It’s apparently back to square one for Anthony Joshua and Deontay Wilder.
The long-discussed heavyweight bout between hard-punching former titlists is no longer likely to take place in Saudi Arabia, as originally envisioned, but that does not mean the fight is in complete jeopardy, according to Joshua’ promoter, Eddie Hearn of Matchroom.
A fight between London’s Joshua and Alabama’s Wilder has been a hot topic for most of this year, when it emerged that an outfit in Saudi Arabia, Skill Challenge Entertainment, was interested in putting on a heavyweight card would not only feature Wilder and Joshua in one bout but also Tyson Fury and Oleksandr Usyk in another.
But those plans went awry—at least as they pertain to Wilder and Joshua. (It was announced a few days ago that Fury and Usyk had agreed to a deal for the undisputed heavyweight championship in either December or January, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia; that fight is backed by Saudi Arabia's General Entertainment Authority.)
Hearn said while both fighters were on board, Skill Challenge Entertainment was simply unable to come up with the funds. Now Hearn is attempting to field offers from other backers, as far flung as Qatar and Las Vegas, to stage that fight in the spring.
“We’re spinning blades, as we always do,” Hearn said. “You know what we want to do, we want to fight Deontay Wilder. That was supposed to happen in January, we accepted the offer. We know it’s not materialized now...because it was made by someone that couldn’t deliver the fight at that time. It’s alright. That happens.
“We’d agreed, Wilder had agreed, now we’re talking to other sites about that fight in February or March and that’s still the plan, very much the plan.”
Hearn said Joshua is still keen on fighting in December, either on a Matchroom-promoted card on Dec. 2 or Dec. 23, even if it is against a lower opponent. Joshua has fought twice already this year: a decision over Jermaine Franklin in the spring and a stoppage over Robert Helenius in August.
“Now, the other plan is, do we fight in December?” Hearn said. “And that’s something that we’ve got to decide, quite honestly, next week because it’s not that far away.”
“AJ needs to get into camp if he’s going to fight in December,” Hearn continued. “He may just wait for the big fight in February or March, but he always wants to fight and stay active. So we’ll have to see.”
Sean Nam is the author of Murder on Federal Street: Tyrone Everett, the Black Mafia, and the Last Golden Age of Philadelphia Boxing.