Any short list of must-have fights for 2019 includes Anthony Joshua versus Deontay Wilder, which is a battle of the two most dangerous and well-known heavyweights in the world. Both are undefeated, in their physical primes and hold all of the heavyweight titles. It’s one of the few fights that would actually move the needle. The kind that would stoke the interest of not just the hard-core fans of the sport, but the casual ones.
So just what are the chances Joshua (22-0, 21 KOs) and Wilder (40-0-1, 39 KOs) actually meeting in the first half of 2019?
When Wilder’s adviser, Shelly Finkel, was asked by ESPN.com if he was hopeful that this bout could come to fruition next, he answered with a flat, “No.” Finkel explained that while Joshua and Hearn, were in New York City last week for the Canelo Alvarez-Rocky Fielding event and did their rounds with the media, they were never contacted.
“We didn’t talk, we didn’t meet while they were here and it just didn’t happen. Hey, maybe it’s just not meant to be, at least right now,” said Finkel, who also noted that it seems as though Joshua is now reading from a script prepared by Hearn, when discussing the fight with Wilder.
“Joshua is still of the mindset that he’s going to buy us or he’s going to pay us. That’s over,” insisted Finkel, who believes that coming out of the Fury fight his client has become a more valuable commodity.
“We didn’t do that to Fury in order to make a fight,” Finkel said. “We did what was necessary to make a fight and if they want to make the fight, they know how to do it. If they don’t, it won’t happen. They can say whatever they want, if they wanted to make a fight, they’d make it.”
But Hearn says, while there was no face-to-face sitdowns, it was some kind of communication between him and Finkel.
“We swapped numerous e-mails and we had numerous telephone conversations, as well,” Hearn said. “We didn’t meet but we had correspondence going backward and forward. It’s really up to them, to be honest with you. The fight is there to be made, in my opinion.”
Moving forward, the less you hear from both sides during this process, the better.
“I think last time we both made the mistake of talking too much,” admitted Hearn, who certainly has the gift of gab. “I even hold my hands up. Shelly was going to the media with every e-mail reply and I was being very vocal and letting my ego take over and we both probably did a poor job in getting this over the line. But there’s no excuses, now. We both agreed with each other that we’ll stay low key and we won’t talk about the negotiations for this fight.
“But there’s really no excuse to not make the fight and it all depends on how much Wilder wants to be undisputed because these opportunities don’t come up very often. So ultimately we have to make sure we strike when we can and this feels like the time to strike when we can.”
The plan is for Joshua to headline a card at Wembley Stadium on April 13. In the past, Joshua has insisted that this showdown take place in the U.K. But the newest proposal from Matchroom Sports is a two-fight deal that calls for a fight in the home country of both boxers.
“Would we consider a U.S. fight, first? Maybe,” Hearn said. “We’ve got to have discussions and there’s got to be a desire to make the fight on their side, to even talk about things like that. But we want April 13 in Wembley and then November, December in the States. But maybe being undisputed is not important to Wilder. But he has always said, ‘One man, one picture, one champion’ — all of that sort of stuff. I’m hoping that legacy and the undisputed crown is important and it will give us a chance to make the fight.”
It’s clear that Joshua is the A-side of the promotion. He is the bigger draw, by far, and the more well-known international figure. But as the months go by and this fight gets put on the back burner, you wonder if his credibility will start to erode. Yeah, he plays to crowds of upward of 80,000 fans for his events, but boxing is an athletic contest, not a concert.
The reality is that this matchup will occur when Joshua and his side gives it the green light.
“They wanted to make that deal with Charles Martin. They did what they had to do,” pointed out Finkel of Matchroom Sports, paying the American an exorbitant amount to defend his title in 2016 in Joshua’s backyard. “We did what we had to do to get the fight done with Fury. There was no real hassle and we got it done.”
As of now, it looks as though Wilder will engage in a rematch with Fury.
Finkel has been frustrated in his past dealings with Hearn.
“They keep saying, ‘If you want to be the unified champion, you’ve got to come to us.’ The same thing is if they want to be unified, they’ve got to come to us, too. … I want the best fight for my guy and if Joshua’s the best guy and he’ll fight, we’ll make it happen.
“At this point, Fury wants to fight, he wanted to fight the first time. He did it and it was a great fight.”