Heavyweight boxing champion Anthony Joshua’s interest in building a stronger fan base in the United States will bring him from Britain for a fight next year, he said Tuesday.
“Yes, 100%. There’s only so much food you can take out of someone’s mouth. I’ve been fighting in the U.K., bringing attention,” the 2012 Olympic champion said.
Joshua (21-0, 20 knockouts) was part of the New York announcement by the new sports streaming operation DAZN of a launch that will begin with a Sept. 22 broadcast of Joshua’stitle defense against Russia’s Alexander Povetkin at London’s Wembley Stadium.
“They’re new, fresh, exciting. I met them and saw their vision,” Joshua said of DAZN’s leadership, which includes former ESPN executive John Skipper.
“It made sense. There’s an opportunity — I really like the Showtime and HBO guys — but it was an opportunity to be in something new and they kind of checked the boxes. They’re going to broadcast my fight and it will be exciting to see how it pans out because this could potentially be the future.”
The fact that DAZN was endorsed by Joshua’s promoter Eddie Hearn, who will stage his Matchroom Boxing cards on the over-the-top service that will charge $9.99 per month after a free one-month trial, also swayed Joshua.
“Yeah, it does mean something. He’s got me to this point,” Joshua said. “How can I doubt [Hearn] or the team I’m with?”
There is some industry skepticism about the staying power of DAZN, which also has a relationship with Bellator MMA to stream its fights, starting with a Sept. 29 card in San Jose.
Although much has been made of the $1-billion, multiyear plans for the operation, Hearn’s boxing new contracts with welterweight Jessie Vargas and middleweight Demetrius Andrade, for instance, don’t extend beyond two years and their opponents are suspect.
And although Joshua said he believed it was possible for his former U.S. network, Showtime, to still broadcast his Povetkin bout on a delayed basis and a Showtime official confirmed “discussions are ongoing,” a DAZN spokesman said there are no plans to allow that at this time.
The event marks Joshua’s comeback to Wembley where he drew 90,000 and defeated former heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko in 2017.
“There’s no place like it. It’s sensational. It’s phenomenal,” he said.
“Wembley’s atmosphere is second to none and that’s why I think it’s good to give the people the opportunity to come witness a championship fight there. [Boxing] was dormant in the U.K. for a long time, and now it’s thriving again so it’s a real blessing to be able to do this on my local doorstep where I grew up, where my fan base is.”
Yet, by not fighting World Boxing Council champion Deontay Wilder there now, Joshua has opened himself to criticism for choosing a mandatory World Boxing Association. defense instead of the biggest fight possible.
Joshua has a two-fight commitment to Wembley in place, with the second bout expected to be against Wilder, who is from Alabama, on April 13, 2019.
“I didn’t want to lose my WBA belt … because I’m going for the undisputed champion of the world next. I need these belts in order to fulfill my destiny,” Joshua said. “I’ve set the day, set the location. Everything is in place. I’m ready.”
Asked about being cast as the person who delayed the anticipated showdown, Joshua said, “Do you study the history of boxing? These things happen in the sport. It comes and goes with the time and it’s part and parcel of boxing history. Criticism comes, criticism goes. You’re important one day and not important the next.
“So as long as you’re making the right decisions, you’ll always be content. I’m very content with the moves I’ve made.”
He expressed confidence that a Wilder fight happens next.
“No one signed a contract [this time]. The only reason it didn’t happen was because the mandatory was in place and a deadline that none of us could meet [was expiring] so we had to set that aside and reschedule it with five months to negotiate this fight, with a set date and location in place,” Joshua said.
“No one has chosen a soft touch. I’ve tapped myself to beat Povetkin. I’ve listened to all the points [Wilder’s] made. There’s no reason why the fight can’t happen. The fight will happen.”
Joshua revealed the future talks will include an option to stage a rematch with Wilder in the U.S.
In pursuit of the more popular Joshua, Wilder and his manager Shelly Finkel came off a bit desperate in agreeing to accept the fight in Britain for a far lesser purse.
“It was crowd chasing [by Wilder],” Joshua said. “If you’re Coca-Cola and I’m the newest fizz in town, I’m going to say ‘Coca-Cola is [crap] and I’m the best.’ He’s done well to speak my name that way but he hasn’t fought no one in his whole 10-year career.
“Why is this the biggest fight? Because he knows he’s coming to the end and he knows he needs some credibility to his name. When you have 40 fights and training camps, your body doesn’t operate the same … he doesn’t have 10 years left. He’s spent a lot of time doing things his way. Now he has to do what the public and the broadcasters want. No one wants to see him fight anyone else. He’s under a lot of pressure and that’s why he’s acting erratic and seems desperate.
Source: Lance Pugmire|| LA Times