Deontay Wilder vs. Anthony Joshua prevented by Hearn and the WBA

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 27: Eddie Hearn (r) and Anthony Joshua attend an Anthony Joshua and Joseph Parker press conference at SKY Studios on March 27, 2018 in London, England. (Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 27: Eddie Hearn (r) and Anthony Joshua attend an Anthony Joshua and Joseph Parker press conference at SKY Studios on March 27, 2018 in London, England. (Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images) /

A potential clash between undefeated boxing heavyweight champions Deontay Wilder and Anthony Joshua could have been the most lucrative fight of the year. Too bad we won’t see it in 2018.

Boxing’s allure is badly faded today in comparison to the era of Mike Tyson. Tyson was the last heavyweight that garnered the world’s attention.

Deontay Wilder and Anthony Joshua have the potential to re-ignite the world’s fascination with heavyweight boxing, but they need to fight each other to settle who will carry boxing’s torch.

Hopes were high that we would see them fight in 2018, but those hopes were destroyed this week by the WBA and Eddie Hearn.

Wilder (40-0, 39 KOs) and Joshua (21-0, 20 KOs) have the skills and optics to mesmerize fight fans and the general public. Both men tower above 6-foot-6 and possess destructive one-punch knockout power.

Joshua has a larger fanbase because boxing is more popular in the U.K. than it is in the U.S. He sells out 70,000-seat arenas with no problem, but he lacks a challenging foil outside of Wilder.

The only true mainstream boxer in the U.S. is Floyd Mayweather Jr. and he’s retired. Other boxers like Canelo Alvarez have a cult following, but they aren’t household names like Mayweather. Every recent mega-fight in the U.S. has featured Mayweather.

Alvarez and Gennady Golovkin did well financially, but they are more famous outside of the U.S. Boxing in the U.S. is stunted, but Wilder has the potential to become Tysonesque.

The only problem is that he lacks a signature performance against a monumental challenger to break through to the American masses.

Wilder and Joshua need each other if they want the sole position as the biggest and best name in boxing. The old Highlander tagline rings true — “There can be only one.” Wilder and Joshua have set themselves apart from the rest of the heavyweight pack.

It’s only logical that they should fight to settle who’s the best heavyweight in the world. Questions about their legitimacy linger until they fight each other.

For the last several weeks, the management of both fighters has gone back and forth casting the other as the roadblock to this potential mega-fight. On Tuesday, the WBA ordered Joshua to fight Alexander Povetkin.

They gave Joshua 24 hours to make a decision or he would be stripped of the WBA title. Joshua accepted the fight, which puts a meeting with Wilder on the backburner. The timing of this ultimatum seems suspect.

Hearn announced a week before that he sent a contract to Wilder’s team. Wilder’s team responded that the contract was missing a fight date and location. Wilder recently discussed this on Tha Boxing Voice podcast. He stated that there were problems with the rematch clause.

“And then another thing that was up in there was talking about if I beat Joshua he gets a rematch, but if he beats me then it’s up to him to decide if there was a rematch,” said Wilder to Tha Boxing Voice (via Metro).

Eddie Hearn (Joshua’s promoter) tells a different story. Two days ago, Hearn told Sky Sports that Wilder is playing a “big game.” He’s framing the narrative that Wilder’s team is stalling negotiations, and that’s why the WBA made the decision to issue an ultimatum.

“We sent the contract nearly nine days ago now,” said Hearn to Sky Sports. “We’re not even necessarily expecting a signed contract back. We just want your comments. If my fighter wanted a fight, and we received a contract, I would be back with the comments within 24 hours.”

Hearn talks a good game, but there are major inconsistencies in his story. Looking at different social media posts, it seems like fan opinions are split along boxer allegiances based on nationality.

Most boxing fans in the U.S. think Hearn and Joshua never wanted a fight with Wilder, while most U.K. fans think Wilder was greedy and was trying to negotiate a payday he wasn’t deserving of.

I’m an American writer who has worked closely with Wilder’s team over the years, but I’m trying to keep any bias out of my assessment as to why Wilder vs. Joshua is not occurring in 2018. The main impediment to signing this fight is Eddie Hearn and Matchroom Boxing.

After Joshua’s victory in March against Joseph Parker, Hearn hinted that Povetkin might be an option if Joshua didn’t fight Wilder.

It’s no coincidence that Povetkin fought on the undercard of Joshua’s bout with Parker. Hearn and Matchroom Boxing had Povetkin in mind for Joshua’s next bout.

Shortly after his win over Parker, the WBA made Povetkin Joshua’s mandatory challenger.

“The WBA called the mandatory yesterday for AJ to face Povetkin next,” said Eddie Hearn to Sky Sports on April 6 (via The Irish Sun).

The WBA has been in Hearn’s ear since April and probably before that.

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that Hearn, Matchroom and the WBA all wanted Joshua to fight Povetkin before Wilder. Povetkin was on the Joshua/Parker undercard to showcase a possible Joshua/Povetkin matchup.

Barry Hearn, the founder of Matchroom Boxing, was reported by Metro in May as advising Joshua to avoid Wilder.

“The Deontay Wilder fight, if I was Anthony Joshua, I’d be leaving that for a little while,” Hearn said.

Hearn added, “If you had six months to live I would say go and fight Deontay Wilder, take the most money, but if you’re saying to me that you’ve got a legacy plan then I’m saying let’s capitalize on it properly.”

There’s no debating who’s at fault for the failed negotiations between Wilder and Joshua. All the blame falls on Matchroom Boxing, Barry Hearn and Eddie Hearn. Barry Hearn laid out Matchroom’s strategy in May and it has come into fruition.

Eddie Hearn is doing damage control for his father’s comments and Joshua’s reputation. He’s a shrewd businessman who’s spinning reality to save face for Joshua.

Joshua told Sky Sports (via Boxing Scene) in April that he would fight Wilder for $50 million dollars no questions asked. Wilder’s team offered Joshua $50 million dollars. Joshua’s team questioned the legitimacy of Wilder’s offer and were later given proof of funds.

Joshua then demanded that the fight take place in the U.K. and stated he would be willing to take less than $50 million for a fight in the U.K.

Wilder’s team relented and said they were willing to fight in the U.K. Wilder’s team accepted the terms of Eddie Hearn’s latest offer and were willing to fight for a $15 million dollar flat rate.

Again, the problem was Hearn’s offer was missing key details and he never responded to Team Wilder’s request for clarification.

Hearn has tried to say that Wilder’s management took too long to return a signed contract, but they weren’t going to sign a contract that didn’t specify a fight date and location or that possessed a one-sided rematch clause.

Hearn is acting like his contract was on the up-and-up when in reality it was a decoy. He knew that Joshua was going to fight Povetkin all along. Hearn planned this out before Joshua stepped in the ring against Parker.

Hearn tried to add scheduling and timing to his list of scapegoats as to why the fight had to be put off. He said that he targeted Sept. 15 at Wembley for the potential showdown, but the news that Canelo Alvarez and Gennady Golovkin would fight on that day changed those plans.

He also told Sky Sports (via Boxing Scene) that Joshua needed more than an eight-week training camp to prepare for Wilder. It’s hard to keep track of Hearn’s excuses.

Just when Hearn ran out of excuses the WBA came in demanding that Joshua’s team accept a fight with Povetkin in 24 hours. That’s pretty convenient—too convenient.

Hearn said that Joshua couldn’t fight Wilder until October or November, but he’s fine with him fighting Povetkin in September. That doesn’t make any sense.

It’s rumored that Joshua and Povetkin will fight in late September. ESPN reports that it will take place “at one of London’s major stadiums, Wembley, Twickenham or London Olympic Stadium.”

It’s ridiculous that Hearn can quickly put together a fight for Joshua at Wembley in September, but tells Wilder’s team that it’s not enough time to make the fight happen in September.

He also said that the fight date was taken up and that Wembley wasn’t available, but now Wembley is a possibility in September for Joshua to fight Povetkin.

Hearn got lost in his lies, but it doesn’t matter now. Joshua is fighting Povetkin and Deontay Wilder will most likely fight Dominic Breazeale. People will forget about all the things Hearn said this time around, and the cycle of dramatic claims will begin anew when Joshua and Wilder win their bouts.

Don’t get fooled. Hearn is following the advice his father Barry publicly established in May. Joshua’s going for the easier money now. He hopes to secure a risky mega-fight with Wilder after he’s collected smaller, but still lucrative paydays.

Next: Garcia vs. Murray leads a stacked UK boxing card

Maybe we will see Wilder vs. Joshua in 2019, but that’s all up to Eddie Hearn and Matchroom Boxing.