Why a Joshua-wilder show­down will not cap­ture the imag­i­na­tion of the Amer­i­can pub­lic

Boxing News - - Contents - John Scully Ex-light-heavy con­tender

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.



WORLD IN HIS HANDS: But Amer­ica are slow to recog­nise Joshua as the lead­ing heavy­weight

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