The Joshua-Wilder Inevitability
By Alex Leffew: Both sides have cried foul in a protracted negotiating process that has left the boxing public engaged in a bitter and belligerent battle of words on social media. Forget the nonsense back and forth. Time will build this fight. The disrespect fans from either side have heaped upon fighters and promoters is feverish, and laughable. The only truth we know is that we don’t know the exact truth. The gamesmanship and juxtapositions of both camps is intended to build the pitch and tenor of the impending fight. Neither side of fandom seems willing to acknowledge the simple truth: These two men will meet in the ring.
– The Pugilists
In the UK, the omnipresent handsome and eloquent gentlemen British fighter, Anthony Joshua. “AJ” has followed a path like many before, having risen from an obscure past as juvenile delinquent in Watford to established champion amateur. His ascension to heavyweight superstardom has been aided by the obligatory charismatic promoter (played by Eddie Hearn) and his promotional company Matchroom Sports. Founded by Eddie’s well-known father and money man Barry Hearn, Matchroom has proven more than capable to handle the rising star. With the rise of Eddie Hearn’s influence with online platform DAZN, AJ will continue captivating capacity crowds nearing 100,000 around the UK.
His brand has been a mix of meticulous grooming coupled with excellent matchmaking. Joshua’s bout with Dillian Whyte was the perfect blend of competition and excitement. Unfortunately, many will criticize the route, and often accuse Hearn and Co. of essentially buying the IBF belt from a less than game Charles Martin. This type of criticism is not new to the realm of heavyweight boxing and holds no weight considering the résumé AJ has built.
The Wladimir Klitschko fight was an animal in itself. Two Olympic champions on opposite sides of the spectrum in terms of age and career trajectory, left no one wanting more in a hotly contested battle for the future of the sport. AJ consolidated the IBF, WBA, WBO, and IBO straps that night while proving his championship heart after rising from the floor to knockout the seasoned and well-conditioned Ukrainian.
AJ has furthered his brand in the public eye schmoozing with talk show hosts, posing in GQ, and being spotted courtside watching the NBA Champion Golden State Warriors. With his celebrity status recently solidified, AJ and Hearn are now cleverly opting to let the best choices come to them whilst cashing in on the accumulated work. Handsome calculating and articulate, his youth and professionalism has born the modern world-class athlete boxer.
The Bronze Bomber:
Deontay Wilder is not the typical heavyweight champion in the vein of the sports’ history. Lean, tall, raw and lanky, Deontay was a relative unknown before his bronze medal performance in ’08. A performance that did not garner the attention one would expect coming from a long drought of American heavyweight success. Deontay is what one would expect from a native Alabaman: Tough, hard-working, outspoken, and naturally gifted athletically. Alabama has long been a hot bed for racial strife and poverty. The original home of greats like Joe Louis and Evander Holyfield, success in Alabama stems only from determination, grit and diligence.
Wilder was brought along early by relatively unknown trainer Jay Deas and still clocks much of his training in the Skyy gym’s warehouse in the heart of Tuscaloosa. The pair have spearheaded Alabama’s modern boxing scene. Without the immediate cash backing of Anthony Joshua, he cut his teeth fighting anyone who would take a fight, amassing an astonishing K.O. rate. Along the way support from Lou DiBella and the enigmatic Al Haymon began to take hold. The addition of trainer and former welterweight champ Mark Breland also furthered Deontay’s often disparaged jab and footwork.
This progress was evident in a stellar boxing display for the WBC title against Bermane Stiverne. Despite fighting the 12 rounder with metal rods in his right hand, Wilder dominated. Deontay has dispatched former contenders with gruesome knockouts. Even leaving the unfortunate Artur Szpilka motionless on the canvas only feet away from Szpilka’s wife. Just as AJ had done against Klitschko, the K.O. win over boxings “boogeyman” Luis Ortiz gave Deontay the social cache amongst hardcore fans who were not yet sold on his heart, chin, or power.
Wilder must now find a way to increase the weight of his name amongst the general public by reaching out to those who would not otherwise know him. Many of his fights have been in his home state, but unlike AJ, Deontay is seldom seen outside the immediate sports media. His recent association with boxings guru advisor Shelley Finkel lends some immediate legitimacy to his effort in expanding his name. But he doesn’t have the branding of AJ. Nor does he have the hands-on media grooming. He does however, possess an exciting style and unique personality. If he wants to make this fight sooner than later, he needs to up his profile.
AJ will fight Povetkin. A fight that reasonably intelligent observers spotted a mile away when Povetkin put on a dubious showing against a chinny David Price for the Joshua v. Parker undercard. AJ and Hearn will make money hand over fist against an exciting, aged, undersized heavyweight with just enough danger to make people watch. This is perfectly in line with the Hearn-AJ formula, and what a proper promoter would want.
Wilder will attempt to fight Tyson Fury. Wilder needs names and publicity because he lacks the profile AJ has. Wilder has nursed several injuries over the years including a torn bicep and chronically broken right hand. Eddie Hearn would be a fool not to let Wilder incur more damage before putting AJ in the path of the straight right hand.
AJ-Wilder will happen. It will happen when both sides agree that the money and timing is right. Mindless squabbles about who is dodging who is a part of boxing fandom. Strategy and diligence have brought these fighters to this impasse. It is strategy that will dictate the largest heavyweight battle in more than 20 years.
The money will accumulate, the fighters will build themselves in the public eye appropriately. If Rome was not built in a day, a legendary battle is not either. The strategy of both sides will be subterfuge, insults, and double-talk. All to manufacture a global battle, the likes and scale of which has not been seen. With patience and keen understanding all must rest assured. These two men will meet in the ring.
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