No deal yet for heavyweight title fight between Anthony Joshua and Deontay Wilder

Kevin Iole
Combat columnist
Deontay Wilder said he accepted a below-market offer to fight Anthony Joshua, but isn’t convinced the fight will happen. (Getty Images)

Deontay Wilder, the WBC heavyweight champion, desperately wants to fight unified champion Anthony Joshua, so much so that he accepted a below-market offer to fight in the U.K.

But it is unlikely the fight will occur in 2018, as Joshua (21-0, 20 KOs) and promoter Eddie Hearn are in advanced talks with Alexander Povetkin for a bout between the two Olympic gold medalists in London in September.

Hearn said if that fight is finalized, Joshua could fight Wilder (40-0, 39 KOs) in 2018, but it would be highly unlikely as the weather in the U.K. would not be conducive to an outdoor bout at that time of the year. Fighting outdoors where a crowd near 100,000 can fill a stadium is the only way enough money could be generated to hold the fight in the U.K. and pay the fighters what they want.

Wilder has repeatedly said he wants the fight and would be willing to go to England to fight in order to get it done, as Joshua insisted after defeating Joseph Parker in a March 31 unification bout in Wales that drew 78,000. Wilder’s team had offered a $50 million guarantee to Joshua to fight in Las Vegas, but it was rejected.

So Wilder accepted the offer, which is not yet in writing, from Hearn with the hope of making the fight. That doesn’t mean an announcement is imminent.

“There is no deal,” Wilder said. “We accepted their lowball offer.”

Promoter Eddie Hearn (R) said he is closing in on a deal for IBF-WBA-WBO heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua (L) to defend his title in September against Alexander Povetkin. (Getty Images)

Hearn told Yahoo Sports that Wilder’s side requested a written contract, and that he’s in the process of having one drawn up and sent to them for review.

Wilder said he is cautiously optimistic, but he hasn’t made travel plans at this point.

“I’m not giving up my hopes just yet, but I think they’ll try to squeeze their way out of it,” Wilder said.

Hearn noted that Joshua wants to fight in September, which is also when Canelo Alvarez plans to fight on pay-per-view on Sept. 15, whether against Gennady Golovkin, Daniel Jacobs or even Spike O’Sullivan.

But if Joshua does fight Povetkin in September, it would all but eliminate the possibility of a Joshua-Wilder bout in the U.K. in 2018 because the only reason to do it in London instead of in Las Vegas would be to do it at Wembley Stadium, where Joshua is hugely popular and drew 90,000 for his 2017 bout with legendary ex-champion Wladimir Klitschko.

“We made an offer nearly four weeks ago and [Monday], they requested a contract,” Hearn told Yahoo Sports. “Obviously, quite a lot has happened in that time and I have no idea if their response was fueled by the news we were fighting Povetkin or a general desire for the fight. Either way, we are preparing a contract for them to see this week and see how it plays out.”

A Joshua-Povetkin fight would almost certainly mean that a Joshua-Wilder bout would not happen in the U.K. in 2018 because of the weather, and there is no way to generate the kind of revenue to pay for the bout in an indoor facility in the U.K.

Las Vegas would be the venue that could provide the largest paid gate, and would also work better in terms of selling pay-per-views in the U.S. A heavyweight title unification bout in Las Vegas could generate a paid gate of over $20 million. If the bout was in London, its start time would be 5 p.m. Eastern and 2 p.m. Pacific, which would make it extraordinarily difficult to sell pay-per-views.

In 1999, Lennox Lewis and Evander Holyfield fought for the IBF-WBC heavyweight titles at the Thomas & Mack Center on the UNLV campus and did a paid gate of $16,860,300. Adjusted for inflation, that figure would be $25.2 million in 2018 dollars.

There is not much of a chance to generate that type of revenue in the U.K. for the fight, even if it sold 90,000 at Wembley Stadium. The 2017 bout between Joshua and Klitschko had a paid gate of about $12 million U.S., far below what could be expected in Las Vegas at T-Mobile Arena.

An arena fight in the U.K. would come up tens of millions of dollars shy of what it would do in the U.S. and neither side would want to leave that much money on the table. Wilder, though, is willing to take less than he could get if he held out for the bout to be in Las Vegas because he believes he could win and then make up for it in a rematch.

“If they don’t fight me next, then the fear is gigantic and way bigger than we ever thought,” Wilder said.

Anthony Joshua makes a spectacular entrance through a crowd of 90,000 fans at Wembley Stadium in London in 2017 to fight Wladimir Klitschko. (Getty Images)