Fightful Boxing Newsletter (6/28): The Demise Of Joshua vs. Wilder, What's Next

Fightful Boxing Newsletter (6/28) Table Of Contents:

  1. End Of Anthony Joshua vs. Deontay Wilder, What Happened, What's Next (Page 1)
  2. World Boxing Super Series Junior Welterweight Tournament Announced (Page 2)
  3. Boxing Results Recap (Page 3)
  4. Fightful Mid-Year Boxing Awards And Thoughts Part 1 (Page 4)
  5. Fightful Mid-Year Boxing Awards And Thoughts Part 2 (Page 5)
Aljamain Sterling Teases Potential First Title Defense Against Former UFC Champion Henry Cejudo

End Of Anthony Joshua vs. Deontay Wilder, What Happened, What's Next:

If 2017 was the year the heavyweight division took two steps forward with Anthony Joshua becoming boxing’s newest superstar and Deontay Wilder solidifying himself as one of the sport’s most vicious knockout artists, then 2018 is the year the division took one step back.

A fight between Joshua and Wilder, which would have crowned the next undisputed world heavyweight champion, looked like it would happen this fall and anticipation built after both sides agreed to terms to a deal.

Soon after, talks became stagnant after Hearn sent a contract to Wilder’s managers Shelly Finkel and Al Haymon, but after more than a week of no new news on the specifics of the contract, tt was on June 26 when the fight was officially out of the table for 2018, according to Finkel.

“The fact is they didn’t want this fight. He asked for 50 million dollars, never thinking we’d come up with it. When we came up with it, he said’ I don’t want to fight in the United States, I’ll take it for less in the UK. He sent us a bull*** offer thinking we’ll never take it...and we took it," Finkel said.

The contract sent to Wilder and his team did not mention a date nor a venue for the fight and that is where the fallout began. Without those crucial details, the most important ones mind you, it seemed like the fight was doomed after both fights initially gave fans hope they would get to see a fight to crown the first heavyweight champion in history to hold the WBA, WBO, WBC and IBF titles.

There’s also another issue that accelerated the end of Joshua vs. Wilder for 2018 was the fact that WBA President Gilberto Mendoza, out of nowhere, stated that Joshua had 24 hours to agree to a deal with Alexander Povetkin, who is the WBA’s mandatory challenger to Joshua’s WBA “super” heavyweight title.

The organization had previously ordered Joshua to defend his title against Povetkin as part of the rotation agreement among the governing bodies where Joshua also is their respective heavyweight champions (WBO, IBF and IBO).

Now there has been some confusion as to why is WBA threatening to potentially strip Joshua of the title when he was looking for a unification fight. The unofficial rule is that when a world champion from one of the four major governing bodies (WBA, WBO, WBC and IBF) is faced with a mandatory challenge and a potential unification fight, then the unification fight trumps the mandatory challenge in terms of priority. When the news of the WBA ordering Joshua to agree to fight Povetkin in 24 hours hit, pundits kept going to the unification rule and while they are not wrong on the principle of the rule, this particular case is not applicable.

When a unification fight is agreed to when one or both champions have a mandatory challenger, the unification bout would then overrule any governing body’s desire to have its champion fight the mandatory challenger.

The one thing about this exception to the mandatory challenger order is that the unification bout has to be signed first before the champion can request an exception from his organization to ignore the mandatory challenge until after the unification fight ended.

Since the fight between Joshua and Wilder, which would have unified the WBA “super,” WBO, IBF, WBC and presumably the Ring Magazine title, was not officially signed (even when both parties initially agreed to terms). This meant that Joshua couldn’t have asked for the WBA to not strip him of the belt for not following through with the mandatory challenge because there was no unification fight scheduled for Joshua to make such a demand.

As it stands, the new plan is to have Joshua fight Povetkin in September, possibly in Wembley, and also have Wilder fight Dominic Breazeale, who won a title eliminator last November on the undercard of Wilder’s first-round knockout win over Bermane Stiverne.

Wembley Stadium is the venue Joshua scored the biggest win of his career last year, an 11th round stoppage win over Wladimir Klitschko. That fight broke the British boxing attendance record with about 90,000 fans filling the stadium. Joshua has remained adamant that a fight against Wilder, the WBC champion, should take place in the United Kingdom where Joshua has attracted more than 250,000 total spectators for his last three fight. Right now, it looks like the plan is to have Joshua vs. Wilder in Wembley next April.

“But today I get a letter saying; ‘We’re not going to fight you next, but we’ll fight you the fight after that...and it will be April 13th at Wembley Stadium. So basically, he can tell me next year, but he can’t tell me a date for this year," Finkel said.

An added layer to the Joshua vs. Wilder situation is the possibility of that fight not actually be shown on Showtime as many would have predicted and I am not talking about having the fight on pay-per-view, although that is also possible. Hearn posted this picture below on his Instagram that which Joshua, Hearn, Simon Denyer of Perform Group, who was one of the key figures in brokering the Matchroom USA-Perform/DAZN deal announced last month.

Making plans

A post shared by Eddie Hearn (@eddiehearn) on

This picture strongly hints at the possibility of Joshua's fights now being exclusive to DAZN at least in the United States. With the new streaming platform launching later this year in the United States, Hearn needs a megastar to attract fans in the United States to sign up for DAZN and Joshua is the perfect candidate for that role. It is also perfect timing for Hearn as Joshua's contract with Showtime ended after his latest fight.

Joshua vs. Povetkin will more than likely be streamed on DAZN and if it is successful, all of this, the stalling of Joshua vs. Wilder and the Matchroom USA expansion, could be a setup to eventually gamble on having Joshua vs. Wilder be streamed exclusively on DAZN, which could be a game changer in terms of broadcasting boxing events in the United States as more and more online platforms are starting to replace the television product.

World Boxing Super Series Junior Welterweight Tournament Announced:

To the surprise of no one, the World Boxing Super Series has announced an eight-man junior welterweight tournament as the second of three for the second season of the WBSS set to begin later this year.

Tournament promoter Kalle Sauerland made the announcement on June 26 although it had been reported for weeks that the 140-pound tournament was going to happen.

“We are very delighted to announce Super Lightweight as our second weight class of the upcoming season. Super Lightweight is without a doubt one of the most action-packed weight divisions in boxing and we have a sensational line-up to be announced," Sauerland said.

What wasn't announced was the date and who would be participating in the tournament on that initial announcement. Since then, three names, who were previously reported to have signed on, were announced to participate in the tournament. It was announced the WBA champion Kiryl Relikh on June 27 and on June 28, it was announced that Ivan Baranchyk and Anthony Yigit would also compete in the tournament and since both boxers were previously ordered to fight for the IBF title vacated by Mikey Garcia several weeks ago, they would fight in the first round of the tournament scheduled to start this fall.

It had also been reported that interim WBC champion Regis Prograis and Eduard Troyanovski signed on to compete. Others, such as WBO champion Maurice Hooker, were reported to have signed on, but Hooker recently told Fightful that is not the case, but it was one road he and his manager were looking for Hooker's next fight. Two more names that are linked to the junior welterweight tournament, but are more of a possibility than a guarantee to enter are highly-touted prospects Ryan Martin and Josh Taylor, who recently won a title eliminator for the WBC title currently being held by Jose Ramirez.

The WBSS previously announced that there will also be a bantamweight tournament which includes notable names such WBA "regular" champion Naoya Inoue, WBO champion Zolani Tete and IBF champion Emmanuel Rodriguez. The third weight class for the second season of the WBSS has not been announced yet.

As for the current season of the WBSS, the cruiserweight tournament will reportedly take place on July 21 in Moscow while the super middleweight finals does not have a date yet.

Boxing Results Recap:

June 16, 2018: Errol Spence Jr. vs. Carlos Ocampo

It only took three minutes for Errol Spence Jr. to get his mandatory challenger out of the way and gave his hometown fans another highlight reel knockout.

Spence knocked out Carlos Ocampo at the end of the first round of their Showtime Championship Boxing main event in Spence's hometown of Dallas, Texas to retain his IBF welterweight title. Below is the fight as covered in Fightful's live coverage of the fight.

Round 1: Spence starts with a few right jabs upstairs. Ocampo leads in with a right hand and then a couple of left jabs. Ocampo throws a combination of punches to Spence's body. Spence answers back with a combination of his own. Spence lands a quick right jab followed by a left hook. Both men clinch and each fighter lands a couple of body punches. Spence throws a hard left body shot followed by a right body uppercut and Ocampo goes down and is out, wincing in pain. Spence retains the title.

Official result: Errol Spence Jr. defeated Carlos Ocampo by KO, round 1, 3:00 to retain the IBF welterweight title

Nicknamed "The Truth," Spence worked the body and got another signature knockout, confirming the status of heavy favorite given to him by everyone in the boxing community. Ocampo, who came into the fight undefeated, had never faced competition even near the caliber of Spence, but did show heart throughout the round before getting knocked out.

With three knockout wins in all three of his world title fights, "The Truth" established himself as one of the true killers of the welterweight division. Spence also owns knockout wins over former world champions Kell Brook and Lamont Peterson.

With the mandatory challenge done, Spence is now looking for unification bouts. Spence's first target is the winner of the Danny Garcia vs. Shawn Porter fight for the vacant WBC title that will take place later this year. The IBF champion wants to fight again in 2018 as far as he knows, he doesn't think a unification bout against the WBC champion will take place in 2018. Spence has also mentioned unifying titles against Terence Crawford, who the WBO welterweight title on June 9, but did say he would do that fight after unifying against the other world champions at 147 lbs.

June 22, 2018: Claressa Shields vs. Hanna Gabriels

Claressa Shields is not only a two-time Olympic gold medalist but also a two-division world champion.

Shields defeated unified junior middleweight champion Hanna Gabriels by unanimous decision (97-92, 97-92, 98-91) to win the vacant unified IBF and WBA middleweight titles in Shields' sixth fight. With those titles in hand, Shields now two world titles at both middleweight and super middleweight where she is the unified IBF and WBC champion.

The fight headlined a Showtime-televised card that also featured Christina Hammer's WBO and WBC middleweight title defense against Tori Nelson.

The fight started off with something never seen before in Shields' career: Shields getting knocked down in a fight. Gabriels landed a right uppercut in the first round that dropped Shields, but Shields was able to bounce back and recover well. Shields dominated the rest of the fight, virtually winning every other round in the fight, which took place in Detroit, Michigan.

The telecast served to build up to a potential women's superfight between Shields and Hammer and with both women holding all four world titles, a fight between the two would crown an undisputed women's middleweight champion. After Shields' fight, Hammer entered the ring to get to Shields and the two had to be separated as a scuffle ensued. Shields said after the fight she is tired of Hammer trash talking her and wants to have a fight against her.

"I'm just tired of Hammer disrespecting me all the time. She comes into the ring after all my fights, talks trash, and then she goes in there and looks like sh*t against Nelson. I'm sick of it. But I let her know I'm more than ready for a fight against her. She wanted me to lose tonight, but I wanted her to win because I want to fight her. We heave to unify now," Shields said.

After winning her second consecutive Olympic gold medal in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Shields turned pro that November. In her fourth professional fight, Shields scored a fifth-round TKO win over Nikki Adler to win the IBF and WBC titles. After defeating Nelson in her first title defense back in January, Shields dropped down in weight to win two more world titles and hopefully set up a superfight against Hammer in a fight between two of boxing's best pound-for-pound women's fighters.

June 23, 2018: O2 Arena Card

Martin Murray and Josh Taylor got some big wins on June 23 to push them one step closer to fighting in world title fights in their respective divisions.

After his fight against WBO middleweight champion Billy Joe Saunders was called off once again, Murray fought Roberto Garcia at the O2 Arena by unanimous decision.

The fight was a relatively easy going one for Murray, who dominated using his jab and landing punches to the body. There was some controversy early in the fight when Garcia was deducted a point in the second round for low blows and was again deducted a point later on in the fight although the referee did not specify the reason.

Although Murray won the WBC Silver title, it's highly unlikely he will get a chance at the WBC middleweight title. Murray figures to join the WBC rankings after beating Garcia, previously ranked No. 6, but there are a couple of boxers who are ahead of him in regards to challenging for the WBC title, including interim champion Jermall Charlo and Canelo Alvarez, who is challenging for Gennady Golovkin's title later this year.

On that same O2 Arena boxing card, Taylor beat former junior welterweight world champion Viktor Postol to win the WBC Silver junior welterweight title. Taylor, who now moves to 13-0, won the bout by a wide unanimous decision (117-110, 118-110, 119-108).

Taylor was able to create a cut around Postol’s right eye in the second round, but Postol was able to give Taylor some trouble, especially around halfway through the fight. Taylor was able to put the nail in the coffin as far as the scorecards are concerned when a left hook dropped Postol in the 10th round.

With the win, Taylor moves one step closer to challenging Jose Ramirez for his WBC title as the fight was a title eliminator for his title. Whether or not Taylor gets his shot at the WBC title soon remains a mystery as Taylor has been rumored to be joining the World Boxing Super Series tournament set to take place later this year.

Fightful Mid-Year Boxing Awards And Thoughts (Part 1):

At the start of the year, I had thought the first several months would be as strong a start to the year for boxing as any other year in recent history.

In the first six months, we initially had thought that we would get to see the Canelo Alvarez vs. Gennady Golovkin rematch, the conclusion to the first two World Boxing Super Series, the build to Anthony Joshua vs. Deontay Wilder to crown the next undisputed world heavyweight champion and Manny Pacquiao and Keith Thurman return to the ring after lengthy absences and numerous boxers make their mark as the next superstars of the sport.

Well, all except the last part did in fact not happen.

To say this has been a disappointing six months would not be inaccurate as we did not get many of the best fights we wanted to see for one reason or another. It has been an increasingly frustrating time to be a fan with Alvarez failing drug tests that jeopardized the biggest fight in the world plus Joshua and Wilder’s constant back and forth that ultimately culminated in the biggest heavyweight fight in years not taking place until 2019.

But looking at the positives, we did see Terence Crawford show that he really is the real deal with a dominant performance against Jeff Horn to win the WBO welterweight title as well as Vasiliy Lomachenko do the same moving up to lightweight to win the WBA lightweight title.

Even with the number of big fights that didn’t happen, some of those fights are still happening in 2018. Here are just a few of the fights that we know will happen and are looking forward to:

  • Canelo Alvarez vs. Gennady Golovkin 2
  • Mikey Garcia vs. Robert Easter Jr.
  • Oleksandr Usyk vs. Murat Gassiev
  • George Groves vs. Callum Smith
  • World Boxing Super Series Bantamweight and Junior Welterweight First Round

As far as the rest of the year is concerned, that’s not a bad slate, especially with the Alvarez vs. Golovkin rematch. That fight will be a good indicator where the sport currently stands in mainstream media compared to other sports, especially MMA.

With no Floyd Mayweather fight happening from here on out, it’s up to the rematch to determine who will be the top name in boxing. Both Alvarez and Golovkin are good enough to be the No. 1 and No. 2 names in boxing and Joshua plus Wilder being No. 3 and No. 4, respectively, but in order to move the sport forward, those boxers have to fight each other because those are the two fights the entire sport had been eagerly waiting for years.

One thing I do have to give the sport credit is for its effort to bring multiple ways to watch more boxing from across the world. With the advent of ESPN+ and the impending launch of DAZN in the United States later this summer, it’s a perfect time for boxing fans to experience boxing in the United Kingdom and in other places, such as Mexico and Japan, which would otherwise be almost impossible to be able to watch.

With these multiple avenues to watch boxing, the ability to further create new stars has never been more prevalent than ever before.

It’s a similar tactic New Japan Pro Wrestling has done in recent years with trying to bring their wrestling product from Japan to the United States, starting with their streaming service. With boxing, it’s more or less the same thing when Eddie Hearn announced Matchroom Boxing will undergo a massive expansion effort to the United States that will be streamed exclusively on DAZN, meaning it is perhaps the best time to be a general fan of boxing.

There are perhaps more options to watch the sport than ever before and that can only mean good things for boxing because of the fact you can watch HBO, Showtime, ESPN, ESPN+, PBC cards on FOX and FS1, DAZN cards and more.

As far as fights are concerned, the first six months could have been significantly better, but the general direction the sport is going can only mean great things for its future.

Fightful Mid-Year Boxing Awards (Part 2):

Prospect Of The Mid-Year: Josh Taylor

It’s sometimes tough to figure out the line between prospect and contender, but for Josh Taylor, his latest fight was his last as a top prospect.

With his win over Viktor Postol this past Saturday, Taylor has now become a major contender for the WBC junior welterweight title and has reached this level in just his 13th fight. There’s not a lot of boxers that can beat Postol, a former world champion at 140 lbs., but the fact Taylor was able to knock Postol down and win shows how bright of a future Taylor has.

Around this time last year, David Benavidez won this award and followed it up with a world title win later this year, I feel somewhat confident that Taylor, the mandatory challenger to Jose Ramirez’s WBC title, will be a world champion by the end of the year, if not, sometime in 2019. Taylor is a gifted boxer with the size and natural ability to be a contender at 140 lbs. for years to come down the road.

Honorable Mentions:

  • Anthony Yarde
  • Daniel Dubois
  • Shakur Stevenson
  • Teofimo Lopez
  • Ryan Garcia
  • Tony Yoka
  • Caleb Plant
  • Ivan Baranchyk

Female Fighter Of The Mid-Year: Claressa Shields

No woman has been more impressive in the sport than the two-time Olympic boxer in the past 18 months. Shields has been able to make the transition from Olympic champion to pro boxer about as well as any boxer has in history, regardless of gender.

Shields has been growing into the top women’s boxing star in the U.S., being the centerpiece to Showtime’s efforts to bring women’s boxing to the spotlight. Every time out, more and more people tune in to wat Shields fight in big title fights.

Enter her latest fight on June 22, when she moved down in weight to challenge for two vacant middleweight titles. Shields was knocked down by Hanna Gabriels in the first round of their fight, but Shields came back to dominate the rest of the fight.

Now a two-division champion, Shields is staring at a potential fight against fellow unified middleweight champion Christina Hammer. Not only can Shields become the next undisputed world champion in her next fight, but she can also become a potential megastar in a sport that is desperate to find new stars to bring boxing to the next level.

Honorable Mentions:

  • Katie Taylor
  • Christina Hammer
  • Cecilia Braekhus

Male Fighter Of The Mid-Year: Vasiliy Lomachenko

With so many of the top stars that would likely be in the running for this award at the end of the year, it would almost be unfair to determine who the best boxer of the past six months are. In this case, one would have to look at the performances of all who have fought in 2018 so far.

This may or may not be controversial, but I had Terence Crawford winning the 2017 Male Fighter of the Year award over Lomachenko based on his achievements last year, winning the undisputed junior welterweight title this past August.

No such thing happened in the past six months, but we did see a number of boxers move up in weight and challenge for a title in their first fight at that weight. One of them includes Lomachenko, who moved up to lightweight to challenge for Jorge Linares’ WBA lightweight title. Lomachenko ended up winning the fight by knocking out Linares in the 10th round after being knocked down by Linares earlier in the fight.

It may not have been the most dominant win this year, but it may have been the most impressive win. Lomachenko was almost fighting on one arm while moving up in weight against arguably the best lightweight at the time in a division that also has Robert Easter Jr. and Mikey Garcia. Lomachenko is currently recovering from surgery repairing his torn labrum and will likely not fight until December at the earliest.

He may not win the end of the year award, but for the first six months at least, Lomachenko was the best boxer in the world.

Honorable Mentions:

  • Jarrett Hurd
  • Terence Crawford
  • Hekkie Budler
  • Errol Spence Jr.
  • Gennady Golovkin
  • Murat Gassiev
  • Oleksandr Usyk
  • Deontay Wilder
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