By Paul Mason
The runners and riders are in place, but no one seems to want the big gig.
Wembley Stadium on Saturday 13th April has long been booked, reserved for what we all thought would be Anthony Joshua defending his WBA (Super), IBF and WBO World Heavyweight crowns. There seemed to be a clear favourite, but Joshua’s promoter, Eddie Hearn, has indicated that there is a three-man shortlist as to who will be in the opposite corner come April, with a fourth option elsewhere if no opponent can be found. Here are the contenders for the job.
The opponent seemed for all money to be Dillian Whyte, after he climbed the WBO rankings by outpointing former Champion, Joseph Parker, in July 2018. He took an fight in the interim, knocking out old foe Dereck Chisora last month to presumably rubber stamp his place at the National Stadium.
However, he seems to be pricing himself out of the running. It’s been reported that Eddie Hearn had offered Whyte “in excess of £4 million” for the fight, but it’s understood that Whyte may prefer to wait for purse bids if he is called as mandatory challenger as the WBO number one contender, guaranteeing him a higher monetary figure.
Whyte was also seen in Las Vegas for the Manny Pacquiao v Adrien Broner bout last week, prompting speculation he may be putting the feelers out with prospective new promoters, as he is effectively on a fight by fight deal with Hearn.
Deontay Wilder or Tyson Fury
There could be a twist in this tale, as following WBC Champion Deontay Wilder’s thrilling draw with Tyson Fury, both men have increased their stock dramatically.
However, this has increased their marketing factor too, and Hearn has been struggling to offer anything near of a satisfactory split to either fighter.
The more likely outcome here is a money-spinning rematch for the pair later this year.
Hearn ruled Wilder out of a bout with Joshua earlier this week, after communication broke down between both teams, and is yet to make progress with discussing a deal with Fury.
Jarrell Miller, Madison Square Garden In June
The wildcard option is Jarrell “Big Baby” Miller, which would take the Wembley date out of the equation altogether. Hearn has flirted with the idea of a US debut for Joshua, defending his belts at the iconic Madison Square Garden in New York in May or June.
Miller has received no official offer as yet, which indicates that he is very much the back-up plan for team Joshua. Miller also has been nominated to take part in a WBA “Regular” Title tournament so he may decide to take that route before becoming a possible mandatory to Joshua’s “Super” belt.
I still feel we will see Dillian Whyte as AJ’s opponent come April. All of the fighters in the frame are aware that they have what Joshua and Eddie Hearn need, and that’s an opponent, and they are naturally trying to negotiate career high paydays. Hopefully, this will then free up Joshua to take on the winner of a Wilder v Fury rematch for all of the belts in late 2019.