Anthony Joshua’s promoter Eddie Hearn is now “70 per cent confident” that the heavyweight unification mega-fight between the British heavyweight, who holds three of the world title belts, and American Deontay Wilder will happen this year. Anthony Joshau has however said money will not force him to fight Wilder.
Hearn will fly to New York mid-week for continued talks with Wilder’s team as the two sides attempt to complete the contest for the first ever unification of the four major heavyweight belts. A guaranteed £36 million has been tabled for Joshua to defend the IBF, WBA and WBO belts in the United States.
Meanwhile, Shelly Finkel, the American boxer’s co-manager who has been open about the negotiations, said on Saturday that Wilder’s team are “quietly optimistic and positive” of the mega-fight going ahead.
The Sunday Telegraph understands that the offer from the American team is for the contest to take place in either New York or Las Vegas, in the final third of the year. It is likely that Las Vegas would offer the bulkiest overall financial package.
“Talks are ongoing, we’re all hopeful. Joshua wants the fight, Wilder wants the fight,” Hearn told The Sunday Telegraph. “I saw people saying I don’t want the fight. Of course I want the fight. It’s the biggest fight out there. And I do believe they want the fight.”
Hearn explained that the counter offer of $50 million is substantial – in fact it is the largest-ever guaranteed amount for a heavyweight unification – in response to Hearn’s offer of £8.8 million for Wilder to come to the UK, but that control of the promotion itself is also vital in the agreement.
“It’s a $50million offer [guarantee for Joshua]. If it’s to be in the USA, ok. We’d have preferred it here. But it means a lot more to me to have a client that I took from debut to undisputed champion of the world. But I have to protect him in the right way by getting the best deal. We’ve gone back with a number of questions, which are quite simple, but which will determine if we can move forward to start looking at it more seriously.”
Hearn admitted Joshua himself has shown great interest in the offer, and is determined to attempt to unify the division as soon as possible. “What we’re saying is we’re very interested but before we meet or send me the contract, can you answer these questions? It’s not even fine details questions. One, for example, is where is it going to be if it’s in America? If you say it’s in Vegas or New York, then okay. But if you say it’s in Alabama, then the answer is no. We know it’s in America and that’s an issue we have to take on board because Anthony wanted to do the fight in the UK.”
Hearn added: “He feels like he’s built a great fanbase here. He wanted to give them that fight. It’s disappointing if it’s not in the UK, but if they come back and say ‘we’re wiling to have it in the UK’, then there’s a much bigger chance of us taking it. But I imagine it’s going to be in New York or Vegas. October, November time.”
If the fight is not signed immediately , which history tells us often happens, the IBF, WBA and WBO champion Joshua is also in discussions to fight Alexander Povetkin, the mandatory challenger to the WBA belt, while unbeaten New Yorker Jarrell Miller has been suggested as an possible opponent for Joshua’s US debut.
“If Wilder doesn’t fight Joshua then Wilder will fight Dominic Breazeale. Povetkin is the guy we have to fight next,” Hearn explained. “If we fight Wilder, Povetkin will wait. If we fight Wilder, Povetkin will have to wait. Could we apply for a voluntary? Maybe. Would the WBA allow it? Maybe. In our mind it’s Wilder or Povetkin. We’re talking to [Jarrell] Miller, but mainly to Povetkin because he’s probably the guy we have to fight if not Wilder. Within the next ten days I think all of those things will be clearer.”
Hearn also hinted that Amir Khan and Kell Brook could meet in November or December, but “both need a step up to a top 15 opponent [next].”
Hearn revealed that he will also announce an exciting promotional deal in the United States late next week. “I’m there [in America] on Thursday. We’ve got an announcement deal. It’s not our platform. It’s a new platform in the states but exists world wide. We’ll be buying up other boxing.”
“It’s historic. It enables us to build an unrivalled stable in America. The difference is we have a stable over here that Top Rank, Golden Boy don’t have. It’s great news for boxing. The people who really win are the fans and boxing.”
Hearn was also looking at match-making options from the outcome of the grudge rematch between David Haye and Tony Bellew in London last night, with Joshua havbingb expressed a wish to fight Haye, the former WBA heavyweight champion.