Eddie Hearn is the man at the centre of a complicated heavyweight division now – handling two of the top fighters out there in Anthony Joshua and Dillian Whyte.
This week the Matchroom supremo spoke to Kugan Cassius of IFL TV to update on their situation and how it affects the bigger picture – notably the route to that potential enormous unification showdown between Joshua and Tyson Fury in 2021.
Joshua is preparing for a defence of his IBF, WBA and WBO belts against IBF mandatory contender Kubrat Pulev. AJ had been due to fight the 39-year-old Bulgarian (28-1) at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in June but that date was scuppered by COVID-19. Hearn says Joshua is completely focused on the fight – and not any future showdown with Fury.
“In his head he’s fighting Pulev next, and I don’t think he wants to look beyond that to be honest with you, because I think we’ve mad that mistake before,” said Hearn.
“In the first Ruiz fight (AJ’s only pro defeat, at Madison Square Garden in June 2019), all anyone was talking about was ‘when you fighting Deontay Wilder?’, and he went over there to try and make a statement and things didn’t go great for him.
“I think now he knows that can happen against Pulev – if you start taking your eye off the ball in a heavyweight, Pulev can fight, he’s a top-10 fighter. Same with Tyson – if he’s gonna fight Deontay Wilder he needs to switch on, and he will, he’s a pro. He’ll switch on and he’ll get the job done.
“I don’t believe Tyson is thinking about AJ or talking about AJ – he wants to fight him – but he knows ‘I’ve got a dangerous fight I’ve gotta take care of’.”
In a recent newspaper interview, Hearn threw out the notion that Joshua vs Pulev could even take place on a boat, but in reality he thinks it will be a much more familiar venue for AJ.
“I just threw that in (staging the fight on a boat), and then people just love it don’t they. Full page in the Evening Standard. I think it’ll be in the O2 – November, early December. I’m hopeful by then but again we review this as we go. So today, great news, let’s keep moving forward, let’s keep pushing the boundaries, making sure everybody is safe, coming up with the right strategy.
“Our conversations with the Government have been ongoing for months, and finally we got to a position where we were approved as a test event, and that’s an honour, and we take that responsibility very seriously. Let’s now move forward with the process of bringing people back to arenas for live boxing.”
Another big fight likely to happen in the autumn is mandatory WBO heavyweight contender and former cruiserweight king Oleksandr Usyk (17-0) putting his credentials on the line against the experienced Dereck ‘War’ Chisora (32-9). And Hearn says while October has always been his favoured rescheduled date, it is dependent on how many fans will be allowed into arenas.
“We need a crowd, whether that’s a crowd at the O2 or whether that’s an international site fee, which we’re looking at as well,” he said.
“But my plan has always been, well in the last 6-8 weeks, to reschedule that fight for October. But again, I can’t do that fight with 2,000 people, unless those 2,000 people are paying a lot of money.”
Hearn also has of course WBC mandatory heavyweight contender Whyte (27-1) preparing for a pay-per-view fight against dangerous Russian Alexander Povetkin (35-2-1) at Matchroom Fight Camp on Saturday August 22. ‘The Body Snatcher’ recently split with long-time trainer Mark Tibbs, but Hearn doesn’t expect his man to miss a beat despite that change.
He explained: “I honestly couldn’t tell you the ins and outs of that situation, but sometimes this is a process that’s been happening over a period of time, maybe not something that you wake up one day and say ‘right, I’m gonna change trainers’.
“I don’t think that the change is gonna affect Dillian in this fight. He’s been working hard in camp with people. I wish Mark Tibbs all the best, I think he’s a lovely guy, I think he’s a very good trainer. I hope those guys move on and shake hands and remember that they’ve had a great run together, and can look back fondly on some great nights.”
Whyte of course has been waiting for an eternity for a shot at the WBC title, and if he beats Povetkin that is supposed to come by the end of February 2021 – against the winner of Fury’s trilogy showdown with Deontay Wilder (tentatively pencilled in for December 19 in Las Vegas).
Hearn outlined the scenario should Whyte, as expected, beat Povetkin – explaining: “I think what should happen is the WBC turn round and say is ‘congratulations on another thrilling victory, you’ve now beaten a plethora of top-15 opponents, you have now had 10/11 WBC fights, you have now been mandatory over 1000 days, number 1 for over 1000 days and mandatory for nearly as many, your next fight is against the champion.
“What do I think will happen? I think lot depends on Fury/Wilder. You see right now, you look at America and you think how on earth can that fight happen in November/December. It is so difficult at the moment. We are staging an event there August 15 behind closed doors – that’s not in doubt, but every day is a concern.
“We haven’t heard from Deontay Wilder, he hasn’t been vocal about the third fight. So I’m actually in a position, as soon as Dillian Whyte beats Alexander Povetkin, we’re on it mate, ‘right, is this fight happening or not, if not order this fight’. I’ll do Whyte/Fury, I’ll stick the dough up – it’s a huge fight, huge fight. But we understand the position – Tyson Fury has to fight Deontay Wilder – good luck, crack on.”