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‘What if Anthony Joshua vacates both belts?’ – Eddie Hearn

Aleksandr Usyk Anthony Joshua Kubrat Pulev

By Tim Royner:  Eddie Hearn is frustrated at the IBF and WBO failing to decide which of their mandatory challengers will go first in 2020 in challenging heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua. Hearn thinks it might be better for Joshua (23-1, 21 KOs) to just vacate his IBF and WBO belts, and hold onto the WBA strap.


In doing so, Joshua would be freed up from having to waste time on fighting pointless mandatory defenses. Hearn points out that former heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko wasted a lot of time making mandatory defenses during his career against guys like Tony Thompson. If Wladimir didn’t hold onto 3 world titles at one time, he would have  been free to take more compelling fights that the fans wanted to watch.

Joshua and Hearn are waiting to find out if the WBO mandatory Oleksandr Usyk or IBF mandatory Kubrat Pulev will come first 2020. Right now, it’s looking like Joshua will need to vacate one of those titles due to IBF and WBO unwilling to give ground, and agree to have their mandatory go second.

What if Joshua vacates his IBF and WBO titles? 

“It’s going to come to a head in three weeks. It makes you start to think, ‘What if he [Joshua] vacates both belts?’  Just have the WBA,” said Hearn to SI Boxing with Chris Mannix. “Does it really matter? I mean, he’s still going to be world heavyweight champion, and he’s still going to be the biggest draw in the sport, and he’s still going to be fighting great fights in the heavyweight division. And there will be less aggravation, and less sanctioning fees.

“That’s why [Wladimir] Klitschko had so many poor fights,” Hearn said in talking about the negative that came from Wladimir holding onto 3 world titles at the same time. “He fought Tony Thompson twice as the mandatory challenger. AJ doesn’t want to vacate a belt. He [Joshua] wants to fight everybody, but what I think is unfair is two governing bodies [IBF and WBO] saying, ‘You’ve got to choose between us or drop a belt.’

“We don’t know if [Bob] Arum will lose his marbles, and think, ‘Oh, I don’t like Eddie Hearn at the moment.’ He might be really difficult to make a deal, and AJ might say, ‘I’m not interested.’ Then maybe he vacates that belt [IBF],” don’t know. Pulev has a tough decision, because he’s either going to take our offer or he’s going to fight Adam Kownacki for the vacant [IBF] title for about a million bucks, and he might get beaten in both fights.

It really doesn’t matter if Joshua vacates the IBF and WBO belts, because his popularity isn’t enhanced by him having 3 rather than 1. Only Joshua and a small amount of ultra-hardcore boxing fans care about him having 3 belts. Most casuals don’t know that Joshua holds three titles. They just seem him as a world champion, and that’s good enough.

Joshua vs. Wilder might be IMPOSSIBLE in 2020 – Hearn

It might be,” said Hearn said to SI Boxing with Chris Mannix when asked if a fight between Joshua and Wilder is impossible in 2020. “And it might be just Pulev and Usyk for us or Usyk and Pulev. We almost lost that fight [between Joshua and Wilder] with Joshua losing to Ruiz. But now with Joshua beating Ruiz, it’s back on.

“Now it’s bigger than ever, but how long do you want to wait, and how greedy do you want to be?” said Hearn about a fight between Joshua and Wilder. “When we were first negotiating that fight, Fury and Wilder were on peanuts in comparison to Joshua. Now they’re no longer on peanuts. DAZN has forced the market to pay those guys big money. So now they’re quite comfortable doing what they’re doing.,” said Hearn on Wilder and Fury raising their profiles.

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Joshua-Wilder likely won’t happen, because of a couple reasons. With Joshua choosing to try and keep his IBF and WBO belts, it’s going to tie him down in meaningless fights in 2020. For his part, WBC heavyweight champion Wilder (42-0-1, 41 KOs) will be busy fighting Tyson Fury TWICE.  Deontay isn’t going to have a chance to fight Joshua until 2021, and even that it might not happen.

Joshua and the promoters are a little confused with their belief that more titles is better. It isn’t, and it’s not going to do much for Joshua’s legacy. If he’s going to waste his career defending against guys like Kubrat Pulev, he’ll have a weaker legacy when he retires. It would arguably be wiser for Joshua to rid himself of the excess belts, and just keep one of them. He can then focus on giving the fights the fans actually want to see.

We’ll see a new Joshua in 2020 – Barry Hearn

“I think we’ll show a new Anthony Joshua with the way he boxes in the future, because it’s going to be interesting to see how he develops as a fighter in 2020,” said Hearn about Joshua’s new Klitschko-esque style of fighting. “It’s going to be an interesting time. I think we’re in one of the most exciting times in boxing in my lifetime.

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“I think commercially the demand has changed, and the market is at an all-time high. The commercialization is so much more complicated now, and so much more beneficial for the fighters. This is the best time to be involved in boxing, and I don’t know what’s going to happen. What I do know is it will be exciting,” said Hearn.

Barry Hearn thinks that Joshua will be using his new Wladimir Klitschko style of fighting in 2020, he’s excited about it. However, that style of fighting might not be as effective as he thinks. Yeah, it worked against a fat and out of shape Andy Ruiz Jr., but he might not have the same success against an in shape fighter like Oleksandr Usyk.

It would be better for Joshua to make sure he comes into his fights with multiple game plans just in case his Klitschko style of combat doesn’t work. Ruiz might have beaten Joshua if he was in shape, because he got to him a number of times. He was just too fat to throw combinations like he did in the first fight. It was easy for Joshua to look brilliant with Ruiz weighing 283 lbs, and looking terrible.

Fury will be easier to deal with than Wilder – Hearn

“Great fight, an interesting fight,” said Hearn on Deontay Wilder vs. Tyson Fury 2 rematch. “Does Wilder knock him out this time? And does Wilder knock him out this time? Possible. Does Tyson out-box him and confuse him like last time? Possibly. That’s why it’s an even fight, because you don’t know. Good luck to both boys. I think it’s a great fight, I’m looking forward to watching it, and good luck to both of them.

“If Tyson wins, it’ll probably be easier to deal with him than Deontay,” said Hearn. “It doesn’t really matter. It’s about activity, and it’s like what we talk about with Dillian Whyte; it’s about keeping busy. You’ve got a short time in your career, and you don’t have time on the sidelines. So there’s lots of opportunities for boxers, particularly in the heavyweight division. If everyone keeps active, eventually those fights come around,” said Hearn.

Fury (29-0-1, 20 KOs) and his promoters at Top Rank Boxing could prove to be tough negotiators in a fight with Joshua, and Hearn could be shocked. Hearn is hoping that Fury will be easy to negotiate, but that might not be the reality. This is a different Fury than before. If he beats Wilder TWICE in 2020, then all of a sudden he’ll be in a position to command better than a 50-50 deal. Poor Joshua won’t have any comparable wins on his resume to make a case that he rates a 50-50 deal.

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