By Keith Idec
Stephen Espinoza expects Showtime and Anthony Joshua to remain business partners “for a long time.”
Eddie Hearn, Joshua’s promoter, has shopped American television rights to Joshua’s fights to HBO, Showtime’s premium cable rival, but Espinoza is confident Showtime will continue to air the British superstar’s bouts. Assuming a deal is finalized soon, Espinoza told BoxingScene.com that he expects Showtime to televise Joshua’s next fight, a heavyweight title unification match against Joseph Parker.
Thereafter, Espinoza explained that it would make more sense for Joshua to continue working with Showtime because Showtime typically televises WBC heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder’s fights. A showdown between England’s Joshua (20-0, 20 KOs) and America’s Wilder (39-0, 38 KOs) has been built into one of the most anticipated fights in boxing and could happen before the end of 2018.
“We have continuing rights to Anthony,” said Espinoza, executive vice president and general manager for Showtime Sports. “And, probably as importantly, [Hearn’s] Matchroom [Sport] and AJ realize that all roads lead to Deontay, and vice versa because Joshua is certainly Deontay’s preferred opponent. And the easiest way to make that fight, the quickest way to make that fight, is to stay at Showtime.
“So I’m confident that Matchroom and AJ see the value that we’ve brought to his career. They see how we’ve built the Wilder-Joshua fight into arguably the most anticipated fight in the sport right now. So we’re confident we’ll be in business with AJ for a long time.”
Showtime has televised each of Joshua’s past five fights live, including his epic comeback against Wladimir Klitschko. Joshua cemented himself as boxing’s best heavyweight by getting up from a sixth-round knockdown, overcoming some fatigue and stopping Ukraine’s Klitschko (64-5, 53 KOs) in the 11th round April 29 before a capacity crowd of roughly 90,000 at London’s Wembley Stadium.
HBO aired a same-day replay of the Joshua-Klitschko clash the night of April 29. HBO has since begun a partnership with Hearn’s Matchroom Boxing USA, which was widely viewed as a way to help lure Joshua away from Showtime.
Nevertheless, Showtime televised Joshua’s 10th-round stoppage of Cameroon’s Carlos Takam (35-4-1, 27 KOs) on October 28 from Principality Stadium in Cardiff, Wales. The bout between Joshua, the IBF/IBO/WBA champion, and New Zealand’s Parker (24-0, 18 KOs), who owns the WBO title, also could take place at Principality Stadium, though other sites are under consideration.
The Joshua-Parker bout, which could be finalized within the next week, will be scheduled for March 24, March 31 or April 7, according to Hearn.
“The fight hasn’t been made and the next step will be to finalize a deal for it,” Espinoza said. “But I don’t see any situation in which we’re not the network for Joshua’s next fight.”
Wilder, meanwhile, is expected to defend his title against Cuban southpaw Luis Ortiz (28-0, 24 KOs, 2 NC) on March 3 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. Espinoza wouldn’t confirm Wilder’s opponent or the date of his first fight in 2018, but said Showtime will televise Wilder’s next fight.
“We’re working to finalize a fight for Deontay Wilder,” Espinoza said. “You’ll probably see both of them in action on Showtime around March and early April. We want to keep them on a similar timetable, a similar calendar, as we bring them toward some sort of faceoff before the end of the 2018.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.