THE Anthony Joshua vs Joseph Parker heavyweight unification this Saturday will serve as an exciting lead-in to the main event: Joshua and Deontay Wilder facing off, assuming Joshua is victorious.
Wilder is expected ringside at Cardiff’s Principality Stadium in Cardiff as a Sky Sports analyst for the event.
“I will get in the ring and go face to face with [Joshua],” the WBC world heavyweight champion told Sky Sports. “That will be amazing and I hope he is anticipating seeing me and people are anticipating two tough guys getting in the ring. We will call this the preview. This will let people see what our fight will be like.”
Watching Joshua and Wilder size each other up could stir social media the way Floyd Mayweather’s courtside conversation with Manny Pacquiao at the Miami Heat game did.
There’s only one problem with this scenario.
“Joshua is not really into hype,” says his promoter Eddie Hearn of Matchroom Sport. “He likes business. If there’s a fight that’s happening, there’s no problem. But Wilder is talking about getting in the ring… this is not WWE. The fight is not made.”
“If [Wilder] wants to come over, get in the ring and all that stuff – I just prefer it if he had a fight in place to talk about,” Joshua chimed in. “Because if not, it’s just hype.”
Just hype? Well yeah, that’s the point. This isn’t a contender like Jarrell Miller invading the ring, as Miller attempted to do following Wilder’s tenth-round stoppage of Luis Ortiz. This is Deontay Wilder, the second half of the equation that leads to the biggest heavyweight fight since Lewis-Tyson.
It should be noted that Wilder had no issue with Tyson Fury storming the ring and the two bumping heads (literally) back in 2016. Fury was rightly considered the world’s best heavyweight then. That face-off whet appetites for a future showdown.
The fight didn’t occur for reasons unlikely to impede a Joshua-Wilder match. Nothing is stopping that from happening, except for Parker.
“I’d like to see the Wilder fight next,” Hearn told ESPN two weeks ago. “As far as I’m concerned Parker is a very difficult fight for Joshua, so we’re not really looking beyond that but, obviously, we want the Wilder fight. Joshua wants to be the undisputed heavyweight world champion. To do it we have to beat Wilder.”
Hearn sang a different tune several months earlier, when he suggested Wilder fight Dillian Whyte first. Then Hearn hit the airwaves, mocking Wilder as an unknown American. In one video, he asked several passersby on New York streets whether they were familiar with the Tuscaloosa, Alabama, native. All of them said no. Nevermind that those people wouldn’t be able to recognize Joshua, Canelo Alvarez, or anyone not named Mayweather or Pacquiao.
The truth is, though Joshua’s popularity has grown considerably in the U.S., Wilder remains the more popular of the two on this side of the pond. In fact, “The Bronze Bomber” is arguably the biggest boxing name in America, minus Pacquiao and Canelo. Over his last six bouts, his peak television audience averages out to 1.8 million viewers per fight. And his popularity is still growing. A near-capacity crowd at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center ignored winter weather advisories to witness him take out Ortiz. That fight was the highest-rated bout on the SHOWTIME network since 2015…when Wilder first defeated Bermane Stiverne.
Wilder is now seven defences into the longest current title reign at heavyweight. While he’s been vocal about wanting to unify against Joshua, Joshua is busy telling him to keep it down.
But if Wilder is indeed next, a face-off after the Parker win does more good than harm. Unless, rumours of Joshua facing Jarrell Miller (if Miller beats Johann Duhaupas) are true.
“They can shout at each other from ringside, and I’m sure they will,” Hearn said. “But if Wilder just wants to come over and cause a scene to raise his profile on the back of Anthony Joshua… Joshua is not big on that.”
The optics of Wilder jawing with Joshua and the latter firing back as he leans over the ropes will make Joshua appear the more dominant of the two. In other words, despite what they say, Hearn and Joshua are interested in the hype, as long as they control it. For now, they prefer to keep Wilder outside of the ring, looking in. Perhaps in more ways than one.
Congratulations to Dillian Whyte on his sixth-round TKO over Lucas Browne. Yes, that was Browne in there, not Eric “Butterbean” Esch. The former heavyweight titlist didn’t show up, but Whyte did what he was supposed to, flattening him in frightening fashion.
The jubilant winner, who is also promoted by Hearn, immediately called out Wilder afterward, at one point shouting, “Forget Joshua!”
Hearn says his ideal scenario is Whyte fighting Wilder in June and the winner facing Joshua later on this year. No surprise there. Guess who comes out the winner in both of those fights? (Hint: He won’t be wearing boxing gloves).
The guess here is that, unless Whyte becomes his mandatory challenger, Wilder will look elsewhere. Not because he’s avoiding Whyte, but because it’s unlikely he’ll want to break bread with the promoter (Hearn) he feels is giving him the run around.
“Eddie seems to be talking a lot more for Jarrell Miller for the future than he does about Wilder,” said Wilder’s promoter Lou DiBella to BoxingScene.com. “Our dance card is not filled. Deontay Wilder stands ready and available. Just based on everything I’m hearing, I hope its next. I certainly think it will happen in 2019 and hopefully sooner rather than later.”