As the boxing world comes to terms with the biggest heavyweight fight in two decades falling apart, WBN looked back through some of the quotes leading up to initial negotiations between Anthony Joshua and Deontay Wilder.
In particular, promoter Eddie Hearn’s promises to make the undisputed unification happen in 2018…AND, the desire and willingness to accept a fight in America.
Those two massive u-turns may have cost fans the opportunity to see the best fight out their at 200 pounds plus and halted plans to see the heavyweight division have one sole recognized champion for the first time since the early 2000’s.
So where did it all go wrong?
Somewhere along the lines, Hearn’s plans for Joshua changed as the Matchroom boss was unequivocal when stating his intentions to take the top division king to the US to make his mark in history.
On January 18 of this year, Hearn said the following: “The Wilder fight could be in America. We want to fight Wilder before the end of the year,” in an interview with Sky Sports.
“Our plan is box three times this year – end of August or early September, then December. We’ve got a base in America already. We’d rather the fight was in the UK but we’re not bothered if it has to be in America. No problem.”
As far back as November of 2017, Hearn also told Sky Sports News Joshua would ‘unquestionably’ face Wilder in 2018.
“Deontay Wilder is doing a great job of convincing people that AJ is running from this fight.
“Our job to deliver but it doesn’t happen overnight. This first meeting today may go well, it may go terribly, but fans need to know we want the fight. It will happen in 2018 unquestionably.
“The instructions from AJ is: ‘I want to be the unified champion by the end of 2018,’ so that means going through Wilder and Parker.
“We would fight Wilder in the US. We’d love the fight in the UK. Maybe we do two of them,” he added.
How Alexander Povetkin then became the next option for Joshua over $100m plus for a US / UK double with Wilder is questionable as a WBA deadline for a deal to be done was confirmed as irrelevant by both Shelly Finkel and Eddie Hearn this week.
The fact is, Wilder was given no date or venue for the fight in the original contract and was not afforded a rematch if he lost his title. Those are the ONLY REASONS the paperwork wasn’t signed and attempts to resolve those issues were painstakingly slow on both sides. What was needed was a little more time, that’s all.
And considering this is the biggest fight in boxing right now, all the days, weeks and months needed should not be roadblocked by anything or anyone.
In the end, Povetkin could have been discarded in favor of an exception with the WBA, with Wilder then having as much deliberation needed to sign on the dotted line – even with his obvious reservations.
The 24 hour WBA deadline, which came just ten hours after WBN revealed Wilder was sending back the contract on July 29, was the ONLY THING that halted negotiations from taking their course.
Before the WBA even released their statement, Hearn had emailed Finkel to inform him they couldn’t continue negotiations due to the WBA’s pressure, something that could easily have been resolved with Gilberto Mendoza if intended.
As things currently stand, Wilder still has a contract in his possession with a date of April 13 of next year pencilled in for the fight, although Finkel refused to think that far ahead in a brief chat with WBN on Thursday.
The next move for the WBC champion is due to be against Dominic Breazeale, a former Joshua opponent, as the two world title holders get back to taking care of their own business.
Everyone pining for the fight to make it over the line will now be holding out hope that Hearn’s previous words come true at some point in 2019 – which in reality – they have to for the sake of the sport.
Phil Jay is Editor of World Boxing News. Follow on Twitter @PhilDJay