In the celebrations that followed Anthony Joshua’s heavyweight title victory on Saturday, a belated Eddie Hearn told Kugan Cassius of iFLTV that he plans to have the newly crowned IBF heavyweight champion make his first defence on July 9th at Wembley Stadium in London.
In case, you weren’t aware we already have a heavyweight world title fight taking place in the UK on that evening.
Just 150 miles north of Wembley, in the Manchester Arena, a rematch between IBO/WBA/WBO heavyweight champion, Tyson Fury, and Wladimir Klitschko will also take place.
So, with a fight of such magnitude already scheduled you would have to be a madman to try and compete – wouldn’t you?
Perhaps not. With the cult of Joshua growing bigger every day, this marketing executives wet-dream has seemingly convinced Sky that they can turn a fight as big as Fury vs. Klitschko II into a local hall fight.
However, such a move will only serve to damage Hearn’s already fragile reputation with many fans and could even backfire, leaving Joshua fighting in a half-empty stadium on July 9th.
It seemed as if Hearn was just joking with Cassius until he later told skysports.com: “This is only the beginning. He’s [Joshua] got aspirations to unify all the belts. We’ve got a little something planned for July 9 at Wembley Stadium. He’s going to go through everybody.”
Then, in a second, extended interview with iFLTV, Hearn further cemented the idea, explaining why Fury vs. Klitschko II was on BoxNation and not Sky Sports.
“Sky Sports had an opportunity, the first option on it,” said Hearn. “Originally the fight [Fury vs. Klitschko II] was going to be on May 7th and then it was going to be on June 4th, both of those were OK with Sky. Then, something happened, and they’ve come back to Sky and said it’s on July 9th. Sky said ‘we can’t go on July 9th, we can’t give you that commitment until Saturday night [Joshua vs. Martin] is out of the way’.
“That was about three weeks ago and in the meantime, they’ve either got the hump or didn’t want to wait and have gone with another broadcaster and as it happens they wouldn’t have gotten Sky anyway because AJ is obviously the priority.”
Joshua as a priority I can understand, what I can’t quite grasp is why he has to fight on July 9th. Why can’t the date be changed? Sky and Matchroom have cancelled plenty of provisional bookings with Arenas before so why not cancel now?
Could this be a move to discredit Tyson Fury and stifle his career? Fury, the definitive lone wolf, has had his fair share of run-ins with the mainstream media since he overcame Klitschko last November.
Perhaps this is a move to try and force Fury into a fight with Joshua sooner rather than later. Perhaps they are trying to portray Joshua as the bigger draw and (in the eyes of the public) the better fighter.
Whatever the case may be, at the moment it all seems very unsportsmanlike and even somewhat spiteful.
But, like it or not, Sky is going to fight for their man and the brand they’ve built around him. They’ve invested a lot of time and money into Joshua; they want him to own the heavyweight division and in turn fatten their pockets. So, they will do whatever it takes to get Fury to play ball.
The question is, will Fury play ball with Sky? Or will he decide to play a completely different game altogether?