Eddie Hearn: 'There is every chance' we see Anthony Joshua vs. Deontay Wilder in 2018

If promoter Eddie Hearn's latest comments are any indication, a must-see heavyweight unification bout unbeaten Anthony Joshua and Deontay Wilder actually could be in the cards for 2018 after all.

Hearn, of Matchroom Sport, had previously been the voice behind the idea that England's Joshua (20-0, 20 KOs) might be better off pushing the fight to 2019 and instead focusing on making his United States debut later this summer. But in a column he penned Thursday in The Daily Mail, the brash promoter showed more optimism. 

"If AJ does the business in Cardiff, I believe there is every chance you will see Joshua-Wilder in 2018," said Hearn, who repeated the notion later that day in Los Angeles at the press conference for Saturday's Oscar Valdez-Scott Quigg featherweight title bout.

Like Hearn alluded to, the idea of Joshua-Wilder even happening is first contingent upon Joshua defeating Joseph Parker (24-0, 18 KOs) in their unification bout in Wales. But Hearn sounded more hopeful in making this fight soon than he has in weeks. 

"The fight with Anthony Joshua is unquestionably the biggest fight in world boxing and anyone that knows me knows how much I would love to stage a fight like that," Hearn said. "Also, if you know Anthony, you will know he will fight anyone but for now there is only one thing on his mind -- Joseph Parker in a spine-tingling unification match up on March 31."

Promoters will be promoters, of course, and the comments from Hearn came just one week after he declared Joshua was just as likely to face Jarrell "Big Baby" Miller (20-0-1, 18 KOs) later this year in New York. Miller, who is co-promoted Greg Cohen Promotions and Salita Promotions, would also need to win his next fight on April 28 against Johann Duhaupas, in an HBO card promoted by Hearn.

Hearn admits he expects Parker "to pose plenty of problems" for Joshua, "perhaps even more than Wilder." 

Never one to dodge a chance to elevate his fighter by slyly putting down another, Hearn was complimentary yet critical of the hard-punching Wilder (40-0, 39 KOs), just days removed from his career-defining victory against fellow unbeaten Luis Ortiz that ended with a thrilling comeback via 10th-round TKO.

"Deontay Wilder had a very exciting dust-up with Luis Ortiz," Hearn said. "It was easily the biggest test of Wilder's career and credit to him for coming through it. I struggled to give Deontay a round in the fight outside of the fifth and in the seventh round he was completely gone. 

"The commission doctors gave him a much-needed 20 seconds as they assessed him but he then showed immense heart to come back and stop Ortiz in the 10th round. This was the first real test of Deontay's career and you have to give the WBC world champion plenty of respect for the way he came through."

Asked during an interview with the British television network Sky Sports who would present a more difficult fight for him among the current heavyweight crop, Joshua put Wilder second after unbeaten lineal champion Tyson Fury, who hopes to return in 2018 from a two-year hiatus following battles with mental health and substance abuse. 

"Wilder, I think would be next [after Fury], and just for the sheer fact that his record proves he has a powerful punch," Joshua said. "But his powerful punch doesn't come with an uppercut, it doesn't come with a peached left hook. It just comes with a straight right hand. So you eliminate one or two of his main weapons and I think, you know, you kind of chip the tree down with Wilder. And I think he starts losing his confidence."

If Joshua is successful against Joseph Parker, we may get the highly anticipated heavyweight showdown sooner than later. Matchroom Boxing

From Wilder's perspective, he wants the fight with Joshua yesterday. During the post fight news conference last Saturday, he wasn't optimistic that Joshua and Hearn felt the same. 

"How many times do I got to call him out? How many times? They hiding," Wilder said. "His promoter don't want that fight and after tonight, they definitely won't want it. I've done enough, I've spoken enough. I really don't want to talk about the dude no more because I've said all I have to say. After tonight I don't need to say no more. 

"All I want to do is prove to the world that I am the best. I'm the baddest man on the planet and, hey, whenever they ready, I'll be ready. Talkin' about calling him, how many times I got to call him? All you got to do is pick up the phone.

"They don't want this fight. Eddie Hearn is milking the cow. It's good to make money and stuff like that, but how long you going to cheat the people out of their money? How long you going to sit around and fight these guys who ain't even worthy of him?"

Wilder's co-manager, Shelly Finkel, went as far as producing a letter written to him in November from Hearn promising to send over financial details to begin negotiations but Finkel said he never heard from him again. 

Joshua has grown to become the biggest star in the sport worldwide over the past year, fighting in front of 90,000 and 78,000 people in 2017, with the latter breaking an indoor boxing record. Because of that, he will be the unquestioned A-side of the promotion and ultimately call the shots. But Finkel assured media members late Saturday that Wilder doesn't need a 50/50 split in order for the fight to be made and simply wants to see it get done now. 

With that said, there is an argument to be made, which Hearn and Joshua have tried over the past year, that the fight could use another full year to marinate while the brands of both fighters grow to higher levels of popularity, particularly in the U.S. The problem with that, however, is just how vulnerable both Joshua and Wilder have proven to be in this suddenly refurbished division, as both survived knockdowns or nearly being stopped to rally to their biggest wins. Both could take a loss before this super fight ever happens, killing what could be the most fan-friendly boxing matches for casual viewers among heavyweights since Lennox Lewis-Mike Tyson in 2002. 

We can take Hearn and anyone else's comments with a grain of salt until these two one day actually sign on the dotted line. But as long as things don't spin off to Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao levels, where the fight is delayed for five-plus years, fans will likely stay patient. 

The first stop on the journey to get to Joshua-Wilder is AJ's upcoming showdown with Parker who, like Ortiz and Fury, is hoping to play spoiler and ruin the fight seemingly every boxing fan is talking about. 

CBS Sports Insider

Brian Campbell covers MMA, boxing and WWE. The Connecticut native joined CBS Sports in 2017 and has covered combat sports since 2010. He has written and hosted various podcasts and digital shows for ESPN... Full Bio

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