It’s crunch time in the next 24 hours – or even sooner – as Anthony Joshua and promoter Eddie Hearn decide on the route they take the heavyweight on and his three world title belts in 2019. It’s 50/50 right now as to whether Joshua fights next in April, or in June.
Truth is, there is still a chance that Joshua may opt for a rematch against Dillian Whyte at Wembley Stadium on April 13, keeping the rhythm of fighting in the spring and then in the autumn, but Whyte is unhappy with the offer he has been made by promoter Hearn, and has other demands from the promoter that must be adhered to ahead of the contest.
Three times the offer has been raised, believed to be around the £5 million mark, but with just 11 weeks to the fight-night date, Whyte may opt not to take the date with destiny. Whyte’s handlers, and Hearn, have been thrashing the issue daily.
Whyte – with three victories in 2018 – became a Box Office fighter and believes he is worth more the estimated 35 per cent purse he is being offered.
But there is also pressure, The Telegraph understands, for Hearn to take Joshua to the USA under the banner of DAZN – the over-the-top streaming service could be worth a billion US dollars to the UK promoter over the next eight years following their deal signed last year.
DAZN, new in the market since last October, have to draw a subscription audience – and quickly. They have also invested $365 million in Saul Canelo Alvarez for 11 fights over five years, and with the Mexican fighting in May in Las Vegas, against Danny Jacobs, Joshua’s debut in the United States early in June could be a pulling card for the new digital broadcasting franchise attempting to change the way in which the American sports fans digest fights.
The Telegraph learnt last week that the iconic venue of Madison Square Garden, New York, has been booked for June 1, so if talks with Whyte fail over the next 24 to 48 hours, Miller will become Joshua’s next opponent. Sources report that Hearn “has been open and frank” in discussions with all parties, but this is a crucial time for Joshua, unbeaten in 22 contests.
If Londoner Joshua fights Miller – undefeated in 24 fights himself – it will mean he will have been out of the ring for nine months, a long time by his own standards. Camp would start in March. Miller let it be known on Wednesday on social media and with US media outlets that it looked as if the Whyte fight was unlikely. The truth is that could change at any time. Expect an outcome very soon. Right now, I suspect it will be a June fight for Joshua, unless Whytedecides that he has had a change of heart.
Big money, big egos, and the biggest men on the grandest of fight nights create these stand-offs. But the decision will be with us soon.
Just as it will with the Deontay Wilder-Tyson Fury rematch, which I understand will be concluded next week. Las Vegas and New York are the main venues under discussion, with April 27 and May 18 the likely dates. But they, too, could change in the face of the Hearn/Joshua moves over the next few days.