The Joshua vs Ruiz Jr fight week build-up has largely centered on the failure of a Joshua vs Wilder fight to be made in 2019 and most likely 2020. For those of us old enough to remember the same scenario playing out back in 1993 with Riddick ‘Big Daddy’ Bowe and Lennox Lewis, the rhetoric from nearly everyone back then was “It will happen, it has too”. Well, be warned, It never happened.
There will always be differing arguments as to why the fight never took place but it would have been the biggest heavyweight fight of its time just as Wilder vs Joshua would be now, so what can we learn from 1993?
Can big egos stop a $100m fight taking place? Yes they can.
At present Wilder earns around $1m – $2m per defence and Joshua around $20m. The biggest live gate for a Wilder defence was 10,000 and Joshua 80,000 so there is a massive discrepancy in drawing power between the two heavyweights.
If the split was 60/40 in Joshua’s favour, Wilder would earn around $40m, about what he would earn for 20 defences against the likes of Luis Ortiz or Adam Kownacki but that is what is stopping Wilder from agreeing to the fight, or so his advisor’s say. He demands an equal split.
The same scenario for Joshua, give Wilder the 50/50 split he demands, take home $50m and give the boxing fans what they want. Become the undisputed champion and earn the legacy you crave.
Boxing fans are going back and forth saying its Wilder stopping the fight happening, then it’s Joshua at fault but what if it’s neither, what if it’s the money men?
What if Eddie Hearn knows that he can keep growing Joshua’s brand as long as he remains unbeaten. Defences against Oleksandr Usyk, Dillian Whyte, Kubrat Pulev and Filip Hrgovic would all take place with Joshua as a big favorite and could potentially earn $80m – $100m over another 2 year period, that’s double the amount he earns for giving Wilder a 50/50 split and with less risk than facing the punching power of the American.
How about Shelley Finkle and Mark Breland analysed the Joshua vs Klitschko fight and decided that Joshua has the beating of their cash cow? For many, that was when Joshua became the best heavyweight on the planet because he got heavily knocked down by a known puncher but got up and reversed the flow of the fight with his own bigger punches. When Tyson Fury got off the floor against Wilder in their December 2018 classic, those that study fights very closely, immediately thought about Joshua getting up and winning after the Klitschko knockdown, would he be able to do the same against Wilder?
One thing that boxing fans can be sure of is that no matter how many times both protagonists proclaim that they just want the fight to happen, one of them or their advisors are not telling the truth. If one or both of them gets beaten the $100m will depreciate immediately, but so will their ability to keep earning the purses they do right now.
The biggest factor in the scenario where Joshua vs Wilder never happens might just be Tyson Fury. His draw with Wilder after a 2 year layoff and battles with drink, drugs, mental health issues and taking off over 140lbs in weight might lead some to think that another year of clean living and constant training might bring him into a return contest with a better chance of winning than the first time around.
This is the mega-fight that I think is more likely to happen than AJ vs Wilder. The American retained his title because of his punching power and deservedly so in my opinion, so he probably thinks that he can do the same again, maybe even to a finish next time around. But if Wilder vs Fury II does come to fruition, “The Gypsy King” will turn up in 25% better condition and a 50% better mental attitude because he clearly out-boxed Wilder for most of the fight leading up to the knockdowns and will know that he can do so again, this time without the knockdowns.
Back in 1993, Riddick Bowe’s manager was a guy called Rock Newman, a veteran of the sport who now works as a broadcaster. Newman later talked about how much he disliked the corruption in the game saying” I had been in the business, at that time, since 1982, in a significant way. And I can tell you, with absolute certainty, that titles changed hands or didn’t change hands – not as a result as what happened in the ring – but from what happened in dark rooms. I can tell you that with absolute certainty.”
If Wilder vs Joshua doesn’t ever happen perhaps we shouldn’t look to blame the fighters as much as the money men.