Anthony Joshua promoter disputes Deontay Wilder's claims: Fight 'must happen in 2018'
Eddie Hearn to meet with Wilder's team, stresses financial split needs to fall 'between reality and fantasy'
Amid a firestorm of emotional rants from Deontay Wilder that Anthony Joshua's promoter is a "liar" and is "scared" to make a superfight between the unbeaten heavyweight champions, Eddie Hearn of Matchroom Sport is singing a different tune.
"I was laughing with Anthony yesterday and we were trying to get our hands around how long exactly we have been running for," Hearn told CBS Sports on Wednesday during an appearance on the "In This Corner" podcast. "[Wilder] just boxed his mandatory and we have boxed our mandatory. They have never made us an offer. They have never made us a phone call to make the fight. Yet, apparently we are running and we are scared of the fight."
Wilder (39-0, 38 KOs)via vicious first-round TKO of former champion Bermane Stiverne in their rematch. After initially calling out both Joshua and Hearn after the fight, he doubled down three days later in a social media video that felt a lot like a pro wrestling promo.
Insisting that Hearn is pushing Joshua (20-0, 20 KOs), holder of the IBF and WBA titles, to delay the fight until after 2018, the 32-year-old Wilder challenged Joshua's manhood and reminded him of prior comments he made about being willing to fight whomever the fans want.
In response to the video, Hearn could only laugh and reiterated that, on the insistence of Joshua, his team has been the only side actually making approaches regarding the fight. In New York City this week to promote Saturday's HBO card on Long Island headlined by middleweights Daniel Jacobs and Luis Arias, Hearn also revealed he's prepared to back up his words.
"We will meet with [Wilder advisers] Shelly Finkel and Al Haymon in New York [on Thursday] and see what the deal is," Hearn said. "One of the biggest problems is if we were going to offer Deontay his true value in the fight than it would never get done. Joshua is making 7-to-8 times the purse of Wilder at the moment so we will have to overpay Deontay Wilder like we have had to do with various Anthony Joshua opponents.
"We have to find the middle ground between reality and fantasy to make this fight happen, but we must make the fight happen in 2018. It is the greatest and the biggest and the best match in world boxing right now, unquestionably. Anthony wants the biggest fights, he wants all the belts and to do that he has to go through Deontay Wilder."
If conversations regarding Joshua-Wilder either fall apart or get delayed beyond 2018, it will unquestionably be the financials that drive the wedge.
Joshua, 27, who turned pro just four years ago after winning Olympic gold for Great Britain, is arguably the biggest star in the sport. He got up off the canvas to knock out former champion Wladimir Klitschko in April in front of 90,000 fans in London and came back two weeks ago to stop Carlos Takam in front of 78,000 in Wales, which set an all-time boxing record for indoor attendance.
While Joshua draws eight-figure purses to fight in front of soccer stadiums in Europe with a near rock-star following, Wilder has had difficult trouble becoming a crossover star in his own country. He has also had trouble drawing the kind of big names that help define a career.
Wilder's initial matchmaking run was incredibly soft, even after first winning his world title by decision over Stiverne in 2015. Now, despite wanting to fight the very best, his last three scheduled opponents failed drug tests in the lead-up to the fight, costing him important opportunities against the likes of Alexander Povetkin and Luis Ortiz.
"Well we have the biggest star in world boxing, but we have one of the biggest stars in British sport," Hearn said of Joshua. "A phenomenon in boxing to deliver maybe 170,000 gate over a five-month period. It's incredible. We have the most exciting heavyweight in world boxing. Deontay may argue with me. I feel like we have the ultimate ambassador, the ultimate brand and the ultimate star in Anthony Joshua.
"From a fight perspective, we are more than happy to take the Deontay Wilder fight next. From a commercial perspective, that fight gets bigger and bigger and bigger the longer that we wait. But we can't wait too long. Someone could get beat, the fight could become stale if someone doesn't look as good as they have been."
To illustrate his point on the gap between the brands of Joshua and Wilder, Hearn referenced a video he filmed this week with England's IFL TV asking random people on the streets of New York this week whether they know who Wilder is.
"We asked, I don't know, five or six people and not one of them knew who he was; young men, ladies, older guys," Hearn said. "And this is a problem with boxing in America. You don't have standout personalties and superstars. Well, I take that back. You do have them but they just aren't being turned into stars. Promoting fights is tough to do but when you have the product there is no excuse for turning them into stars."
Hearn closed by saying it's "unlikely" Joshua-Wilder happens in March and believes summer or fall of 2018 is more realistic unless "the right deal presents itself." Hearn's meeting with Wilder's team this week should play a big part.
"We've never even discussed [Joshua-Wilder]. Not one conversation," Hearn said. "So now we begin. [Thursday] could be all positive, it could be all negative. It could be a bit of both. But the good news for fight fans is that we are talking and you will see that fight in 2018."
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