There was a point barely a week after his last fight where Anthony Joshua believed he would have to forgo an August fight for a far-more lucrative year-end opportunity.
That reality is once again in play, though not from a lack of effort by his supporting cast.
Eddie Hearn, Joshua’s career-long promoter, recognizes the possibility of not getting his star heavyweight out for a planned August 12 headliner in the U.K. The date was in place from the moment Joshua returned to the win column in a twelve-round decision over Jermaine Franklin this past April 1 in London. The absence of a relevant opponent, however, has raised concern that the former two-time unified heavyweight titlist will have to sit out this summer.
“The plan is still August 12 but we absolutely have to nail that down this week,” acknowledged Hearn. “We’re talking to a number of opponents right now. We’ll be doing everything we can to make sure he fights August 12.”
Joshua (25-3, 22KOs) initially alerted his millions of social media followers on Easter Sunday when he learned that he would likely not fight until December. It was learned soon thereafter that a heavyweight super card was eyed by Saudi Arabia-based outfit Skill Challenge Promotions for December in the Middle East. Joshua-Wilder would join the hoped-for Tyson Fury-Oleksandr Usyk undisputed heavyweight championship as part of a blockbuster event.
Still, Matchroom Boxing and DAZN hoped to get at least one more fight in the interim for Joshua to further develop under new trainer Derrick James. A rematch with Dillian Whyte was the primary focus but Matchroom and Whyte remain too far apart financially to move forward with those plans.
Hearn would not disclose the list of “four or five relevant, top 15” fighters eyed for the August 12 date. However, this weekend will mark just seven weeks left to not only find an opponent but also properly market such an event.
“The Saudi conversations are ongoing,” revealed Hearn of the greater guarantee of Joshua’s targeted dates for the rest of 2023. “We’re closing in, I’m very confident that fight happens with Deontay Wilder.
“Our main priority now is to nail August 12 if he’s going to fight.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox