What Is The End Game For Joshua And Wilder?
April 2017, was the coming out party for Anthony Joshua. He started his career being considered one of the top prospects in the sport, and the credibility of a gold medal from the 2012 Olympics in his home nation of England. It is in that same country, where Joshua went from prospect and medalist, to world champion.
On that night in April, Joshua would stand across from Wladimir Klitschko in-front of 90,000 people at a sold-out Wembley Stadium. Joshua was the crowd favorite, but was knocked down by Klitschko early in the fight. Joshua would eventually battle back and be the final man to defeat the Ukrainian hero in the middle of the ring.
And now on Saturday night, Anthony Joshua has a stadium for an opponent but no real opponent for the stadium, when he battles Carlos Takam in front of an alleged 70,000+ at Principality Stadium in Cardiff, Wales. His original opponent was Kubrat Pulev, a 36-year-old Bulgarian heavyweight. Pulev, with an impressive record of 25 wins and only one loss (to Wladimir Klitschko), was set to be “next”. Yet, an injury in training camp closed the door for now on Pulev, who may have a long time to wait for a second crack at the title.
They replaced one 36-year-old in Pulev, with another in Takam, a fighter who walks into Cardiff with a 35-3 record as a pro. Takam’s biggest fight to date was in May of 2016, when he fell via unanimous decision to now WBO world heavyweight champion, Joseph Parker.
Joshua’s road to the Takam fight is a similar road that WBC heavyweight champion, Deontay Wilder, has experienced. Wilder has made it his job to call everyone out, especially Joshua, within the heavyweight division. The frustration in the undefeated Wilder stems from 2 out of his last 3 fights being changed at the last-minute due to his opponents failing tests for performance enhancing drugs.
Wilder’s original opponent for the upcoming November 4th fight was the man he defeated for the WBC title, Bermane Stiverne, who was someone he didn’t want to fight again. Stiverne, ever since losing the title in 2015, fought once in comparison to Wilder who has made five title defenses in that time.
Instead of fighting Stiverne, the mandatory challenger, Wilder would help facilitate a six-figure fee to allow him to step aside, and fight Luis Ortiz. Ortiz knocked out 23 of his 27 opponents for a spotless record, would have been a fun opponent to match power with Wilder. But that would not come to pass, as Ortiz would fail a pre-fight drug screening, which Ortiz claims was due to blood pressure medication. Either way the WBC would scuttle Stiverne back into the spotlight on November 4th at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
If this fight happens the same way the first time happened or worse, who looks like the fool at the end of the day?
You all can put this at the top of the headlines. Because the way I’m feeling about boxing right now, if Bermane Stiverne beats me, I will retire. You can put that down. I will be out of the way.
Boxing ain’t got to worry about me no more because it ain’t really doing no good anyway. Nobody want to fight. All I wanted to do was prove that I am the best. The best don’t want to fight so, what’s the point of me being in this sport?
With only three top heavyweights in the division, Joshua, Wilder, and Parker, one must wonder, barring any Buster Douglas-esque moments, is 2018 finally going to be the year we see these three clash? With Wilder threatening retirement or a move to MMA if he loses to Stiverne, and with Joshua and his promoter Eddie Hearn claiming that Joshua nor Wilder are at the level for that fight yet, when will the audience stop caring?
Joshua is selling out stadiums in the United Kingdom, but the luster may fade with every opponent that isn’t Wilder or Parker, to the point where it may not be the big money draw that it can. Do not let other fighters’ injuries, drug tests, and abilities dominate the story, make 2018 the year of unification and redemption, whether it’s redemption for Wilder coming through the other side or redemption for a true heavyweight division champion that it has been lacking since the turn of the century.