By Lem Satterfield
Deontay Wilder was ringside in April 2017 at London’s Wembley Stadium as IBF/IBO/WBA/WBO counterpart Anthony Joshua stopped 41-year-old Wladimir Klitschko, rising from the canvas in the sixth and scoring knockdowns in the fifth and last rounds of his third defense and 11th-round TKO of Klitschko.
Joshua (22-0, 21 KOs) did so 17 months after a 39-year-old Klitschko was dethroned by 30-year-old Fury, whose unanimous decision ended “Dr. Steelhammer’s” 11 ½-year reign at at 22-0 (15 KOs) and made “The Gypsy King” the lineal and IBF/WBA/WBO champion.
But when the 6-foot-7 Wilder (40-0, 39 KOs) faces the 6-foot-9 Fury (27-0, 19 KOs) in pursuit of his eighth straight knockout in as many WBC title defenses on December 1 at Staples Center in Las Angeles on Showtime Pay-Per-View (9 p.m ET/ 6 p. ET), the 6-foot-6 Joshua will be home in bed in England.
"Unfortunately the fight's on too early for me, so I'll be sleeping, but I enjoy watching the highlights," said Joshua, 29, to Aaron Stokes of The Daily Star.
"I need Wilder to win. That way it gives me more of an opportunity to fight him, because as a champion, if he retains his belt. I think that's the fight people have been yearning for.”
Wilder-Fury was made immediately after Wilder-Joshua negotiations failed in June, and Wilder's co-manager, Shelly Finkel, said “The Bronze Bomber” will respond to an updated and offered two-fight unification deal from “AJ’s” promoter, Eddie Hearn, "After Deontay knocks out Fury."
“If Joshua really wanted this fight, why doesn’t he come to the fight?” said Finkel, who also advised Klitschko. “If [Joshua] wants this fight, then after [Wilder beats] Fury, they will put a legitimate offer on the table and we’ll accept it or we won’t. And if they don't put down a reasonable offer, we’ll move on.”
In the meantime, Finkel made his case for Wilder being the top heavyweight.
Following Klitschko, Joshua scored a one-knockdown, 10th-round stoppage of Carlos Takam (October 2017), won a unification bout by unanimous decision over previously unbeaten then-WBO titleholder Joseph Parker in March, and survived being buckled and a bloody nose both in the first round of September’s two-knockdown seventh-round stoppage of former titleholder Alexander Povetkin.
“Takam rocked Joshua as did Povetkin, who almost got dropped by David Price in his previous fight. With Parker, Joshua didn’t’ know what to do and it went the distance without Parker being dropped. The fight before [Takam,] Joshua fought Klitschko, who couldn’t beat Fury in his previous fight,” said Finkel of Klitschko, who was trained by Hall of Famer Emanuel Steward before his death in October 2012.
“If Emanuel Steward were alive, Joshua would never have gotten up from that [sixth-round] knockdown and the fight would have ended in that round because Emanuel would have been screaming his head off at him. But if you take a look at the opponents Deontay is fighting compare to Joshua’s, I believe Deontay should be No. 1.”
Wilder’s coming off a two-knockdown, 10th-round stoppage in March of previously unbeaten Cuban southpaw Luis Ortiz (29-1, 25 KOs), who severely staggered and hurt Wilder in the seventh round. Ortiz was preceded by November’s three-knockdown, first-round stoppage of Bername Stiverne, whom Wilder dethroned by unanimous decision in January 2015.
In July, the 6-foot-4 Ortiz rebounded from Wilder with a second-round KO of title challenger Razvan Cojanu (16-3, 9 KOs), whose previous loss was by unanimous decision to Parker in May 2017.
Ortiz stopped David Allen in the seventh-round on the December 2016 undercard of Joshua’s third-round knockout of Eric Molina in Manchester, England with the understanding that “King Kong” would next face Joshua in accordance with an agreement with Joshua’s promoter, Eddie Hearn, according to Ortiz’s manager, Jay Jiminez.
“People forget or overlook how dangerous Ortiz is,” said Finkel of Ortiz, who pursues his fourth stoppage in five fights against Travis Kauffman (32-2, 23 KOs) on the Wilder-Fury undercard.
“Eddie Hearn made a deal with [Ortiz] to keep him from fighting Joshua, yet Deontay fought Ortiz and beat him. Deontay will also fight and beat Fury. At that point, when you match up the resumes, who has Joshua fought that makes him No. 1 and not Deontay?"