By Cliff Rold
No one should be shocked.
They shouldn’t even be all that surprised.
After the requisite social media bantering, the trash talk, the competing ‘offers’ for a showdown, this fall the boxing world looks forward to…
…not Anthony Joshua-Deontay Wilder.
The fight the most fans seem to want, the clash with the most at stake, the showdown that can put the stamp on the return of the heavyweights to the top of the food chain?
Yeah, sign us all up for Joshua versus mandatory Alexander Povetkin and, probably, Wilder versus Dominic Breazeale instead.
Things could always change. It was only a couple weeks ago that it looked like Gennady Golovkin-Saul Alvarez II was dying before it was signed. Showtime executive Stephen Espinoza taking a shot across the bow at Joshua promoter Eddie Hearn on Twitter was just one indication this isn’t Golovkin-Alvarez II.
The world will wait.
Who is at fault? Both sides make their cases, fans take sides, and the dance just looks familiar.
Assuming both Joshua and Wilder keep winning, fret not. They’ll fight eventually. The ‘keep winning’ part matters. Riddick Bowe-Lennox Lewis is all the proof we need of that. Bowe put off Lewis in 1992 and lost before the fight could marinate into a monster. Lewis lost in 1994 when it looked like they might finally face off for his WBC belt.
The ships passed.
In this case, let’s assume the winning continues. Long roads to big fights are nothing new. The gamble is simple. As long as stars stay vertical, the size of the event often grows. Big gets bigger, rich gets richer.
And that doesn’t promise a great fight.
Many a big fight has taken extra time to build only to blow over with one man proving vastly superior. Mike Tyson-Michael Spinks could have happened in 1987 as the final of the HBO unification tournament. Spinks opted out early on instead. In retrospect, it was a sound business move. There is no guarantee Spinks gets by the IBF mandatories along the way. Tony Tucker could have knocked him off.
Instead, Spinks waited and got paid handsomely in 1988 for an obliterating defeat.
Joshua-Wilder pits a pair of big punchers against each other who could easily get the night over early. If one or the other did, the talk would turn swiftly to whatever comes next, probably Tyson Fury after he’s finished shaking off the rust.
But what if something special happened instead?
The power of Joshua and Wilder could produce something wild, a knockdown exchanging gut check along the lines of George Foreman-Ron Lyle or Michael Moorer-Bert Cooper. That would be the sort of result that not only left the fans wanting more but more of the same.
The risk of waiting might not be one of the principles being upset but that the wait lasts so long it doesn’t leave room for the best case scenario.
It was the real tragedy of the Mayweather-Pacquiao debacle.
If they had fought in 2010, instead of 2015, we’d not only have seen them both near their primes the first time. We’d likely have seen it twice. Maybe both affairs in an earlier year would have been as uneventful as what we ultimately got. We’ll never know. We got a fight instead of a real head-to-head rivalry between the two most accomplished fighters of the 21stcentury.
Rivalries are better.
Ali-Frazier and Bowe-Holyfield all needed more than one chapter. They also had time for more than one. While the former was delayed by Ali’s outside the ring issues, it still happened with plenty of time for more.
Let’s say Joshua-Wilder pushes back just as far as the fall of 2019 (and hopefully no farther). Wilder, the WBC titlist, will be pushing 34 by then and Joshua 30. Joshua, with the WBA, IBF, and WBO belts, might already be settling into a pattern of two fights a year. The winner could have four belts to defend with mandatories if they opted to keep them all.
Late 2019 as a possibility is plenty of time for them to have the big fight. It might not be enough for quality sequels if they’re warranted.
This was the moment that gave us the best chance for that.
It’s a moment that may have just slipped away.
The chatter about a Jr. featherweight unification between Danny Roman and Isaac Dogboe is encouraging. That could be a gem of a fight…If we get to the end of 2019 without seeing a Terence Crawford-Errol Spence fight at welterweight, and they both stay winning, put that in the same box as Joshua-Wilder…One more thing on Fury: he’s saying he’d be happy to fight Wilder. If that could happen along the road to a Joshua fight, why not? Fury still claims the lineal crown and a win over Wilder would make that matter. Wilder could use a win there to claim to be the real man, making a fight with Joshua even more of an undisputed showdown…The Contender is coming back. Meh…Mikey Garcia-Robert Easter almost feels like it’s flying under the radar…Why would anyone have enough time to raise money to remake a Star Wars movie from a year ago? Make something new and awesome instead…Superfly 3 without Srisaket Sor Rungvisai won’t be as super.
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene, a founding member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, and a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]