When boxing gets it wrong, it sinks the fan experience and expectation like a reenactment of the Titanic’s maiden voyage.
The talks for a historic heavyweight unification bout between British sensation Anthony Joshua and WBC champion Deontay Wilder have come to a halt.
The World Boxing Association had previously allowed Anthony Joshua time to work out a deal between his promoter Eddie Hearn of Matchroom Boxing and the triumvirate of Shelly Finkel, Lou DiBella and shadowed svengali Al Haymon that represent Wilder.
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In the short term, the air has officially been deflated out of the deal for a classic heavyweight showdown, but the WBA governing body has now ordered Joshua to fight number one contender Alexander Povetkin.
Since Joshua’s last victory over Joseph Parker in March, it has been a widely held belief that he would face Wilder this year to unify all the belts and crown a true world heavyweight champion. In fact, as recently as early this week, it was announced that Wilder was ready to accept Joshuas terms for the mega-fight, even with dissension between the two camps being at an all-time high.
However, the World Boxing Association has intervened, deflating the anticipation of the real fight of the year until next year at the earliest.
“Today the WBA requested an answer from Anthony Joshua’s team regarding his fight with the mandatory challenger Alexander Povetkin,” WBA president Gilberto Mendoza said in a statement on Tuesday. “The WBA have allowed over a month extension to negotiations with Povetkin and also ongoing discussions with Deontay Wilder. It appears the Wilder team have not returned the contract for the fight and therefore we are requesting a date for the Joshua versus Povetkin fight with immediate effect.”
Although Shelly Finkel of Team Wilder has never specified how much money Wilder would earn if the deal was made, Hearn has made two previous offers of $12.5 million and $15 million. Finkel said they accepted a guaranteed purse but did not get a percentage of the overall event that they wanted. Speculations are that Wilder was probably offered a large enough guarantee above $15 million to make it worthwhile to forgo a percentage.
The Wilder camp held out hope of Joshua agreeing to bring the fight to the United States, but according to ESPN, on Sunday night, Wilder and his team said they notified Hearn and his father, company boss Barry Hearn, that they had accepted the terms offered to them.
Joshua has drawn sellout crowds for his past three fights: 90,000 at Wembley Stadium in London and 78,000 for his past two fights at Principality Stadium in Cardiff, Wales. He insisted on having the fight in the UK, even if the overall revenue for the event could be greater in Las Vegas. This obviously means Povetkin will be held in the UK.
Joshua has made five defenses of the IBF title and two of the WBA belt after turning professional following his 2012 Olympic super heavyweight gold medal win. He has fought exclusively in the UK as a professional and, along with promoter Eddie Hearn, has created the same caustic, major waves that the old generation running the fight game hate.
Wilder recently made a seventh defense of the WBC title with a 10th-round stoppage win over Cuba’s Luis Ortiz in March. The 2008 Olympic bronze medalist had a first-round knockout win over Audley Harrison in England in April 2013 and was willing to fight Povetkin in Russia in 2017. Povetkin was caught with the banned performance-enhancing substance meldonium and was fined by the WBC.
After all the back and forth in the media between Finkel and Hearn, the fans didn’t get what they crave due to missed cues and lack of agreement on regions. With the WBA wiping Wilder vs. Joshua off the table until next year, the promoters need to be held accountable.
The heavyweight division is demanding a unified champ. The only fight that matters is Joshua vs Wilder. Anything less is unacceptable.