If push came to shove, promoter Eddie Hearn says he would likely advise his top heavyweight charge, Anthony Joshua, to go after the more lucrative fight over an opportunity to become a three-time champion.
The money fight, in this case, could also have huge ramifications for Joshua’s legacy.
A long-discussed fight between London’s Joshua and Tuscaloosa, Alabama’s Deontay Wilder is rumored to be in play for March, should both Joshua and Wilder come out victorious in their respective bouts this Saturday in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
In the main event, Joshua will take on Otto Wallin, while Wilder will square off against former titlist Joseph Parker.
But Hearn has floated the possibility that Joshua, despite his public pronouncements on wanting the Wilder fight, could seriously entertain a scenario in which he could fight for the IBF heavyweight title, presumably against top-rated contender Filip Hrgovic of Croatia.
Hrgovic is the mandatory challenger to the IBF title currently held by unified champion Oleksandr Usyk, who is scheduled to take on WBC titlist Tyson Fury in a heavyweight undisputed bout on Feb. 17 in Riyadh.
The winner of that fight is technically required to defend the IBF belt against Hrgovic but it is understood that Usyk and Fury will have a rematch. Many have speculated that the IBF would, in that scenario, strip the winner of the belt and elevate Hrgovic to champion.
The long concatenation of events that have to go right for Joshua to contend for a title does not inspire much confidence in Hearn.
“The winner of Fury-Usyk has to fight Filip Hrgovic,” Hearn told SecondsOut.com. “If they don’t it’s very likely they’ll be stripped. That fight isn’t until Feb. 17th. It might not even happen. Someone could get injured. So you would have to be hoping that the fight happened, they didn’t get an exception (from the IBF) for the rematch. There’s a lot of ifs, ifs, ifs.
“So probably my advice would be, if that Wilder fight is there, and it can be signed and you know it’s there for March 9th, then let’s do it.”
Hearn made it clear that Joshua would have the final say.
“He will make the decision,” Hearn said. “Everything that happens in AJ’s career is his decision. He is the boss. If he said to me, ‘What do you think I should do?’ I would say, ‘Do whatever is in your heart.’”
Sean Nam is the author of Murder on Federal Street: Tyrone Everett, the Black Mafia, and the Last Golden Age of Philadelphia Boxing.