By Keith Idec
Showtime announced Monday afternoon that the American cable network will televise the Anthony Joshua-Joseph Parker heavyweight title unification fight live March 31.
Joshua-Parker will be the sixth Joshua fight Showtime will air live in its bid to become the permanent U.S. television home for the immensely popular British knockout artist. Rival HBO has expressed serious interest in televising Joshua’s bouts, but Showtime has made a firm financial commitment to retaining Joshua’s services, with the ultimate goal of owning the American television rights to a highly anticipated showdown between Joshua (20-0, 20 KOs) and WBC champion Deontay Wilder (39-0, 38 KOs).
The 28-year-old Joshua, who owns the IBF, IBO and WBA titles, is heavily favored to beat the 26-year-old Parker on March 31. New Zealand’s Parker (24-0, 18 KOs), the WBO champion, will challenge Joshua before a capacity crowd expected to exceed 78,000 at Principality Stadium in Cardiff, Wales.
In its press release to announce that the network will broadcast Joshua-Parker, Showtime noted that the Joshua-Parker fight will mark just the second time in heavyweight history that undefeated champions will meet in a title unification fight.
The first time that happened, Mike Tyson, then 30-0 and owner of the WBA and WBC titles, defeated Tony Tucker, then 34-0 and the IBF champ, by 12-round unanimous decision in August 1987 in Las Vegas.
“The heavyweight division is in the midst of a renaissance, and Showtime is delivering all the of pivotal bouts to our subscribers,” Stephen Espinoza, Showtime Sports’ president, said in the release. “Anthony Joshua is a global superstar and we’re proud to present his sixth, and perhaps most challenging, world title fight to the U.S. audience. Joshua versus Parker will be the 12th heavyweight world championship match on Showtime since Deontay Wilder won his title in [January] 2015, an undisputed industry-leading offering in boxing’s preeminent division.”
Showtime will broadcast Joshua-Parker live late in the afternoon on the East Coast and in mid-afternoon on the West Coast in the United States. It’ll be televised via pay-per-view on Sky Sports Box Office in the United Kingdom.
Four weeks before Joshua-Parker, Showtime will broadcast Wilder’s title defense against Cuban southpaw Luis Ortiz (28-0, 24 KOs, 2 NC). Wilder-Ortiz will headline a card March 3 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.