By Keith Idec
Maybe Anthony Joshua actually is coming to America.
Becoming a massive mainstream star in the United Kingdom seemingly made it less likely that Joshua would make his debut in the United States anytime soon. But promoter Eddie Hearn told Sky Sports News HQ in an interview Wednesday that Las Vegas has emerged as “a frontrunner” to become the site for Joshua’s immediate rematch against former heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko.
Hearn’s revelation is surprising, considering their first fight drew an enormous record crowd of roughly 90,000 to Wembley Stadium in London on April 29. The 6-feet-6, 250-pound Joshua (19-0, 19 KOs), the IBF/IBO/WBA champion, overcame a sixth-round knockdown to stop the 6-6, 245-pound Klitschko (64-5, 53 KOs) in the 11th round.
Their rematch is expected to take place sometime in November.
“I have been in talks with Bernd Boente and the [Klitschko] team,” Hearn told Sky Sports News HQ. “We’re getting close now to identifying the real options in terms of venues and locations.
“Vegas has taken a little bit of a frontrunner [role] in those. I know the British fans would love to do a trip out there for Joshua-Klitschko. Nigeria is still in the mix, Dubai as well, and of course, Cardiff [Wales]. But like I said, Vegas probably got its nose in front at the moment.”
Hearn – managing director for Matchroom Sport, Joshua’s promoter – added that the deal should be finalized soon.
“I think in the next week we’re looking to present all those opportunities to Wladimir Klitschko and his team,” Hearn said. “Speaking to Bernd Boente this morning, I feel like it’s going to take that special event to make this fight.”
Hearn also indicated that taking the fight to Las Vegas would be a concession Joshua might have to make to accommodate Ukraine’s Klitschko, who willingly came to London for their first fight. T-Mobile Arena, which holds about 20,000 fans for boxing, is the biggest indoor Las Vegas venue where Joshua-Klitschko 2 could be held.
“I would like to keep it in Britain,” Hearn said. “The fans have been incredible to Anthony Joshua, but if it means traveling to make sure this fight happens for world boxing, [then] it means taking a few plane loads to Vegas for a night and an experience they won’t forget.
“Anthony Joshua is the world heavyweight champion. He’s not the British heavyweight champion. He wants to break boundaries and so do we. To see Anthony Joshua’s name up in lights on the Las Vegas strip is certainly something that appeals to us all.”
The 27-year-old Joshua, a 2012 Olympic gold medalist from Watford, England, has fought exclusively in the United Kingdom since he turned pro in October 2013.
Seventeen of his 19 fights have taken place in England. He also had one fight apiece in Scotland and Wales during the first six months of his career.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.