The Anthony Joshua Deontay Wilder situation seems set be to just another superfight of the sort of Mayweather Pacquiao, Canelo Golovkin and to a lesser extent Khan Brook that seems to be in danger of falling through the cracks due to the ever persistent presence of boxing promoters, purse splits and risk to reward ratios, but who do we blame for the slowdown of negotiations and what options does each fighter have. This is what I will try to explain, to cut through all the promotional talk to make a logical conclusion on what the hell is going on.
Before we can speculate on any potential options, it’s first important to just clarify the facts so far, and at this point there are really only two that hold significant weight.
The first is that Eddie Hearn has reportedly offered $12.5m as a flat rate to Deontay Wilder for the Joshua fight which Wilder has not accepted. While he has never actually come out and confirmed this offer he has said that the rumours was mainly accurate, and Wilder seems poised for a counter offer which he will make very soon.
The second is that Russian heavyweight Alexander Povetkin has been made mandatory by the WBA for Joshua’s belt, giving him 30 days to negotiate the fight which started on April 6th.
In short this leaves Joshua with four options, the first is to simply fight Povetkin and take care of his mandatory. The second is to face Wilder in a unification which the WBA would accept, the third is to vacate the belt all together and the final is to apply for an exception with the WBA to have a voluntary defence against a fighter in the top 15 of the WBA rankings.
Let’s assess these options one by one. Joshua could easily fight Povetkin so long as the deal negotiated meant that the fight took place in the UK, however if no agreements are made and the deal went to purse splits and Povetkin’s team won, it would be interesting to see what stance Joshua would take if the fight was scheduled for Russia, would he be willing to travel, or would he vacate. Obviously he could fight Wilder, though the terms make it seem debateable whether Joshua, or his team at least want the fight now, which I’ll come to later. Simply vacating looks unlikely, but applying for an exception or paying step aside money to Povetkin is an option, though it’s with the WBA whether it will be accepted. One can assume if this is the case Povetkin could face Dillian Whyte who is ranked with the WBA which would result in a good payday, especially since in interviews Joshua doesn’t seem too motivated to face the Russian.
Whyte who holds high positions in all the governing bodies could be used as a pawn by Hearn to free up Joshua with his WBA mandatories. However though Whyte wants the fight with Wilder and he holds the WBC number one position, the WBC seem unwilling to give him mandatory status like the WBA has with Povetkin, and it seems more likely that a final eliminator against the next highest available opponent would take place if he chooses to go down the WBC route. Whyte could even fight Kubrat Pulev which could perhaps give him mandatory status with the IBF belt.
If all this seems complicated then you’re right it is, boxing politics seems to be a never ending web of rules, exceptions, mandatories and deadlines. Basically Joshua can fight Wilder, Povetkin or apply for an exception if he wants to keep his belt.
Now we’ve dealt with the politics regarding the governing bodies we now come to the deal itself. There seems to be two schools of thought with the deal.
The people in Joshua’s fan base see the deal as very good for Wilder, $12.5m would be five times the purse Wilder has ever made, and since the deal reportedly has a rematch clause some people seem to be saying this a classic case of “I’m the A side, you beat me and you become the A side”, this has some truth to it. While Joshua is selling out events in Wembley Wilder struggles to make much of a scene in the US so why should Joshua bend over backwards to make the fight since he’s at risk of losing far more future cash. However there is a dark side. On the face of it $12.5m is by far the biggest pay day that Wilder has ever made, but this is a flat figure of $12.5m and will not change with the success of the fight. Pay per view numbers, ticket numbers will all be just that, numbers to Wilder and won’t affect his final purse in the deal offered by Hearn. Boxing is a sport that tends to pay its fighters in splits, even a mandatory challenger is given 25% by the promoter, so in a fight that could make as much as $100m a flat rate of $12.5m is perhaps not quite as appealing as it seems.
Hearn seems to be using the deal as a bit of a smokescreen to the public, since if no deal was made there would be a fair bit of suspicion, but a flat rate does come off a bit harsh in just the way that boxing purses are normally agreed, with both Klitschko and Parker being paid in splits.
One can argue that if Wilder thinks he can win, he should take the fight, and Joshua does of course hold the commercial value, and this is all true. But to say that Wilder should have accepted this offer because it’s a fair deal isn’t right in the realms of what the fight could make. So as it stands though in boxing negotiations you are often judging the shade of grey it seems as though the Joshua’s team is perhaps more willing to put the brakes on for this fight than Wilder’s, at least at the minute.