Deontay Wilder believes all roads lead to Riyadh for his Saudi showdown with Anthony Joshua because his bitter rival has no other route to take.
But AJ couldn’t deny the mega money on offer in the Middle East has brought him to the table for a potential clash with his long-time foe. The pair met for just the second time in person on Wednesday as their December 23 fights were made official for Saudi Arabia next month at a press conference at Wembley Arena.
Joshua will face former amateur foe Otto Wallin while Wilder takes on ex-world champion Joseph Parker. Turki Alalshikh, chairman of Saudi Arabia’s General Entertainment Authority which is funding this event, made it clear he wants Joshua against Wilder next year.
READ MORE: Anthony Joshua teaming up with Tyson Fury's old trainer for Otto Wallin fight
READ MORE: Tyson Fury vs Oleksandr Usyk pushed back to 2024 with 'date set' for Saudi fight
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That suits the American just fine and he believes Joshua’s earning power diminishing in the UK has led him to cash in with Saudi.
The former WBC champion said: “The fight is closing in and Joshua has nowhere to run. They ran out of options. Who is he going to fight? Who? Otto Wallin three more times? What’s knucklehead’s name? Dillian Whyte. How many times is he going to fight him?
“The only way they can do that is if the paying customers continue to support it. But now he’s not making the money he used to make and Eddie is saying ‘Wilder would never take the money Joshua is taking’. The time is near and he better get ready because management and promoters are not going to be able to stop this.
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“I don’t think he is scared of me but the people around him are. Maybe there is some fear in him but we are in a business where we all risk our lives. The sport and the dangers get under your skin so I understand that side. Everyone will get in the ring for the right price, especially when there is over $50m on the table. Everything is going in the right direction now and the fight will happen.”
Joshua, 34, admits the money is a motivation even though he refused to fully commit to fighting Wilder next year. “The money plays a big part,” he said. “There’s a shift happening in boxing, in sports in general, big players want to get involved. Boxing is looking to become one global entity, not different territories, so this is all part of the bigger picture.”
Talks for December 23 only began last week after Tyson Fury’s undisputed clash with Oleksandr Usyk had to be pushed back until February. But with the Saudi cash, Frank Warren and others have brought about a stacked card. It includes the likes of heavyweight contenders Daniel Dubois and Filip Hrgovic in separate fights.
Then there’s WBA light-heavyweight champion Dmitry Bivol against Brit Lyndon Arthur and IBF cruiserweight champion Jai Opetaia against Londoner Ellis Zorro. The event was so big that Warren met with Joshua’s promoter Eddie Hearn yesterday for the very first time moments before they sat on stage together. Now the hope is that both Joshua, who is changing trainers to Ben Davison for the bout, beats Wallin and Wilder overcomes Parker to keep a super fight on for next year.
It’s a fight which should have happened in 2018 when both were unbeaten and held all four pieces of the world heavyweight title but now it is closer than ever, even though Wilder has concerns. Wilder said: “I worry about every fight he is in because we question Joshua about his identity. Eddie Hearn built Anthony Joshua, he wasn’t born a champion, he was made a champion.
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“I think they did a f***ing amazing job of promoting him and getting him to the top, I am happy for him as a fellow fighter, I am proud of him and happy for him. But I would have been the undefeated undisputed heavyweight world champion many years ago, for many years, if I had the opportunities he was given.”
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