LONDON — Some of the biggest fights in recent years have been difficult to make and some matchups never happen.
But Matchroom Sport promoter Eddie Hearn says negotiating a deal for Anthony Joshua-Wladimir Klitschko went smoothly.
Whereas talks between Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao stalled repeatedly over five years before they finally met each other in May 2015, Joshua-Klitschko was announced moments after Joshua stopped his latest opponent, Eric Molina, in December.
Into the ring then bounced Klitschko and Hearn, and before 20,000 fans at the O2 Arena in London and live on television, they confirmed the world heavyweight title showdown at Wembley Stadium on April 29.
“It was easy to get done, actually,” Hearn told ESPN. “They both wanted it, Wladimir needed to fight after being out for so long, both sides were willing and sensible in the negotiations and it got done relatively quickly.”
Klitschko (64-4, 53 KOs), 41, was desperate to fight again after Tyson Fury twice pulled out of rematches, leaving the Ukrainian inactive for the longest spell of his professional career.
Fury (25-0, 18 KOs) was Klitschko’s initial focus after the surprise points loss to the Briton in November 2015. But things did not go to plan, and not long after Fury’s triumphant night, he was stripped of one of the three belts he won from Klitschko for not fighting the IBF governing body’s mandatory challenger.
Fury then pulled out of a rematch — scheduled for July 9 — due to an ankle injury sustained while running.
Then it was revealed Fury allegedly failed a drug test in February 2015 for the banned steroid Nandrolone, before ESPN revealed the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association (VADA), which was overseeing the drug testing for the rematch between Fury and Klitschko, had informed Fury a urine sample taken on Sept. 22 had tested positive for benzoylecgonine (the central compound found in cocaine).
Fury withdrew from fighting Klitschko on Sept. 23 because he had been declared “medically unfit to fight.”
Fury gave up his WBA and WBO belts early in October, admitting he had used cocaine and was suffering from depression. By then, Hearn was already in negotiations with Klitschko’s manager, Bernd Boente.
While Klitschko had been preparing for a rematch with Fury that never happened, American Charles Martin won the vacant IBF belt, which he quickly lost in a first defense against Joshua in London a year ago.
But plans to match Joshua and Klitschko late last year were put on hold to have more time to promote the event and to stage it at an outdoor stadium. Klitschko also suffered a minor injury in training, ruling him out of fighting on Dec. 10. Joshua fought Molina instead on that date.
“We were working on it before AJ’s [Joshua] last fight,” said Matchroom Sport head of boxing Frank Smith.
“We all got on quite well, and we were talking about it for a while before the Molina fight.”
And with the fight just days away, when both fighters will make eight figures, there is a good chance we will see them in the ring for a second time.
Despite neither side willing to confirm there is a clause in the fight contract for a rematch, the public interest and money around the fight make it likely.
Even the demand of a mandatory defense, which would require the victor to vacate at least one of the belts, would not get in the way of a rematch, according to Hearn.
“It’s a concern of who is next,” Hearn told reporters at a media workout for Joshua.
“You are going to get problems of multiple mandatories coming up. After this fight, AJ’s mandatory is Kubrat Pulev with the IBF. At some point, probably this year, the WBA mandatory is Luis Ortiz. I’m not too bothered about belts, but something could happen to AJ like what happened to Tyson Fury.
“His [Fury’s] mandatory was due, he wouldn’t fight his mandatory and he lost the belt. It would be the same for Anthony Joshua, and there would be no exceptions to the rule. If that is the case, we’ll have to make the best decision for his future.
“If the fight goes in a round and no one wants to see it again, then no there won’t be a rematch. But if there’s an opportunity to make money again, we will.”
You make the call: