Joshua And Wilder Past Their Prime, Hrgovic In The Spotlight
Dan Rafael says Anthony Joshua and Deontay Wilder aren’t what they once were, and they’re not going to be able to regain what they once were earlier in their careers.
The two former heavyweight world champions are now faded, and they won’t be returning to what they once were. Both fighters, Joshua & Wilder, are shot and can’t be counted on to beat top-level opposition. That’s a permanent situation.
Joshua’s carefully chosen path
AJ & Deontay are not going to be able to become what they once were with the help of a new trainer. They’re old, washed up, and in Joshua’s case, being positioned for the ultimate payday.
Joshua is being fed weak opposition to keep winning long enough for a big-money fight against Tyson Fury if he wins his clash against Oleksandr Usyk next February.
It’s all about money at this point for AJ, with the way his promoter is matching him. They’re just trying to get the Fury fight for money. It has nothing to do with sports.
Fury is washed up, too, as we saw in his last fight against Francis Ngannou, but his promoters have done a good job of disguising it by matching him against Ngannou, Derek Chisora, and Dillian Whyte in his last three contests. Fury is being matched in the same way Joshua is, being put in with tomato cans, and the fans are none the wiser.
Past Glories and Present Realities
Joshua’s promoter Eddie Hearn, is positioning him for the Fury fight, which would be the mother load in terms of dough. The low-level opposition that Hearn is putting AJ in with is a means to an end.
He doesn’t dare throw AJ in with someone like Zhilei Zhang because he would likely obliterate him, and the Fury money fight would go down the drain.
It might not make Joshua’s fans happy to hear that he’s not going to get back to the level he was fighting at during the zenith of his career from 2013 to 2018, considering Hearn is telling them that this is the best version of him, and that’s still improving.
It’s easy for Hearn to make the case that the 34-year-old Joshua has been rejuvenated and better than ever because the last two opponents that he matched him against, Otto Wallin & Robert Helenius, were brought in for him to obliterate and look looked like a million bucks.
Rafael believes that Joshua (27-3, 24 KOs) could face #1 IBF Filip Hrgovic for the title if it becomes vacant after IBF/WBA/WBO heavyweight champion Oleksandr Usyk faces WBC champ Tyson Fury on February 17th.
The Saudis have signed the 2016 Olympic bronze medalist Hrgovic (17-0, 14 KOs) to a muli-fight contract, and he was the plan B for Joshua if Deontay lost his fight with Joseph Parker last Saturday night.
Now that Deontay has lost that fight, Joshua must decide whether he wants to fight Hrgovic for the IBF belt if it becomes vacant. Joshua’s promoter Hearn wants the Hrgovic fight for him, so it’ll likely happen in Saudi Arabia next, possibly in March 2024.
Wilder’s Decline and Diminished Appeal
“I’ve seen Wilder’s comments that he’d still like to do the fight, and I’ve seen Anthony Joshua’s comment that maybe Wilder can come back, and maybe there will be a place for that fight,” said Dan Rafael to Pro Boxing Fans.
“The problem is, you get to a point where, yeah, they’re still great names, we still remember what they were at their best, and the longer this fight goes and it doesn’t happen, the least interesting it becomes to the public,” said Rafael.
It’s too late for the Joshua-Wilder fight to be what it could have been if the match had taken place while they were both still on the top of their games.
Wilder is 38, rarely fights anymore, can’t pull the trigger on his punches any longer, and his head isn’t in the game anymore. He’s too rich and he’s not willing to put in the work to be the best version of what he has left.
“I think that when you have a Deontay Wilder that goes into the ring and loses to a good opponent and loses basically every round and doesn’t show anything,” said Rafael. “He landed 39 punches in a twelve round fight. That’s one of the worst outputs in the history of a twelve round fight.
“If they made the [Joshua vs. Wilder] match, I guess that’s okay, but who cares at this point? Wilder has lost three out of his last four fights.”
Fans don’t care about the Joshua-Wilder fight, and the ones that would have cared if Deontay had won his match against Joseph Parker last Saturday night are the older fans who remembered when Wilder was still a world champion.
“The one win in there was a one round job against Helenius, who was brought in as an opponent to lose in that fashion,” said Rafael. “That’s the same reason they matched him up against Anthony Joshua.
“Those fights that I talked about of the recent activity of Deontay Wilder have taken place over the last few years. It’s not like he fought four times in a year and is 1-3. That was the last few years. The Deontay Wilder of the times when he was WBC heavyweight champion and knocking everybody out. That’s gone. That’s gone forever. That’s not coming back,” said Rafael.
Like Joshua, Wilder was never a good heavyweight to begin with. He was always flawed, and the only reason he captured the WBC title and held it down for ten defenses was the opposition that his management set up for him.
All those years, Wilder was fighting guys like Eric Molina, Bermane Stiverne, Chris Arreola, and Gerald Washington. That’s why he was able to hold onto his WBC title. It was the same thing with Joshua.
His promoter Hearn matched him against sub-level opposition from day one. He got him titles against Charles Martin and 40-year-old Wladimir Klitschko. The younger version of Joshua was a much better fighter than what he is now, which is why Hearn is matching him with care.
“In terms of Joshua. As good as he looked against Otto the other day,’ said Rafael. “The same situation. He’s not what he was when he was reeling off wins and winning unifying titles. Those days are gone, and it’s unfortunate.
“My interest in seeing that fight [Joshua-Wilder] in the days after seeing what occurred in Saudi Arabia dramatically diminished. I’m moving on. There are other fights that I’m more interested in the heavyweight division at this point,” said Rafael.
Hrgovic and potential next step
“They [Saudis] definitely want the biggest names and the biggest fights, but keep a couple of things in mind,” said Rafael. “Number one, they put Filip Hrgovic on this undercard for a reason. They have a multi-fight agreement with him at varying price points. Obviously, they can’t predict the future.”
Hearn needs to think long and hard before he makes a fight between Joshua and Hrgovic because that’s a risky fight that he could lose. It’s too much of a departure from how Hearn has been matching him lately to suddenly throw him in with Hrgovic, who is a dangerous puncher with his rabbit-punching ability.
Joshua doesn’t need to fight for the IBF belt for a clash between him and Fury to make a lot of money. It’s not going to make the fight any bigger if Joshua has the IBF title in his possession when he fights Fury. The British fans just want to see AJ and Fury fight. They don’t care about titles.
“So, he got what he got to fight [Mark] De Mori, which was to get in the ring and protect his #1 position,” said Rafael. “They understand what that was about. So, they definitely have an interest in going forward with him [Hrgovic], and I know they’ve contemplated a price point for a Joshua-Hrgovic fight.
“So, it’s not going to be a complicated negotiation. I have no doubt in my mind if that fight is something that Joshua is interested in doing, they’ll go forward with that fight. That’s the reason why he fought Otto in the first place. So, Joshua was right behind Otto in the IBF rankings. So, he fought him to get the [#2] position.
“So now, if the title becomes vacant, the IBF will order Hrgovic vs. Joshua. So, of course, the Saudis will do that fight. It’s a good fight. If your a boxing fan, I see no reason not to be interested to see Joshua against Hrgovic,” said Rafael.