The opening bell: Joshua-Wilder games
In boxing, as in life, if something sounds too good to be true it probably is — and that’s why the prospect of seeing an undisputed heavyweight world championship fight between three-belt titlist Anthony Joshua and one-belt man Deontay Wilder next is so unlikely.
The main reason is that, at least when it comes to actions instead of words, it seems like the Joshua camp is not actually serious about pursuing one of the biggest fights in the sport and easily the biggest fight in the heavyweight division in many years.
I 100 percent believe the Wilder camp wants this fight and wants it next. I also have no doubt that Wilder would be willing to travel to Joshua’s home turf in the United Kingdom for the bout. Wilder has said so repeatedly and showed his road warrior spirit by previously signing to go to Moscow to defend his belt against Alexander Povetkin, until PEDvetkin failed a drug test and the fight was canceled (and Wilder later won a $4 million court judgment against him and his promoter).
If Joshua (21-0, 20 KOs) wants the fight with Wilder (40-0, 39 KOs) next it sure doesn’t seem that way, regardless of what he says. It’s clear in the offer Joshua’s promoter, Matchroom Boxing’s Eddie Hearn, recently made to the Wilder camp: a flat fee of $12.5 million, take it or leave it, for Wilder’s participation in the fight.
Of course, $12.5 large is giant money for most people, but for a fight of this magnitude it is not a serious offer. If Wilder’s team — managers Al Haymon, Shelly Finkel and Jay Deas, and promoter Lou DiBella — accepted the deal, they would be committing malpractice on behalf of their client.
For Team Joshua to take Wilder as a $12.5 million expense without cutting him in for a large percentage of an event that could generate in the high eight figures is a joke. When Joshua faced Joseph Parker to unify their three belts last month, the Parker camp got one-third of the money in the event. Wilder is worth more than that, obviously; he brings the last piece of the undisputed title to the table, he brings a bigger fan base and, on his own, he generates more money than Parker does.
If Parker is worth a third, Wilder is easily worth at least that much and probably even a few more points. His side has stated that it knows it’s not getting 50-50 and hasn’t asked for it, but to be offered a flat flee is not a real offer. It’s an offer meant for the Joshua team to be able to run around and say, “Hey, we made an offer and Team Wilder turned it down.” It’s called playing games, and it’s nothing new in boxing.
A little history lesson: When we were bogged down in the will-they-or-won’t-they nonsense of the Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao saga, Mayweather at one point offered Pacquiao a flat fee of $40 million. That’s monster money but not in the context of that event. Pacquiao rightfully said no. When the fight was finally made, Pacquiao got 40 percent of the pie and earned well over $100 million.
Joshua-Wilder is the exact same situation but for less money. Wilder and his team would be foolish to accept such a laughable offer, and Joshua’s camp knows it — which is why, at this point, all talk the of Joshua-Wilder being next is nothing more than a game boxing fans are not interested in playing.
Performance of the weekend: Ryota Murata
In the ring, secondary middleweight world titlist Murata (14-1, 11 KOs), 32, a 2012 Japanese Olympic gold medalist, easily dominated Emanuele Blandamura (27-3, 5 KOs), 38, en route to an entertaining eighth-round knockout on Sunday in Yokohama, Japan. Murata had his way with the former European middleweight champion from Italy, before nailing Blandamura with a flush right hand to the chin in the eighth round for a knockout at 2 minutes, 56 seconds in his first title defense.
More impressive than Murata’s ring performance was the magnitude of his star power in Japan, where he is one of the country’s biggest sports stars. Murata’s fight was televised in prime time on Japan’s Fuji TV and drew an average audience of about 15 million viewers, peaking at 17 million. That means about 13 percent of Japan’s entire population of about 127 million people watched the fight. Now just imagine how big of an audience Murata might draw if he faced a top opponent.
The next step: Murata, who is a mandatory challenger for unified world champion Gennady Golovkin, would love that fight, but instead, he’s heading to Las Vegas later in the year for an intriguing match on ESPN against Brazilian southpaw Esquiva Falcao (20-0, 14 KOs), 28, in a rematch of Murata’s close decision victory in the Olympic final.
Road warrior of the weekend: Cristofer Rosales
On the Murata-Blandamura card, Rosales (27-3, 18 KOs), 23, of Nicaragua, scored an upset of Japan’s Daigo Higa (15-1, 15 KOs), 22, stopping him in the ninth round to win a flyweight world title stripped from Higa the previous day after he didn’t make weight. Rosales, with several inches in height on Higa, laid a beating on Higa until his corner threw in the towel in the ninth round.
Perhaps it should not have been that big of a surprise that Rosales won the fight given his bloodlines. It turns out that Rosales is a cousin, on his mother’s side, of former pound-for-pound king, former four-division world champion and Nicaraguan national hero Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez.
Fights you may have missed
Saturday at Mexico City
Featherweight Cesar Juarez (22-6, 17 KOs) KO9 Wilner Soto (21-4, 11 KOs)
Former junior featherweight world title challenger Juarez, 26, of Mexico, put on a dominant performance against Soto, 27, of Colombia, before drilling him with a big right hand to knock him out face-first at 46 seconds of the ninth round of their scheduled 10-rounder. Referee Jose Medel waved off the bout when Soto’s corner entered the ring after the knockdown. The loss ended Soto’s four-fight winning streak and Juarez won his second in a row since suffering a fifth-round knockout to Isaac Dogboe in an interim junior featherweight title fight in Ghana on Jan. 6.
“I feel happy about the knockout, but not very satisfied because I could not finish my opponent off earlier,” Juarez said. “He was very elusive, but we were able to finish it. [This win] starts my path to a new world title opportunity.”
Friday at Minneapolis
Welterweight Jamal James (23-1, 10 KOs) W10 Abel Ramos (18-3-2, 13 KOs), scores: 96-94 (twice), 95-95.
James, 29, of Minneapolis, fought in his hometown for the first since 2013, and scored a solid win over Ramos, 26, of Casa Grande, Arizona in a Premier Boxing Champions main event. It was a crowd-pleasing and competitive fight, but the 6-foot-2 James used a four-inch height advantage to control much of the fight — though he did get nailed and hurt in the second round. He remained poised, attacked Ramos with right hands to grind out the victory. James has scored three nice wins in a row (Ramos, Diego Chaves and Jo Jo Dan) since a decision loss to Yordenis Ugas in August 2016.
Lightweight Edner Cherry (37-7-2, 19 KOs) W10 Dennis Galarza (16-3, 9 KOs), scores: 97-93, 96-94 (twice).
Bahamas native Cherry, 35, a former junior welterweight and junior lightweight world title challenger fighting out of Wauchula, Florida, won his third fight in a row since a debatable split decision loss to then-junior lightweight world titlist Jose Pedraza in October 2015. Galarza, 25, of Brooklyn, New York, stunned Cherry in the first round, but Cherry shook it off and took it to him through the middle rounds as he landed power shots and backed Galarza up en route to the competitive victory.
Junior lightweight Chris Colbert (8-0, 3 KOs) TKO7 Austin Dulay (11-1, 8 KOs).
Colbert, a flashy southpaw from Brooklyn, bumped off his third undefeated opponent in his last four fights. He dropped Dulay, 22, of Nashville, with a body shot in the sixth round and after the seventh round, referee Mark Nelson stopped the fight with Dulay on his stool.