Eddie Hearn says the only fight Anthony Joshua wants is the Andy Ruiz Jr. rematch
Promoter Eddie Hearn said Anthony Joshua and his team had no hesitation in activating the rematch clause to challenge three-belt world champion Andy Ruiz before the end of the year.
Hearn said stipulations in the contract meant Joshua was not entitled to a warm-up fight, to find his mojo, and he doubted an interim fight would have interested the former champion either.
“Not really, only because I know the contract, so I knew it wasn’t possible,” said Hearn of a warm-up outing. “Do I think an interim fight would be beneficial for AJ? Maybe. Maybe. Would he just be completely demotivated in that fight and just think, ‘Why the f— am I taking this interim fight?’ Yes. So, the fight that’s going to motivate AJ is the rematch with Andy Ruiz. So, when you talk to AJ about interim fights he says, ‘I don’t want an interim fight, I want the biggest fight.’”
Does logic not dictate that it would boost Joshua’s confidence to get a ‘W’ on his belt before reconvening with the man who shook up the world?
“The logic is, who is the favorite in that rematch?” Hearn asked rhetorically. “I know it’s close, the answer is AJ. It’s close. If you’re a favorite in a fight like that, to regain all your world titles instantly, in my opinion, you should take the fight. Taking the fight is not a decision of mine at all.
“It’s a decision of Anthony Joshua and [trainer] Robert McCracken. Rob McCracken is probably the most careful person in boxing. He thinks AJ should take the immediate rematch. It’s hard even getting an opponent across the line with Robert McCracken. His view is, ‘You should have beaten him. You will beat him. Therefore, you take that fight.’
“Going into that fight, AJ was a big favorite. No one gave Ruiz a chance. We all know [Joshua] had an off night. We all know he got sloppy, does that mean he can beat him? Not necessarily, but he is again the favorite going into the fight.
“Also, you may never get a chance to recapture those world titles.”
With Ruiz holding the lion’s share of the belts, Hearn feels it’s important to strike now, either before Ruiz loses the crowns or he is stripped and the titles fragment further.
“There’s going to be a load of mandatories coming in etc., etc. so it’s very dangerous to not take that opportunity and if you don’t take that opportunity you’ve got to understand that it may not present itself again for a long time,” cautioned Hearn. “But it wasn’t even … No one even said to me, ‘How does an interim fight work, or do we have an option for an interim fight?’ It was, ‘You’ve got a rematch clause, we need to know if you want to take it? F—— right.’ You know? Because he’s expected to win.”
It seems as though Cardiff on December 14 is the frontrunning date and venue though other options are in play and Hearn admitted it’s a contest that has him on edge.
“Nervous, petrified, excited …” he went on. “It’s the biggest fight in world boxing. I believe AJ will win that fight. It’s by far from a foregone conclusion, but that’s what you want, isn’t it?
“I’ve had people ask me, ‘Do you think it’s wise putting Dillian Whyte in with Oscar Rivas?
“It’s a really tough fight. F—— hell, isn’t that what you want? I do have an obligation to steer fighters’ careers in the right way, but if you aren’t good enough you aren’t going to win.
“If Joshua is what I believe he is and what I know he is, and I know, if he’s going to beat [Tyson] Fury and he’s going to beat [Deontay] Wilder, he’s got to be beating Andy Ruiz. And I know the style’s not ideal and styles make fights, and stuff like that. But you’ve got to be beating Andy Ruiz. He’s not a killer, this kid. All of a sudden, people are like, ‘Woah, Andy Ruiz.’ No one said this when he boxed Joseph Parker or Alexander Dimitrenko the other week.”
Hearn, of course, has a huge stable and Joshua, his leading UK star, is not the only fighter he’s trying to finalize deals for.
“The Canelo [Alvarez] fight is the fight,” he said of what he wants for his world and Ring Magazine super-middleweight champion Callum Smith. “They’re the same platform, but I don’t think they look at Callum and go, ‘Oh, he’s the number-one choice for us.’ I think the Billy Joe Saunders fight is a good fight. I don’t think it’s anywhere near as big as could or it should be, but fans don’t want to hear that. They don’t care how big a fight is. I think the Danny Jacobs fight at 168 is a good fight for him in America, I think the Caleb Plant fight, a couple of fights on the other side of the street are great fights. I don’t even mind the [Chris] Eubank Jr. fight. I think that’s a decent size fight. It can be in play. There are no discussions, but it can be.
“The key is to keep [Smith] active. The World Boxing Super Series was really good and really bad for him. It was really good, because eventually he got a shot at the title to become the number one super-middleweight. It was really bad because his profile was affected, so he came out as the number one super-middleweight on the planet, yet not being the star he should have been. So, he now demands a lot of money for his fights, that’s one of the problems with the Billy Joe Saunders fight with the offer we got, the money was what we pay for a standard fight.
“It’s not as big yet as it could be, but at some point, Callum is going to want to test himself. Callum’s going to want to unify. I just want him active right now, to try and get a bit of momentum. I’d love the [David] Benavidez fight. I think that’s a great fight. A high-risk fight. Billy Joe Saunders is a high-risk fight, he’s an excellent fighter.”
He’s also hoping to get Kid Galahad out again soon after pushing IBF featherweight world champion to the brink last time out.
“I thought he won the fight,” Hearn continued. “Stats showed he won the fight. The same old argument that I’ve probably used on the flip side before, you’ve got to rip the belt off the champion, you go into his hometown. Really, the truth is you should score a fight on a blank piece of paper and the bloke who wins wins.
“But perhaps he didn’t quite rip the title off [Josh] Warrington, but I do think he won that fight and it’s going to be tough to beat Kid Galahad. We’re going to put him in some big fights. He wants to keep momentum and he wants to be in tough fights.”
Hearn’s deal with Amir Khan is over, however, and Khan seems to be pursuing other options further afield. However, Khan’s bitter domestic rival, Kell Brook, might or might not fight again. Hearn is unsure having spoken to Kell’s father a couple of weeks ago.
“The message is they want a big fight,” Hearn explained. “They want [Terrence] Crawford. I don’t think they’ll get Crawford. But my opinion is if they don’t get a big fight, he won’t fight again. I don’t think Kell would say that, but that’s what I think. He’s got money, he’s been involved in some big fights …
“[There’s] Danny Garcia, Jesse Vargas, any of those guys, someone at 154, if it’s Liam Smith and a big fight domestically. The Jesse Vargas fight was close a few times, but it’s really the money that Kell used to perceive to be a lot of money he doesn’t perceive to be a lot of money, because he’s made a lot of money.
“He’s achieved a lot, but on the back of the Shawn Porter win. I think he should have been a superstar with a couple of fights in there, but we know what happened. That was a big blow and he’s still had a very good career but for a number of reasons he hasn’t achieved what I thought he could have achieved. I still think he has a future. I still think he’s a great fighter but I think his motivation is not there to go and just have a normal fight.”
WBC flyweight champion Charlie Edwards has been one of boxing’s feel-good stories of recent years, but he could be in deep while defending his crown next month in London’s O2 Arena and Josh Kelly, who battled to a draw with Philadelphia southpaw Ray Robinson, might not have quite shaken the American off his tail just yet.
“He [Edwards] has a mandatory against Julio Cesar Martinez who just stopped Andrew Selby,” said Hearn. “It’s a tough, tough fight but it’s a mandatory. That could land on the [Vasiliy] Lomachenko-Luke Campbell card [August 31]. Hopefully, that will be tied up and announced this weekend and Josh Kelly, hopefully he will box on October 19 in Newcastle. I would like him to rematch Ray Robinson. I thought it was a really good fight. Josh is moving really quickly.
“Not a lot of people have heard of Ray Robinson, but he’s a good fighter. He drew with [Egidijus] Kavaliauskas. I thought he won that fight. Samuel Vargas, David Avanesyan … I think they’re the kind of fights Josh wants to be in. I believe he beats Ray Robinson and he can eradicate that from the record and move on.”
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