WORLD heavyweight king Anthony Joshua defends his WBA, IBF and WBO titles against Andy Ruiz Jnr in New York this coming Saturday (June 1) in what will be his debut appearance in an American ring. While Stateside supporters are no doubt eagerly awaiting their first glimpse of Joshua in the flesh, the boxing public around the world are frustrated that they have yet to see the British superstar lock horns with either of his fellow unbeaten heavyweight standouts – WBC belt-holder Deontay Wilder and former unified champion Tyson Fury. For his part, Joshua is equally vexed, for the fans as much as himself.
“It’s not even about me anymore. It’s about the fans being starved of it,” the 29-year-old said. “It was all about me and Wilder when he started calling me out two years ago. It was all about us – it was great profile-building. Wilder looked like a crazy man calling me out. Fury came back. But then nothing’s happened. So now the fans are the ones who are getting the rough end of the stick.
“I don’t know why it’s not happening. With all that talk of profile-building and figures being thrown around. Dates and venues. I feel sorry for the people who want to see it. It’s wasting a lot of time. I said it before I fought Alexander Povetkin [in September last year] – each fight is a potential banana skin. I’d rather have it now than later.”
Whereas Wilder and Fury both turned professional in late 2008, Joshua didn’t move into the pro ranks until five years after. With this in mind, he believes that it’d be in the pair’s best interests to face him as soon as they can.
“I don’t know what [Wilder and Fury] are waiting for,” he stated. “They’re coming towards the end of their careers – 10 years, 11 years as professionals. I’ve only been doing it for five, six years. They’re not going to get much better. The longer they leave it, the worse for them, because I’ve still got another five years to really hone my skills. I’m not the finished article yet – I’m still working. Imagine another 18 months in my bag of tricks. I’ll have a few more skills and a few more things I can do. The longer they leave it, the worse for them, so they should crack on.”
It seemed at one point last year that a Joshua-Wilder unification clash wasn’t far off. However, negotiations ended in acrimony between the two camps, with an agreement failing to materialise. Joshua doesn’t blame Wilder himself for this, though.
“I don’t think it’s Wilder. I think it’s the people around him,” Joshua asserted. “When it’s me, I feel like I get made an example of – ‘Joshua’s ducking and dodging.’ But it’s not the same if he does the same thing. There was a real offer from the broadcaster offering Wilder a chance to fight on DAZN. One warm-up fight and then fight me after. Or he could’ve fought me straightaway if he wanted – there was that option. It was a real deal. It’s baffling why he didn’t take it after all his talk.
“I want to challenge myself against the best and have the opportunity to fight for all the belts. What more is there? I want that after 20-odd fights, whereas he’s already had 40-odd fights and five more years [longer]. What’s taking him so long? I don’t know where he’s going.”
Although the rival world titlists are associated with two competing television networks, Joshua does not feel that this should stand in the way of a fight being arranged.
“Broadcasters run boxing, but we’ve had this situation before in heavyweight history, where different fighters are with different broadcasters and they’ve managed to fight. So these things can still go ahead,” Joshua noted. “Wilder made a hell of a lot of noise [about making the fight happen]. That’s what baffles me.”
Despite all the setbacks and false starts so far, Joshua is still confident that a deal can be struck for him to take on Wilder in the near future.
“It has to happen… it has to,” said Joshua. “Unless he retires, it has to happen because we’re the same era, same time, same division. It’s been spoken about for so long, so it has to happen.”
Let’s hope he’s right…