Will Anthony Joshua-Deontay Wilder become Lennox Lewis-Riddick Bowe 2.0?
I called Shelly Finkel this past Monday in the wake of Anthony Joshua’s most recent victory over Alexander Povetkin, last weekend in Wembley Stadium. Finkel is the adviser for Deontay Wilder, who has the only belt (the WBC’s) missing from Joshua’s collection of world titles.
A showdown between the two would be – figuratively and literally – one of the biggest fights in all of boxing.
However for the time being, it seems like this match-up will not happen.
Finkel, who had been exchanging emails with Barry Hearn (the head of Matchroom Boxing, which represents Joshua), questions the level of sincerity of the other side, in really wanting to make a deal. “Can you go below zero?” asked Finkel, laughing. He’s obviously tired of their machinations.
“Barry knows how to make a deal if he wants to. Barry and Eddie (Hearn, Group Managing Director for Matchroom Boxing) put themselves in a hole and let me explain what I mean by that,” said Finkel, who draws back on his time when he represented another heavyweight champion, years ago. “When I was Evander Holyfield’s manager and did not want to face Riddick Bowe at the time, I didn’t say Riddick was afraid. I didn’t say Riddick was ducking us. I didn’t knock Riddick; I just went about my business with George Foreman. We made $20 million; we then fought Larry Holmes, made $18 million and then we fought Bowe and lost.
“So instead of knocking Deontay and saying he’s afraid – which we’re not – they started saying we’re not fighting. It’s ridiculous.”
While Wilder is a heavyweight titlist, his market value pales in comparison to Joshua, who sells out big stadiums on a regular basis and is a household name in the U.K. and throughout Europe. The reality is Wilder needs Joshua much more than Joshua needs Wilder. And with Wilder being a big puncher, well, at this point, he may not be worth the risk.
Even for a guaranteed $50 million.
“Joshua says, ‘If they’re serious, give me $50 million and I’ll sign tomorrow,’ and we got the $50 million and he didn’t sign,” said Finkel. Now it’s not clear just how real that money was but did Joshua and his side really want to find out? “He says, ‘We want you to come to the U.K.’ We said, ‘OK.’ They said, ‘We’ll give you $15 million.’ They didn’t have a site in the contract; they didn’t have a date but somehow they had a site and a date for Povetkin (September 22).
“They didn’t want the fight.”
So now Wilder is set to face Tyson Fury on December 1, at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. Joshua is scheduled to go again on April 13, at Wembley Stadium, and Finkel thinks the chances are slim-to-none that Wilder is the dance partner. “And slim has left town, as (Don) King would say,” said Finkel, with a lengthy chuckle. “Look, if it all depends on them, if they’re serious, they’ll come back to us. If they’re not serious – which, at this point, they’re not – they know we’re not fighting for a flat fee. We’re not fighting if there’s no rematch clause – even though we believe Wilder will knock out Joshua. You don’t go into a fight of this magnitude without having a rematch clause.
Finkel pointed out, “They were OK doing it for (Wladimir) Klitschko. Why not with us?”
(UCNLive.com contacted Eddie Hearn for a response for this article but, as of press time, hasn’t received a reply.)
As for their financial expectations for this fight – in which Joshua is the clear A-side – Finkel stated, “I don’t want to negotiate that in the press but if they’re serious, they know how to make a fight and I know that when they are, which may be six months, maybe a a year, the deal will get done very quickly.”
When asked if he felt 2019 was a possibility for Joshua-Wilder, Finkel said bluntly, “Not with the way they seem to be. From what I understand, they want to fight (Dillian) Whyte next and if (undisputed cruiserweight champion Oleksandr) Usyk is to beat (Tony) Bellew, then (Joshua)’ll fight him in the fall. So if that’s correct, the answer is no.”
It has to be noted that both Whyte and Usyk are under the Matchroom Boxing/DAZN banner and both of these fights would be much easier to consummate, given that dynamic.
“He can yell and say everything he wants, Eddie, but I’m a firm believer that if someone wants something, they do it. If they don’t, they don’t,” Finkel stated.
While Holyfield and Bowe ended up fighting – three times, in fact – Bowe famously threw his WBC title in the trash bin rather than face Lennox Lewis, who was his mandatory at the time. Lewis, who had stopped Bowe in the 1988 Olympics, represented a real threat to “Big Daddy,” whose title reign, after he defeated “The Real Deal,” consisted of Michael Dokes and Jesse Ferguson before losing to Holyfield in a rematch, a year after their original hook-up, in November of 1992.
Both Bowe and Lewis taunted each other for years but never actually got into the ring to settle the score as professionals. You can decide who was to blame for this fight never taking place but history will remember that it was nothing more than an unrealized fantasy fight.
In Joshua and Wilder, you have two offensively skilled fighters who have legitimate power but have both been shaken up.They are as vulnerable as they are dangerous – which is a major part of the appeal of this pairing. But the interest in Joshua-Wilder is at its peak, while both are undefeated beltholders. Who knows how long they will both remain such?
So while Finkel has an inkling of what lies in store for Joshua, what about Wilder?
“Well, let’s first get through December 1st. No one thought we were going to fight Fury and we are,” he said. “Eddie Hearn said, ‘Oh, they’re just using that for negotiations,’ yet here we are.”
The three-city press tour for Wilder-Fury starts next week.
In the immediate aftermath of Joshua’s seventh round stoppage of Povetkin, a poll was posted, asking whom fans would like to see him face next. The overwhelming majority tabbed Wilder.
“They put it up, not us,” pointed out Finkel. “They got the clear mandate what the public wants. Where are they?”
Hear what Top Rank CEO Bob Arum has to say about HBO leaving the boxing business and John Molina Jr. on his fight versus Victor Ortiz being canceled on “The 3 Knockdown Rule,” with Mario Lopez and me:
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