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Anthony Joshua vs. Deontay Wilder talks appear to be dead for 2018

You didn’t think it would be that easy to make a mega-fight, did you?

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David Haye v Tony Bellew Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

Boxing has been on a surprisingly good run as far as making various major fights and title unification bouts that the fans want to see, so it’s only appropriate that we’ve been met with a harsh reality check that quite frequently, we get an undesired outcome.

A potential showdown between undefeated heavyweight champions Anthony Joshua (21-0, 20 KOs) and Deontay Wilder (40-0, 39 KOs) is seemingly going to be pushed back to 2019, as the WBA have put their foot down as far as Joshua facing mandatory challenger Alexander Povetkin (34-1, 24 KOs). A Wilder fight would be a unification of all four major belts, and that usually produces an exception for a champion to avoid facing the mandatory challenger next, but since negotiations have drawn out so long, the WBA has given Joshua a 24-hour deadline to sign and fight Povetkin.

According to Eddie Hearn, Joshua’s promoter, a deal is “pretty much” already in place for Joshua to fight Povetkin in September should the Wilder bout not materialize next, and Hearn admitted on Tuesday that it looks like it’ll be the Russian getting the next crack at Joshua’s WBO, WBA, and IBF titles. Contracts obviously haven’t been signed yet, seeing as the WBA just said Joshua had a deadline for the Povetkin bout.

Wilder’s co-manager Shelly Finkel told World Boxing News that Matchroom Boxing has sent a letter saying that Joshua will not fight Wilder next, and they’ve sent out a proposed date for 2019.

“The fact is they didn’t want this fight,” Finkel exclusively told World Boxing News.

“He asked for 50 million dollars, never thinking we’d come up with it. When we came up with it, he said’ I don’t want to fight in the United States, I’ll take it for less in the UK’.

“He sent us a bull**** offer thinking we’ll never take it...and we took it.

“Then they said, ‘what do we do now?’ Let’s send them a contract. Except, the contract doesn’t have when the fight will be or where it will be. But today I get a letter saying; ‘We’re not going to fight you next, but we’ll fight you the fight after that...and it will be April 13th at Wembley Stadium. So basically, he can tell me next year, but he can’t tell me a date for this year.”

Hearn claims that he couldn’t stage Joshua vs. Wilder in September because of the Canelo Alvarez vs. Gennady Golovkin pay-per-view in the same month, as well as not wanting Joshua to have only an eight-week camp for his American rival. He looked at October and November dates for the Principality Stadium in Cardiff, which has a fully retractable roof, something Wembley does not.

The incessant back-and-forth has defined these tedious negotiations. Wilder recently announced that he’d accepted terms that Joshua’s side had sent him, which had many believing that this fight was all systems go for the fall. However, there was an urgency to get the contract done soon before the WBA made a decision, and we still don’t have pen to paper. Literally on Monday, Winkel said Wilder was prepared to sign the contract, but not before a couple of changes were made.

In case you’re not up to speed, here’s the contract haggling that eventually led to Wilder’s team agreeing to a reported $15 million flat-fee with no PPV upside:

Hearn’s Matchroom Boxing originally offered Wilder a $12.5 million purse with no pay-per-view upside, which would be a career-high for Wilder but also decidedly low given how well this fight could/should draw. Wilder’s team soon counteroffered with an incredible $50 million purse for Joshua against 50 percent of the total event revenue, meaning Joshua stood to make even more money if it was hugely profitable. The one sticking point was the fact that Wilder’s team had the right to choose the location, which would’ve likely placed the fight in the United States. According to Hearn, Joshua preferred to fight in front of his home fans, hence he was willing to turn down the $50 million.

Hearn also claimed that the contract Wilder agreed to (but hasn’t signed) was sent four weeks prior to his acceptance. If you thought Wilder’s team were accusing Joshua of not wanting the fight, Hearn believes it’s actually Wilder doesn’t want the bout.

Via Sky Sports:

“He has now had the contract a week. We are getting calls from the WBA on a daily basis asking what’s happening, there is absolutely zero urgency from Deontay and his team other than posting silly Instagram videos.

”The proof is in the resumes and at this stage I believe Deontay and his team do not want this fight.”

And more from Sky Sports:

“We sent the contract nearly nine days ago now. We’re not even necessarily expecting a signed contract back. We just want your comments. If my fighter wanted a fight, and we received a contract, I would be back with the comments within 24 hours.

“Nothing makes sense here at all. They emailed me on Sunday and said we would be back with our comments on Friday. Why do you need another five or six days? They know we’re under pressure from the WBA and it all feels like a big game, to be honest with you.

Boxing negotiations — It’s like a middle school playground fight mixed in with a daytime soap opera.

If Joshua vs. Povetkin does happen, it’ll likely be September 22nd at Wembley Stadium. Boxing Scene reports that DAZN, who just landed a multi-year deal with Bellator MMA, would stream the fight in the US. The English star is a free agent in the United States, as his win over Joseph Parker represented the last bout on his Showtime contract. DAZN has an eight-year contract to air all 32 of Hearn’s Matchroom Boxing cards, including ones that are pay-per-view in the United Kingdom.

And so begins the great“who’s ducking?” debate of 2018. Since the big headline only two weeks ago was “Wilder agrees to terms for Joshua fight,” you may be inclined to say “Joshua is ducking.” Or you’ll believe Eddie Hearn and say to yourself, “Wilder is ducking.” Or maybe they’re both ducking each other!

The next best thing would be for each man to fight once, win as expected, and we get the Joshua vs. Wilder announcement for next year, as opposed to delaying this indefinitely like Floyd Mayweather vs. Manny Pacquiao. It’s boxing, a sport of face-punching with a system designed to beat the optimism out of your soul.

Oh, and to top this all off, there’s now a Twitter triangle involving Brendan Schaub, Hearn, and Deontay Wilder. Schaub can be seen telling Hearn, whom I repeat is Anthony Joshua’s promoter, that Joshua has signed a contract to face Povetkin, and that Wilder’s team offered $50 million to Joshua and fight in the United Kingdom. (Spoiler: Schaub’s “sources” are not quite factually accurate)

Just an extremely normal day in combat sports.

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