Deontay Wilder crushed mandatory challenger Dominic Breazeale on Saturday night, retaining the WBC heavyweight title with a first round knockout, and now, of course, the question is simple: what’s next?
Shelly Finkel, Wilder’s co-manager, says the list has three candidates: Anthony Joshua, Tyson Fury, and Luis Ortiz. Finkel also says he wants to lock in Wilder’s next fight this coming week.
And that last part seriously complicates things as far as Wilder (41-0-1, 40 KO) potentially facing Anthony Joshua or Tyson Fury, the fights that fans most want to see.
Wilder and Fury (27-0-1, 19 KO) went to a controversial and much-talked-about draw last December. It made both of them bigger stars, and when the WBC ordered a rematch earlier this year, it seemed a natural fit. Fans were buzzing about that fight, had their opinions about who deserved to win, had their opinions about how a rematch would go.
Then Fury stunned everyone by signing a deal with Top Rank and turning his back on the rematch. Instead, Fury is set to face lightly-regarded German Tom Schwarz on June 15.
So if a fight needs to be done next week, it’s not going to be Tyson Fury. Fury is planning a September return should he beat Schwarz as expected, then a break from the ring. And he’s very adamant that he fights who he wants, when he wants — things will be done on Tyson’s terms, or at least on terms to Tyson’s liking.
Joshua (22-0, 21 KO) is set to defend the WBA, IBF, and WBO titles on June 1 against Andy Ruiz Jr. Ruiz is a better fighter than Schwarz, but it’s considered no more likely that Ruiz beats Joshua than it is Schwarz beats Fury, in all honesty. If there is a difference, it’s sort of like the difference between a baseball team going 74-88 or 79-83. You’re going home after game 162 either way.
Finkel says he’ll meet with John Skipper of DAZN this week. Skipper and DAZN made a massive offer to Wilder a couple of months ago, but it was turned down.
One DAZN offer was three fights, $100 million — $20 million to fight Breazeale, $40 million to fight Joshua, and another $40 million for a rematch with Joshua. The other was a four-fight deal, $120 million — $20 million to fight Breazeale, $40 million to fight Joshua, $20 million for some other fight, and $40 million to fight Joshua again.
“The amount of money that was offered by DAZN is a lot of money, but it’s not a lot of money if Anthony Joshua got double that. We asked it, we were never told,” Finkel said at the time.
So he’ll meet with Skipper again. Feel it out. See what’s what, I suppose.
But probably, we’re not getting that fight next. Finkel also told Sky Sports this weekend, before Wilder-Breazeale, that he sees Wilder-Joshua/Joshua-Wilder only getting bigger. He’s also very clear that Wilder is not in the position he once was, and that they don’t feel Joshua’s side hold any advantage in negotiations, which they once did, by Finkel’s own admission.
“There will be a match that will be made on the right terms, and it won’t be any, ‘Oh, we’re giving you the chance to fight at Wembley.’ You’re not gonna give us anything,” he said. “We’re gonna put all the money into a pot, we’re gonna look for the biggest revenue, and we’re gonna figure out how to split it. It’s not gonna be ‘you’re giving us,’ because we don’t need you to give us anything. That ship has passed.”
So with Joshua fighting on June 1, he and his team focused on Ruiz — AJ’s the big favorite, but don’t think they’ll be careless enough to look past Andy Ruiz Jr — the likelihood of a deal getting done this week is really low.
That leaves Luis Ortiz (31-1, 26 KO). There are no roadblocks there. Ortiz, like Wilder, is a PBC heavyweight. The two of them met in March 2018 in Brooklyn in a real slugfest, with Wilder winning via 10th round stoppage.
More recently, Ortiz has won three straight, beating also-rans Razvan Cojanu, Travis Kauffman, and Christian Hammer. He has kept active and kept his spot in line. And most have expected Wilder-Ortiz II would follow Wilder-Breazeale.
Ortiz was even in the ring post-fight on Saturday night, seemingly looking to confirm the rematch, which Wilder did not do, and Ortiz said it was up to Wilder when he was asked directly.
Ortiz also recently turned down a chance to step in against Joshua on June 1, which eventually went to Ruiz to replace Jarrell Miller. Initial talk from Ortiz’s camp was that they’d been lowballed. They changed their tune on that pretty quickly when Joshua’s promoter Eddie Hearn blew his lid over the reports, with Ortiz’s manager blaming their promoter for screwing up the potential deal.
All things considered, Ortiz is not a bad opponent for Wilder. They had one fun fight, they surely could again. And Ortiz is a legitimate contender in the division.
But it’s still not what people want. Finkel, frankly, may well be right that Wilder-Joshua will be even bigger in 2020 or 2021 than it would be now. Mayweather-Pacquiao was thought to be years overdue, and it was, and it still was the biggest money fight ever.
That “frankly” isn’t going to make this any less frustrating for fight fans, however.
Boxing is a funny business, and maybe, somehow, Wilder-Joshua will be next. But don’t count on it. It’s probably better to expect Wilder-Ortiz II and be surprised if it’s Joshua instead, instead of expecting Wilder-Joshua and getting Ortiz, which was always more likely.