At Least We Don’t Have To Think About Joshua vs. Wilder For A While

Eddie Hearn, the promoter of WBA/IBF/WBO heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua, recently sent this text message to ESPN: “We have waited over a week for (Deontay) Wilder’s comments on the contract and on Sunday and in the media we were told they will be back with their comments this Friday, nearly two weeks after it was sent.”

“Who on earth waits nearly two weeks to get back regarding a fight they supposedly want so badly? With the WBA’s position, the game is up for Deontay Wilder and we have to move forward with (Alexander) Povetkin. We are happy to sign the Wilder contract the moment they get their act together but I honestly can’t tell you if that’s five days or five years.”

“It appears the Wilder team have not returned the contract for the fight and therefore we are requesting a date for the Joshua versus Povetkin fight with immediate effect,” said WBA president Gilberto Mendoza.

And with that goes any chance of Joshua-Wilder happening any time during the last half of 2018, which comes as no surprise to me and many others. In regards to the back and forth between the two sides, it looks as if neither were completely serious about fighting this year in the UK or the US. Regardless of what fans on both sides of the pond think, Joshua isn’t known well enough in America for the fight to be a blockbuster. And in Britain, the fans don’t care enough about Wilder, nor do they see him as a serious threat to Joshua to merit the fight having to be realized this year.

To hardcore boxing fans Joshua vs. Wilder is a fascinating match-up. However, for it to be a monumental PPV event it needs more than hardcore boxing fans; it needs the quasi fans to care enough about it before it becomes Lewis-Tyson or Holyfield-Tyson. The fact that the diehard fans of each have convinced themselves that it’s the other guy’s fault that the bout isn’t happening isn’t such a bad thing. And that won’t flicker away before the time comes when they finally do touch gloves with hopefully all the heavyweight hardware on the line.

The one thing many Wilder fans have to come to grips with is this: Wilder needs Joshua and not the reverse. AJ holds three of the four major titles; Wilder only holds the WBC version. Furthermore, depending on whose numbers you believe, Joshua makes five to 10 times more money when he fights than does Wilder…but there’s no conflict regarding AJ being more highly compensated and having more options. With respect to a mega-fight, Wilder really has no other options and outside of some of his ardent followers, he’ll never be considered the world champ until he beats Joshua.

What many fail to realize is that if AJ held all the cards six months ago, that changed all the more in his favor this past June 9th. On that day former champ and the current lineal champ Tyson Fury 26-0 (19) fought for the first time in 30 months. Granted, he fought a cruiserweight in Sefer Seferi and he didn’t look great winning the bout in four rounds, but Fury’s opponent didn’t matter a bit. What matters is that Fury is officially back and active as a heavyweight combatant. And that gives Joshua another opponent besides Wilder, in which his name on the contract means a super fight in the UK….and he may not even have to be at his best to beat the overweight and rusty Fury.

Tyson Fury is the greatest trash talker the heavyweight division has seen since Muhammad Ali. Given enough time, Fury could sell a fight between himself and featherweight Carl Frampton and make it must-see. Tyson has been excoriating AJ and telling everyone who’ll give him an ear that he, not Joshua, is the real champ based on him being the first to beat Wladimir Klitschko, and without getting dropped in the process.

(No, that’s not entirely true because although Joshua fought Wladimir after Fury did, he did beat him more conclusively and to the point in which anyone who saw the fight probably sees a rematch between them being a re-run of their first fight. That doesn’t apply to Fury and Klitschko if they were to fight again, because there’s a case for Klitschko since he probably overlooked Fury as a worthy challenger…..something that wasn’t in play when he fought Joshua.)

With the Wilder bout falling through, it looks as though Joshua 21-0 (20) will next face WBA mandatory challenger Alexander Povetkin 34-1 (24) this coming September. Povetkin has only lost to Wladimir Klitschko and did manage to go the distance with him but was knocked down four times along the way. Since then he’s 8-0 (6) and has looked pretty good. In his last bout he overcame an anxious moment (resulting in a standing 8-count) to score an impressive knockout over David Price in the 5th round. Povetkin was supposed to fight Wilder a few years ago and then tested positive for PEDS and the fight fell through. Sadly, Wilder didn’t get to fight Povetkin, because after having fought as a pro for ten years, he would have represented Wilder’s best opponent to date.

Now Povetkin is fighting Joshua and with AJ being forced to go the distance for the first time in his career in his last bout versus Joseph Parker, he can reestablish himself again as a killer if he goes on to be the first to stop Povetkin, which based on styles is very plausible.  In the interim Fury will have more than likely fought and won again and will be that much closer to a big fight with Joshua. And if that’s not quite ready to be made, Joshua can go on to another contender, if not Wilder, and still be hugely compensated.

The Joshua vs. Wilder bout will more than likely happen next year, but it’s not a given if Team Wilder maintains the mindset that the fighters are on equal footing when it comes to negotiations. It’s just too bad it couldn’t have been made for later this year. Wilder’s dramatic stoppage over Luis Ortiz in his last bout has led to many forgetting Deontay was seconds away from being stopped by Ortiz in the seventh round…meaning now with both fighters facing formidable opponents before facing each other, fans need to worry about them losing and killing the significance of their anticipated fight.

And that would be tragic because there aren’t that many compelling match-ups in the heavyweight division. Hopefully AJ and Deontay win their next bout and both sides get serious about making a fight between them a reality. But to do that, Team Wilder has to accept that Joshua will command the bigger purse and the bout will take place in the UK. Once Wilder & Co. accepts that, then it’ll be a breeze to make because there’s no chance that either fighter fears or loses sleep over the other.

With Joshua about to sign to meet Povetkin, at least now we no longer have to hear or read about Joshua and Wilder facing each other for the remainder of the year. Luckily for boxing fans, Joshua vs. Povetkin is a decent fight.

Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com

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