By Scoop Malinowski
The biggest fight in boxing is on the verge of being signed, if Deontay Wilder agrees to the contract he has in his hands from Heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua and his promoter Eddie Hearn but there are signs that one side is pretending to want to participate.
For many astute ring observers, it has been clearly evident which side genuinely is taking specific actions to secure the fight and which squad has been stalling, posturing and behaving like minor leaguers from Alabama.
Deontay Wilder barks like a dog but he only seems to take a bite when the opponent is totally controlled by his advisor Al Haymon. Wilder can yell and scream on social media that he wants the fight but his actions are showing otherwise and much of the public may not see through the subterfuge.
You see, Wilder has a 40-0 record with a lot of knockouts but he doesn’t sell tickets or attract fans yet, not in America or anywhere. He’s not a star and at 32 he can’t afford to lose. Conversely, Joshua is younger and he does draw massive numbers and he fills soccer stadiums. He’s already a superstar and if he loses his comeback would generate even more interest.
So far the Joshua vs Wilder negotiation process to land this fight have been going on for several months and still no signed deal. Let’s look at the timeline…
1. Wilder unfairly initially demands 50-50 when everyone knows he’s not even close to Joshua in terms of selling power and money generation. Joshua earns over $20m a fight, Wilder approximately between $1m and $2m which is cut up between Haymon, Shelly Finkel, Lou DiBella, Jay Deas and the training team, and of course taxes.
2. Wilder backed out of attending Joshua vs Parker earlier this year in Wales, which would have helped spark the rivalry and to promote Joshua vs Wilder. The public loves face to face confrontations but Wilder wasn’t up for it.
3. Wilder’s team asked Joshua to sign a $50m “offer” and openly insisted that Joshua had to sign without knowing terms and conditions, event site, judges, where the money was coming from. Major fights are not made on flimsy offers, they take months of haggling and negotiating. An HBO executive once told me the process of signing Lennox Lewis vs Mike Tyson in 2002 was so arduous that a book could have been written on that adventure alone. Was this another Wilder PR play? Most likely yes.
4. Hearn flew to New York City to promote another event and Wilder’s controllers Shelly Finkel and Haymon, both New York based, refused to meet with him face to face, eye to eye. Beginning to see the pattern?
5. Joshua is the A side champion with most of the belts, the far larger fan base, the A side always calls the shots about where the fight happens. Not the unknown B side whose most notable activity is yelling and screaming on social media or boasting nonsense about how he’s better than a prime Mike Tyson.
6. The latest serious move was last week when Joshua’s team sent Wilder a contract which still has not been signed or publicly mentioned by Team Wilder. An American media outlet has reported that Wilder is supposedly pondering the contract.
But you have to wonder at this point. Is Wilder looking for his way out?
My sense is the same as it’s been all along. Team Wilder can’t afford to lose to the superior Joshua now. They know Deontay is not ready for the big step up in competition that Joshua would be and they don’t want to cash out yet. The scheme is to somehow manipulate Wilder to 50-0 – beyond Rocky Marciano’s record – and once at that mark of distinction and honor, they think, or hope, Wilder will be a major star generating millions or even billions. Losing to Joshua now wrecks the plan and voids the jackpot. They never expected Joshua to become a major superstar, they never expected Joshua to knock out former champ Wladimir Klitschko in one of the most exciting heavyweight title fights in history. Joshua’s rise to power has left Wilder standing in the dust.
Wilder will dodge Joshua and fight Breazeale and Joshua will face Povetkin. Will Joshua vs Wilder happen soon? Don’t count on it.