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Joshua vs Wilder – Whose really to blame? Was it ever really going to happen?

So much finger pointing, but who's really at fault?

By Aaron Cooper   - @intuboxingfm

If you’re anything like me then you are glad, almost relieved that we now know that we will not see a clash for the undisputed heavyweight champion crowned in the year 2018. Now that sounds nuts, right? Perhaps some of you are thinking that I’m not playing with a full stack. I assure you, ladies and gentleman, I am, my faculties are as sharp as ever. But the situation quickly turned from one of excitement and intrigue to quickly feel like pulling teeth. After all these protracted negotiations lasted for 78 days!!

As expected, no sooner had the announcement came that the fight was off and that Joshua would fulfil his mandatory obligations against Alexander Povetkin did the almighty finger of blame begin pointing at both camps from fans across the world. Legions of Joshua and Wilder fans cried cowardice at either side, men and women worldwide voicing their frustration that months of their time had been wasted, the prospects of a mega-fight dashed and we were no closer to seeing the fight that the boxing public demanded.

Let me first address those that feel that either Joshua or Wilder lack the intestinal fortitude to face the other …. Bulls**t!!

Both Joshua and Wilder have faced foes in their careers that could have easily led to a first defeat. Klitschko and Ortiz respectively had the pugilistic nous and power to inflict a crushing defeat on the new era’s heavyweight champions. But that did not happen, did it? Don’t think for one second that Joshua or Wilder have any reservations about trading leather with the other.

But who really is to blame?

Guys, it’s easy to point fingers, very easy in fact. But those who are quick to point fingers perhaps lack the inside knowledge of how a deal is put together, therefore, pointing the finger of blame without assessing all the facts at hand. So please allow me the time to explain.

Team Wilder

It has to be said that the American heavyweight champion has come under more criticism than that of his British counterpart. Namely for not accepting Hearn’s initial offer of a FLAT $12.5m fee. Followers of the sweet science were quick to jump at Wilder en mass for not accepting this deal. After all, it’s well documented that Wilder’s previous career-high payday came after facing Luis Ortiz. Wilder pocketing $2.1m for his valiant efforts in a career-best performance. Yup, I know what you are thinking. Hearn’s offer was nearly a whopping six times that of his highest ever payday. My god, why didn’t he take that deal? Fans cried.

Simple ladies and gentleman simple! Let me take you back to when Joshua fought Joseph Parker in their unification fight in Cardiff earlier in the year. Parker received 34% of a purse that did not and would not generate the same level of income as Joshua/Wilder in a decade of Sunday’s. The early scores on the doors indicated that a fight between Joshua and Wilder COULD generate huge money. Like Parker, Wilder would bring a single (and the most prestigious) title to the table. So why then do you think it fair that its ok for Parker to receive a career-high payday and 33% of the purse, but Wilder should be happy to accept a flat fee of $12.5m when a) his market value is higher than that of Parker’s and b)the fight could generate upwards of $100m, meaning Wilder would only walk away with 12.5%!! Come on now, that’s not right.

Team Joshua

I was fortunate enough to talk to Wilder’s trainer, Jay Deas on Monday. Jay made the comment that Wilder is the boss rather than himself, Shelly Finkel or indeed Al Haymon. This is a stark contrast across the Atlantic Ocean where Eddie Hearn and not Joshua pulls the strings. For the most part, Joshua has been very quiet throughout these negotiations.

But first, allow me to address the elephant in the room. Anthony Joshua walked away from $50m USD. You cant sugar coat that. It’s true, T-Mobile Arena, November 17th was quickly becoming mentioned as the date fight fans all wanted to see. But Joshua walked away. The Olympic gold medallist claiming that he owed it to his fans to bring this fight to the UK. Now, AJ is the A-side in this equation, let’s not forget that. I personally cannot blame him for wanting this fight in the UK, after all, it would save me time and money on a flight to Las Vegas! But in years gone by British boxing greats like Lennox Lewis, Joe Calzaghe, Carl Froch and Nigel Benn have all put in the hard yards across the pond in search of global fame. In fact, Calazaghe earns a large amount of criticism for holding the belt hostage in the UK. To dare to be great you have to step outside of your comfort zone, and this was AJ’s chance. Please also remember that around twenty-one of those seventy-eight days were wasted by Joshua making his decision to ultimately walk away from a mammoth payday.

If anything Joshua has come away from this with a few bumps and bruises, but Hearn has taken a real shellacking. After Wilder accepted Hearns counter offer (out of the blue it must be said) then there were delays in sending the contract to Wilder’s team. Four days in fact, then after Wilder’s team they still had questions. Hearn has omitted two vital pieces of information, the date and venue and the fact that there was no rematch clause for Wilder should Joshua be victorious, they wanted answers! And rightly so! But alas, another four days went by. Another eight days wasted.

There was a glimmer of hope, Finkel took to social media to announce they would send the contract back on Friday (not sure why it needed that much time). But as we now know, it was too late. The World Boxing Association had had enough and ordered Joshua to fulfil his mandatory obligations against Povetkin. The hopes and dreams of boxing fans across the globe lay in ashes.

My opinion?

Are you still with me? Good!

I’m not sure this fight was ever going to happen, though I think that Wilder thought it was. I’m pretty sure that Joshua’s next opponent was always going to be Povetkin, its why he was on the undercard of Joshua Parker. It’s a known fact that Hearn had been negotiating with promoter Andrey Ryabinsky throughout this process. Whether you like him or you hate him, Eddie Hearn is possibly the smartest businessman in the sport. What I think he’s done, and bear in mind this is an opinion, and I might have this wrong, Is to lay the foundations to make the fight even bigger. I have no doubt in my mind whatsoever that Hearn wants to show the fight on DAZN, spiting all of those at ShowTime. But after all, they are n inow competition. Letting Joshua fight Povetkin is risky business as Povetkin is an elite level heavyweight. But victory would only further raise the profile of Joshua. Speaking of the man himself, who whilst using his name I have barely addressed. If he really wanted the fight he would have told Hearn to make the fight at all costs. Joshua, like Hearn, is all about business. He will pick up another multi-million-pound payday fighting Povetkin, knowing if victorious that the fight will always be there.

I think Hearn has pulled the wool over our eyes. But ladies and gentleman, you still want to see Joshua vs Wilder, don’t you. Hearn is teasing us and making the fight that much bigger in the process.