Why a Joshua-wilder showdown will not capture the imagination of the American public
Surprising take from America
THE only time you really hear boxing people discussing Deontay Wilder in America these days is on the weekends that his fights take place. I think among people who really follow the game closely there is interest in Deontay, but not so much as a frequent topic throughout the year, like Anthony Joshua is to fans in the UK. The sad fact is, I truly believe that if you were to ask most boxing fans and even boxers, to name 10 legitimate top active heavyweights, they would have a hard time putting a competent list together. The buzz has strongly drifted away from heavyweight boxing in America towards the more interesting clashes in the lower weight classes.
Why? I think Wilder is, in many ways, still a work in progress. He’s still developing and there is room for that improvement. His power and his range along with his sometimes blind willingness to engage in warfare has taken him a long way, but he has also been improving in certain areas over the last year or so. His power is obviously a huge asset and his willingness to let the bombs fly has worked well for him thus far, although that could ultimately prove to be a mistake rather than an advantage. I’m sure his trainer Mark Breland is working with him to set up those bombs accurately, as opposed to just winging them and hoping they find their mark. He’s exciting to watch, of course, but as boxing purists we also want to see the heavyweight champions getting the job done with great precision and technique, too.
As for who the American boxing public view as the ‘world heavyweight champion’ I believe most subconsciously see Wilder as the man to beat because that’s who they are most familiar with. Tyson Fury was on his way towards entering that stream of American consciousness in a big way but his out-of-ring antics have destroyed that for the time being. So it’s Joshua who is the next guy that Americans know about after Wilder. Among the boxing die-hard here, Wilder-joshua has become the next heavyweight fight to see.
But while it is an anticipated fight for the hardcore, it’s lacking the mainstream appeal of a true heavyweight superfight. I believe that over the last couple of decades, with the proliferation of often meaningless world championship belts, the value and the prestige that once automatically came with being world heavyweight champion has diminished in the eyes of many Americans - and even disintegrated in the eyes of others. I would say we are clearly past the glorious days where men like Joe Louis, Rocky Marciano, Muhammad Ali and Mike Tyson were seen as the most important sporting champions on earth. There was a time when the heavyweight champion was the leader of the sports world, held in a regard that almost rivalled that of the President, a time when the reigning king of giants was the unspoken, automatic leader of boxing, and when he was in the building every other boxer took a back seat to him.
I remember speaking with Sugar Ray Leonard once several years ago about the first Tommy Hearns fight and he told me that he knew it was time to make the match when grandmothers would come up to him in public settings to tell him they were looking forward to him fighting Hearns. That was an indication in his mind that the time was right for the fight to happen, and be seen and maximsed as a true mega-fight.
In that regard, at this point, I’m very sure there are few American grandmothers clamouring for a Wilder-joshua fight just yet.
THE BUZZ HAS STRONGLY DRIFTED AWAY FROM HEAVYWEIGHT BOXING IN AMERICA
WORLD IN HIS HANDS: But America are slow to recognise Joshua as the leading heavyweight