in Las Vegas with the Rematch in London