By Dan Ambrose: Matchroom head honcho Eddie Hearn states that Anthony Joshua’s career will be over if he loses his April tune-up fight at the O2 Arena in London.
With the fight expected to be a gimme for Joshua (24-3, 22 KOs) against a bottom-tier level heavyweight, losing this fight would be the final straw for his sinking career.
If there were any doubts in AJ, the fans, and in Hearn’s mind that it was all over, Joshua losing to a mediocre fighter would be the absolute limit.
Joshua, 33, will likely retire on his own rather than fire his new coach and continue to wear out his shoes with his trainer-hunting.
It’s just going to be fun to see how low of an opponent that Hearn and Joshua’s new trainer has selected for him to try and rebuild his shattered confidence in his April tune-up.
“AJ wants a big fight in the summer, and the one that makes sense should be quite straightforward to make is the rematch with Dillian Whyte,” said Eddie Hearn to iFL TV about an Anthony Joshua vs. Dillian Whyte rematch for July.
“With AJ fighting in April and Dillian probably fighting around the same time, that would lead them to a big all-British heavyweight fight in the summer.
“I spoke to Dillian, and the plan is to try and make that for the summer fight. Obviously, AJ has to deal with April 1st. Once we do that deal with Dillian, and then we’ll look when he fights as well. Let’s see if we can find a deal between those two for the summer.
“That’s the first thing we’ll do, and then we’ll look at the date for Dillian Whyte’s return. He will want to fight again before July, and probably around the same time as AJ, and that’s really the route for Dillian Whyte.
“In the meantime, he’s up for fighting anyone. Deontay Wilder, Andy Ruiz maybe.
“They have a good relationship,” said Hearn when asked if Joshua has a good relationship with his now former trainer Robert Garcia. “Robert is an outstanding trainer.
“It was a good performance from Anthony in the second fight [with Oleksandr Usyk], and Robert done a good job, but AJ looked around and felt this was the best move for him, and those two get on great. That’s it. Robert is one of the best trainers in the world.
“I just felt this was the trainer and the team that AJ was ready to move forward with. He’s making that move and that commitment to America, which shows his commitment to the sport and the fact that he wants to improve and he’s ready.
“Maybe four weeks ago,” said Hearn when asked if he’s spoken to Deontay Wilder’s manager recently. “We were speaking about various bits & pieces that I won’t go into, but also, he’s gearing up to fight Andy Ruiz. That’s the fight that’s been ordered by the WBC.
“I said, ‘Look, Joshua is going to fight in April, and we’d be happy to go into a Wilder fight after that.’ I want the Wilder fight in 2023, and I know AJ does as well. That’s a massive fight.
“Surely, you got to know that I want to make the biggest fights that generate the most amount of money. You can’t have it both ways. It’s a bit like the Leigh Wood – Mauricio Lara fight.
“People are messaging me now, saying, ‘You’re a joke for taking that fight. He’s going to get knocked out.’ Hang on. If I put him in with a guy that you’ve never heard of, you’re going to go, ‘That’s a joke fight. When are you going to put him in with someone serious?’
“You can’t say I’m a money-hungry [person] and then say I don’t want to make the fights that will make me the most money. Do you understand? There is no financial value in making a small Anthony Joshua fight.
“People talk about, ‘He’s your cash cow.’ You don’t understand. The way I’m going to make the most amount of money is by putting him in the biggest fights possible.
“I want to do things that are right for his career, but I also want him to be in big fights. Of course, I do. For one, he wants to be in big fights, and two, of course, everybody wants to make money. You can’t have it both ways.
“Of course, I want an Anthony Joshua – Deontay Wilder fight. One, as a fight fan; two, because I think AJ wins the fight, and three, there’s a lot of money to be made in that fight. So, don’t be under the illusion that I don’t want to make that fight.
“I want to make that fight. I want to make the Tyson Fury fight. I’m very happy that AJ will have this fight in April to get back to his winning ways, to get back to improving, and to have time with his new team to gel because he’s gone Usyk-Usyk back to back with different teams a lot going on.
“I’m excited; I’m really excited. This is the most excited I’ve been in an Anthony Joshua journey so far because I think it’s exciting. You go into that fight in April, and you know that defeat, it’s all over, really.
“It would be a third back-to-back defeat, and yet a great performance and a showroom knockout will get everyone saying, ‘We’re back, baby.’ That’s what I can’t wait for because I love it when our backs are against the wall. You have to understand that.
“That’s the best moments and this is one of the best moments for AJ. He’d still fight Usyk again, but he’s lost twice to him. Whether the third fight happens, the second fight was a lot closer than the second fight. I can’t tell you that’s the aim to fight Usyk for the third time.
“The aim would be to fight Tyson Fury, Deontay Wilder, Dillian Whyte, all the big fights. I’m sure the Fury-Usyk fight will get made. I don’t know when. We’ve obviously got Ramadan coming up. People talk about May, but the problem is going to be that the WBA has decided that their mandatory is next.
“So, Daniel Dubois is in a golden position because, ultimately, he’s in the step-aside stakes for that fight. So congratulations to Daniel Dubois. He’s about to get a lot of free money, and Filip Hrgovic is the IBF mandatory.
“The winner of that fight [Usyk vs. Fury]is going to get hit with all kinds of mandatorys. It always happens with undisputed. You saw it with Josh Taylor. So a lot of these world heavyweight title belts are going to become vacant.
“Belts are always important. The aim is for AJ to become world heavyweight champion, but if the Tyson Fury fight and the Deontay Wilder fight, if they come with a belt, fantastic.
“But do they need a belt, no, not really. I really hope AJ gets to fight Tyson Fury because even from a completely selfish point of view, I feel like if we don’t make that fight at some stage, I really don’t feel like I’m the reason that fight didn’t happen.
“I feel like I wouldn’t let people down, but I know how many times I get asked a day about that fight on the street, at the petrol station, wherever it may be. I feel like I wouldn’t want to finish in boxing without making that fight.
“It’s not a case of, ‘Oh, it won’t get made when they’re not in their primes.’ They’re in their primes now, and they will be for the next year or two years. I can’t control what other people do or if other people retire, or if people get injured. But personally, I really want to make that fight.
“I know AJ really wants that fight, and I know Fury will take that fight. We’ll see what happens,” said Hearn.