Back in 2018, Anthony Joshua held the WBA, IBF, and WBO world heavyweight titles, while Deontay Wilder had possession of the WBC world heavyweight title. There was a great hunger from the public to see the two big, in-prime heavyweight knockout artists settle things and declare one true heavyweight champion, an undisputed king.
It didn’t happen. Negotiations occurred, of course, and their degree of seriousness at the time was left to which side you believed more. Joshua’s side were adamant that they’d made a major money offer that Wilder’s team turned down, instead taking a year-end fight with Tyson Fury, who hadn’t had a serious fight since 2015. Wilder’s side insisted there was no real offer.
But recently, as part of what is largely being seen as a public meltdown, Wilder kind of off-handed admitted that there was, indeed, a better Joshua offer than the Fury offer he took.
“You know I was offered more money to fight Joshua than I was getting to fight you,” Wilder said while making a bunch of bizarre accusations about his Feb. 2020 loss in a Fury rematch.
Promoter Eddie Hearn, of course, quickly addressed that. “The truth always comes out in the wash, doesn’t it?” Hearn said just after Wilder’s social media burst. “‘Tyson, you know that I was offered more money to fight Anthony Joshua than you’ — hold on, I thought AJ ducked you? You have just in one Tweet completely explained to the public exactly happened.”
Joshua, who has since lost and regained those same three belts he held in 2018, is set to fight Kubrat Pulev on Dec. 12. And he’s spoken out about the situation now, too, telling Sky Sports that at least the public are now fully aware, while also being rather fair to Wilder’s current state of mind:
“How he feels today might change in a year or two years due to experiences or more understanding of the situation that he has gone through. He was knocking everybody out and got used to a winning performance. He took a loss and isn’t used to it. As time goes on, he may express himself differently. Today? In my humble opinion it isn’t coming across in the right way. The positive out of it? He told the world that he ducked and dodged me. We offered him a fight for the undisputed championship of the world and he went down the route of fighting Fury. I’m glad we can clear that up and move on.”
Joshua (23-1, 21 KO) is now himself looking to fight Fury (30-0-1, 21 KO) in 2021, if AJ can get through his IBF mandatory against Pulev (28-1, 14 KO) and, possibly, then a WBO mandatory against Oleksandr Usyk (18-0, 13 KO). Fury may also still have to deal with a third fight against Wilder (42-1-1, 41 KO), depending on arbitration.
How to Watch Joshua vs Pulev
Date: Saturday, Dec. 12 | Start Time: 2:00 pm ET
Location: O2 Arena - London, England
TV: Sky Box Office (UK) | Stream: DAZN (U.S. and Intl.)
If Fury-Joshua does come together in 2021, maybe late in the year, it’s going to be an enormous fight, particularly because they’ll only have another year or so from here to make it even bigger. It’s not ideal that they have obligations instead of just fighting now — everyone wants to see it — but if they win, which of course is never a full guarantee, then it would be an even bigger box office fight.