IF you naively thought we were going to get the long-awaited fight between Anthony Joshua and Deontay Wilder, the two world heavyweight champions, at some point in 2019, think again.
The fight, a natural one, has been on the back-burner for some time now – as both champions look to make as much money as they can defending their various belts against less threatening contenders – and, according to Eddie Hearn, Joshua’s promoter, there is no sign of this changing.
Joshua, the WBA, IBF and WBO champion, is set for a US debut on June 1 against a soon-to-be-named replacement opponent, while Wilder, on May 18, will defend his WBC crown against Dominic Breazeale, a man who has already flunked a 2017 title shot against Joshua. Neither fight does much to whet the appetite.
It gets worse. Rather than set up a meeting between Joshua and Wilder, fights against the likes of Miller/Replacement and Breazeale could end up being an indication of things to come. Rather than the end of the collision course, we might be somewhere near the start.
Certainly, Hearn is of the belief Wilder, in particular, isn’t looking to fight his man anytime soon. He says the Alabama puncher has had his next two fights decided for him, and neither will require Joshua’s participation.
“Everybody in the business tells me that he [Wilder] has been told and all these fighters have been told that his next fights are [Luis] Ortiz and [Adam] Kownacki,” Hearn told Barbershop Conversations, while in America for Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez vs. Danny Jacobs.
“That worries me because the only fight we want next is Deontay.
“They’ve got a plan to fight these other guys in place.”
It’s a worry not only for Hearn and Joshua but for anyone with even a passing interest in the heavyweight division and a desire to see one champion established. After all, if the belts remain splintered and multiple men are given leverage to proclaim their right to a number one spot, what’s the point? Watching compelling heavyweight fights is as great a thrill as anything in sport. Watching rich men get richer, though, is quite the opposite.
Sticking with the subject of rich men, Anthony Joshua’s next fight, still set for June 1 at Madison Square Garden, New York, will tomorrow have its B-side.
Jarrell Miller, the disgraced American who failed more than one performance-enhancing drug test in April, may have missed out on his £6 million payday, and his chance to shock the boxing world, but his loss is someone else’s gain.
That someone will, according to promoter Barry Hearn, be revealed on Tuesday (April 30).
“I understand there’s every chance he’s going to make an announcement tomorrow, so it’s getting there,” Hearn said at a press conference this afternoon in London. “It’s difficult, it’s very difficult, what with the political world of boxing and the money they’re talking about, but it’s also difficult when a few people view it as an opportunity to put one over on AJ, or us, or boxing.
“We have five likely opponents, so it’s not a question that we’re going to be blackmailed. We’re never going to be forced into doing anything stupid because we just don’t work like that. Eddie is just playing the cards dead straight.”
With betting suspended on Joshua’s next opponent, it seems we’re just about ready. It would also seem Andy Ruiz Jnr, 32-1 (21), a quick but sometimes ill-disciplined American best-known for losing to Joseph Parker in 2016, is set to receive the chance of a lifetime.