Hearn says Joshua might vacate titles before facing Wilder

Image: Hearn says Joshua might vacate titles before facing Wilder

By Trevor McIntyre: Eddie Hearn is saying that if IBF/WBA/WBO heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua can’t get a unification fight against WBC heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder in November, he may end up vacating some of his world titles. The Matchroom Boxing promoter Hearn says that Joshua is facing a logjam of mandatory defenses coming due one after another following his next fight against Jarrell ‘Big Baby’ Miller (23-0-1, 20 KOs) on June 1 at Madison Square Garden in New York.

Hearn states that if Joshua (22-0, 21 KOs) doesn’t fight Wilder (40-0-1, 39 KOs) in a unification fight in November, then he’ll like defend against his World Boxing Organization mandatory challenger Oleksander Usyk (16-0, 12 KOs) in that month. After that, Joshua will defend against his IBF mandatory Kubrat Pulev, and then his WBA mandatory, whoever that’ll be.

The WBA hasn’t designated a mandatory yet for Joshua with their organization. Rather than having Joshua making a lot of undesirable defenses against mandatory challengers that bring very little to the table, he’ll start vacating his belts and focus on taking the best fights.

The problem with being a unified world champion, like Joshua is now, is he has to invest a lot of time and energy in defending the belts against challengers that aren’t popular, and won’t bring in a lot of money. Joshua can make more money and get more attention by vacating the titles, and looking to take on the biggest names. Joshua has become bigger than the belts at this point in his career, and he no longer needs them to be recognized as the best heavyweight on the planet.

“We don’t want to vacate one of the titles because we want the undisputed fight,” Hearn said to iFL TV. “I mean, don’t get me wrong, if a title was vacated, we’d still fight Wilder, but it wouldn’t be the undisputed fight. That’s the golden chalice. So that’s why we want it to happen in November, December.”

Ideally, it would be excellent if Hearn could put a deal together to make the Joshua vs. Wilder fight in November, but that’s not looking like it’s going to happen due to the Bronze Bomber’s purse requirements. Wilder, 33, wants a 50-50 purse split for the Joshua fight, and Hearn isn’t interested in giving him that kind of a split. Without one of the two heavyweights budging with what they want for their unification fight, it’s a fight that will not get made while Joshua is still a three-belt world champion. Hearn says the Joshua vs. Wilder fight will still happen, but it’ll be after Joshua is no longer a champion. It doesn’t matter. The belts at this point in Joshua’ career are like useless anchors, pulling him down into the abyss. Career-wise, Joshua needs to get rid of ALL of his world titles, and it quickly so he doesn’t need to defend against lesser fighters that have no fan base. Former heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko was often trapped into defending his many titles against guys that brought nothing to the table. Had Wladimir dumped his belts, he would have had a lot more interesting fight during his career.

“WBO with [Oleksandr] Usyk, IBF with [Kubrat] Pulev is after the WBO mandatory [so next year], and then there would be a WBA mandatory, which is not set yet,” Hearn said. “So he [Joshua] is going to have a logjam of mandatories. So after Miller, he’s either going to fight Wilder or another fight or, more likely, Usyk. AJ’s fight with Wilder may not be a unification bout if it doesn’t happen this year. If he [Joshua] fights the undisputed fight [against Wilder], then he’s got to fight Usyk after. Then he’s got to fight Pulev as another mandatory after that. And then he’s got to fight the WBA one. So that’s when you get into the realms of, are we vacating a belt here? [Wladimir] Klitschko never vacated a belt, but he got criticized because of the mandatories that were put in front of him – was it Tony Thompson he fought twice?” Hearn said.

Joshua would be wasting his time by fighting Kubrat Pulev, and that would be a difficult fight to put together, as the Bulgarian fighter is with Top Rank Boxing and fights on ESPN. Joshua is with DAZN, so a fight between and Pulev would be a tricky one to put together. It would be one that would split the viewing audience in the United States. It’s not a good deal for DAZN or ESPN unless they’re the only ones that broadcast the Joshua vs. Pulev fight. If Joshua vacates his International Boxing Federation heavyweight title, then he doesn’t need to worry about defending against Pulev, and he can focus on going after the bigger names. Pulev’s promoters at Top Rank won’t be too happy at Joshua vacating his IBF title to avoid that fight.

Top Rank CEO Bob Arum said this week that he wasn’t going to make the Pulev vs. Tyson Fury fight, because he was going to look to force the Joshua-Pulev fight. Top Rank just signed Pulev after he became the IBF mandatory to Joshua. If Top Rank signed Pulev because he was poised to face Joshua, it’s not going to be pleasant news to them when Joshua vacates the IBF belt without fighting Pulev. Top Rank can still make a fight between Pulev and Tyson Fury, but that obviously won’t be the same as a Joshua-Pulev fight due to all the money that Joshua brings in with Sky Box Office PPV in the UK, and with his ability to fight in front of large crowds in football stadiums. Fury vs Pulev is nowhere the same fight as Joshua-Pulev.

Hearn should plan on matching Joshua against Usyk in November rather than holding out hope that Wilder is going to agree to the 60-40 purse split that he wants him to take. Wilder reiterated last Wednesday night that he wants a 50-50 deal right down the middle for the Joshua fight. If Hearn isn’t going to sweeten the offer he’s given Wilder, then it’s going to be Usyk that faces Joshua in November. That’s not a big fight unfortunately. Although Usyk has a lot of talent, he’s not a household name yet in the U.S, and his fighting style is more of a pure boxer than a slugger. The U.S boxing fans like to see punchers, and Usyk is the opposite of that.