At first glance this seems like a ridiculous thing to say. It’s the one everyone wants, we are told. It’s the fight boxing needs, it’s a history-making fight, one that will unite all the heavyweight belts around one fighter’s waist (the first to ever unite all five). It’s a sporting opportunity like none before.
Yet the events of the past week both inside and outside of the negotiating room surely prove that this fight, with the classless taunting, the nonsense offer-and-counter-offer debacles and the ignorance of Twitter, is nothing more than a complete farce at this stage. And while the sport’s businessmen are busy being confused and offended by the very business they are trying to conduct, braying fans scavenge for morsels of evidence to throw in the faces of everyone else as proof that one particular side is trying to make the fight happen, and the other isn’t. This is a mess.
To recap what has happened so far, Wilder finally seemed to have his wishes answered when, after Joshua stopped Carlos Takam in October 2017, Eddie Hearn flew out to America to meet with the American’s representatives and begin talks of a potential Summer clash this year. Sadly the fight didn’t happen next – let the hype build, give AJ a chance to build his reputation in the US, allow Wilder to do the same in the UK, the usual promotional spiel. We did get two very satisfactory fights as compensation, however. Wilder defeated Cuban bogeyman Luis Ortiz with a 10th round knockout, while AJ was taken the distance for the first time by Joseph Parker, who surrendered his WBO belt to the Londoner’s growing collection of titles.
These victories were immediately forgotten as calls for a Joshua-Wilder clash returned with renewed urgency. Wilder’s camp continued to insist that Matchroom make them an offer, and when the offer finally came, it was in the form of a $12.5 million flat fee – a career high payday of about 6 times Wilder’s largest check to date, but without the option of a split on pay-per-view sales. This should have been the first move in a game of promotional chess, but it turned out to be the beginning of the end of any sensible negotiation.
Matchroom gave the Americans a week to respond. When that deadline passed, Hearn (already exasperated) said he would still fly out to New York for his Danny Jacobs – Maciej Sulecki event, and use the opportunity to meet with Wilder’s team of promoters, managers and advisors to continue discussions, and to seek an explanation as to why they were dragging their feet. Lou DiBella (promoter) explained in a separate interview that his lack of a response was simply “because he had work to do” while putting together the final touches to his Gervonta Davis – Jesus Cuellar headlined card in Brooklyn, an excuse that fails to withstand any serious degree of scrutiny.
Both sides dug in, preparing themselves for a stalemate. But then, a few days later, a bomb from the ‘Bronze Bomber’ – a guaranteed $50 million for Anthony Joshua, with the money ready to go. After realising he wasn’t dreaming, Hearn expressed his interest, and requested a draft contract and a meeting to discuss what the terms might be. Well, they told him ‘no’. No to a meeting, no to a discussion, no to being allowed to see a draft contract.
Accept the offer, they said, without a contract and without a meeting, because “it would be non-productive to meet”. Clearly, this is ridiculous to the point of being offensive, and Hearn has been taking to social media, pointing his fingers and shrugging his shoulders, almost relieved that finally the fickle boxing public generally sees him as the good guy for once.
Let this be a lesson to all of us; this is what happens when negotiations and offers are thrown around on social media platforms, largely for our benefit. We simply do not need to be involved – it is not our job to force the hands of promoters, fighters and managers into making premature and ill-advised moves that compromise their own integrity. Because this is what we are left with; a situation that has been made infinitely more complicated by our inclusion, and a fight that is no closer to happening. Our job as fans is to watch the fight and to applaud the winner, nothing more. Be vocal about the fights we want, certainly. But leave the details down to the promoters, the fighters and the managers, because the moment we assume knowledge or experience of such details is the moment we all look like fools.
As for the fight, well… it may yet happen, but if it happens as a result of negotiations like those we’ve seen in the past week, it certainly won’t be for the greater good of the sport.