Hearn: Joshua Doesn’t Need America
When you get on the phone to interview Matchroom Sport boxing promoter Eddie Hearn, the promoter of WBA (Super), IBF, and IBO Heavyweight Champion Anthony Joshua, you’re quickly struck by his demeanor. Gone are the bombast and hyperbole normally associated with fight promoters, and it’s almost unnerving: You don’t expect them to talk like normal human beings, you expect hype and being talked down to, maybe even a bit of hostility, all with varying levels of salesmanship. Hearn, though, eschews that.
“It’s very, very uncommon that someone should become the undisputed champion of any weight division, and it’s brilliant for the sport when that happens,” he told FIGHT SPORTS of Joshua’s fight this Saturday with WBO Champion Joseph Parker and a potential fight with WBC Champion Deontay Wilder. “Obviously, when that that happens in the heavyweight division, that’s even better. And I think that has to be the main focus of any fighter, to win every belt. With the politics, the mandatory [title defenses], and the TV deals, it’s very difficult to make those fights happen in a time frame so you can win all of the belts.”
Joshua is just two fights away from doing that. While, from a marketability standout, Wilder is seen as the big fight for him, Hearn doesn’t think that said big fight is even the more difficult unification bout for his fighter. “We know what Wilder does,” he explained. “He’s quite awkward, he throws erratic, wild punches, he can punch very hard. Technically, he’s not that great, I don’t feel. Certainly not as good as Parker.” As a result, he sees the potential Wilder fight as being more straightforward, with Joshua just needing to out-finesse him, while Parker “will be much more of a tactical fight than necessarily an emotional danger fight, which the Wilder fight probably would be.”
Yes, the fight promoter predicted that his knockout artist star’s upcoming fight likely won’t be a back and forth slugfest and that the big dream fight will probably be relatively easy.
That the fans, fighters, and promoters want that big fight doesn’t mean that, even if all goes well this weekend, Wilder is next, though. There are various mandatory challengers for Joshua’s belts that could muck up making the big fight. Still, Hearn wants it in 2018 and thinks that’s a realistic possibility.
“If we’re gonna have a fight in the interim, we would look for it to be in August, and then the Wilder fight in December,” he said.
“We could be happy to just go straight into the Wilder fight later in the year, depending on how taxing the Parker fight is and, of course, depending on if we win.”
Hearn also isn’t picky about where the Wilder fight would take place if it happens. “We have no problem doing the fight in America,” he stressed. “I think, numerically, it could do a little more in America, but obviously, we’ve got huge capacities at Cardiff and Wembley. We’re happy to go to New York, Vegas, perhaps, as well. I think we’re in a good position and Anthony doesn’t care where that fight is.”
While Joshua’s last two fights have been before huge, adoring stadium crowds in the United Kingdom, and the Parker fight will be as well, there’s good reason to aim to make a potential Wilder fight for New York or Las Vegas: American media coverage. If Joshua is going to break out as a star in the United States and Canada, mainstream American coverage is necessary. But Hearn isn’t sure Joshua even needs to become a big American star.
“We’re very lucky that he’s huge in the U.K., and the U.K. has become the mecca of boxing, I think, over the last couple years,” said Hearn. “He’s making a lot of money, filling stadiums every fight as a huge spectacle, so I don’t think we need America. But I just think it’s something that’s a natural progression. I think he wants to fight in America at some pint, but it’s very difficult to leave behind what we’ve got here at the same time.”
“I was supposed to fight Wladimir [Klitschko] in Vegas in our rematch, but unfortunately that fight didn’t take place,” added Joshua in an interview with FIGHT SPORTS this week. “There’s no problem with me fighting in America—I was penciled in to fight in Vegas—but, honestly speaking? I think it’s a great opportunity to fight in America…but the UK fans are phenomenal.”
Joshua also cited comments he recalled Wilder making after the Klitschko fight about needing someone like him in America, though the American world champion has been more hostile to him as of late.
Hearn isn’t convinced that Joshua absolutely needs to fight in America, though.
“It’s how much time and effort you want to put into that strategy when you’ve got so much happening over here, as well,” he added. “It’s not like he’s scratching to sell tickets, or struggling to bring in commercial partners, or bring in pay-per-view numbers. He’s doing all of that. So do you wanna lose the focus over here to try and grow the market in America? Or do you wanna do bits and pieces to chip away and keep your position in the U.K. market?”
In light of things like Joshua’s latest open workout—normally a mundane photo opportunity—drawing a packed house this week, it’s certainly easy to see Hearn’s point. “You can’t just go to America as just a holiday,” added Joshua. “You have to show them that you’re there to work.” If that takes away from the U.K. base, then why bother?