Instead of retreating behind secondary options, the promoter for heavyweight boxing champion Anthony Joshua of England said Thursday he agrees the timing is ripe to make a unification bout against America’s unbeaten champion Deontay Wilder.
Joshua (20-0, 20 knockouts), the World Boxing Association and International Boxing Federation champion, has a serious matter to get through March 31 when he meets the division’s third champion, New Zealand’s World Boxing Organization champion Joseph Parker, in Wales.
But now that Alabama’s World Boxing Council champion Wilder (40-0, 39 KOs) has joined Joshua in overcoming serious trouble to defend his heavyweight belt as Wilder did Saturday with a 10th-round technical knockout of Cuba’s Luis Ortiz, the opportunity begs to get the division’s giants together.
“I think the answer’s probably yes,” Joshua promoter Eddie Hearn told the Los Angeles Times Thursday when asked if a victorious Joshua will meet Wilder next. “There’ll be too much pressure for that fight, not just from the fans, but from Anthony Joshua. People don’t know him like I know him.
“He wants that fight. He sees Wilder as a very straight forward fighter. There’s no fear.”
Hearn also sought to defuse the rampant speculation that Joshua will strike a new U.S. broadcast deal with HBO since his union with Showtime expires after the Parker bout.
That would complicate efforts to make a bout with Wilder, who fights on Showtime.
Hearn assessed Wilder’s ability to draw a peak audience of 1.2 million viewers Saturday as “pretty good. I was really pleased. He’s becoming a bigger star now and that’s what we want.”
On HBO, Joshua could pursue a date with lesser foes including former champion Tyson Fury or the coming David Haye-Tony Bellew winner.
“I read all this stuff about he’s moving to HBO … completely untrue,” Hearn said. “We will talk to people, but Showtime backed Joshua five fights ago when others were [only] thinking about it. They’ve committed to him. We’re very happy where we are.”
Hearn went as far as projecting a possible multifight series between Joshua, 28, and Wilder, 32, with one bout in the U.S. and another in England, where Joshua picked himself off the canvas in April after getting knocked down by longtime champion Wladimir Klitschko and finished Klitschko by 11th-round technical knockout in front of 90,000 at Wembley Stadium.
Wilder was in grave trouble in the seventh round Saturday at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, absorbing heavy blows to the head from Ortiz and barely remaining upright.
“Now we know [Wilder] has a big heart. The seventh round was incredible,” Hearn said. “A younger, fresher man would’ve cleaned Wilder out quite convincingly, and if you gave Anthony Joshua those chances, it’d be frightening what would happen. … If Joshua hurts Wilder like Ortiz did … Mate, this is not going to be pretty to watch.
“[Wilder] did a lot for his career Saturday night, a lot for his profile and a lot for the Anthony Joshua fight. … The Wilder fight is the one, the biggest in the world.”
Showtime President Stephen Espinoza said he recently discussed both a Joshua extension on his network and a Joshua-Wilder fight with Hearn. A fall date has been eyed.
“You have to strike when the iron is hot and it doesn’t get hotter than it is now for A.J. and Deontay,” Espinoza said. “We’ve done a lot of work building toward that fight, and you don’t get a better storyline than these career storybook performances that have elevated the visibility of both in the last year.”
Hearn, of course, likes Joshua to win.
“Wilder has the equalizer [of power], which we saw,” Hearn said. “It’s a dangerous fight, but technically, I don’t think it’s that difficult of a fight. Anthony didn’t watch that fight and say, ‘Oh, I see weaknesses,’ everybody has already seen the weaknesses. Look at the shots Wilder took.
“The difference is you’re not talking about an old man in Anthony Joshua. You’re talking about someone that when you’re hurt, he’s going to pounce on you and you’re going to get hit by 20 shots you don’t even see coming and it will be over.
“But it’s a brilliant fight, a fight you might have to watch through your fingers. Because Joshua is completely fearless, more fearless than Wilder, who has that element in him as well.”