Anthony Joshua v Deontay Wilder in Saudi Arabia 'imminent', says Eddie Hearn

British heavyweight returns to the ring with seventh-round stoppage over late replacement Robert Helenius

Antony Joshua knocks out Robert Helenius in the seventh round of their heavyweight boxing fight at London's O2 Arena. PA
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Anthony Joshua's promoter Eddie Hearn is hopeful a mega-fight in Saudi Arabia against Deontay Wilder will be confirmed imminently after the former two-time heavyweight world champion sealed a knockout victory over Robert Helenius in London on Saturday night.

Competing in his second fight of the year – following a lacklustre points win over Jermaine Franklin in April – Joshua was jeered by sections of the crowd inside the O2 Arena during a subdued opening six rounds, before ending the contest with a ferocious overhand right in the seventh.

The victory improves Joshua's professional record to 26 wins from 29 fights, including 23 knockouts.

Joshua had hoped to deliver a statement against Dillian Whyte but his British rival was pulled from the fight after returning an "adverse finding" from a random doping test last weekend. Finland's Helenius then stepped in at the last minute.

The aim now for Joshua and his team is to secure the long-awaited fight against American power-puncher Wilder, and Hearn expects an update soon. Representatives from Saudi Arabia, where Joshua has twice fought for the heavyweight titles, were in attendance hoping to conclude negotiations for a bout in the kingdom for early next year.

"We hope it's imminent," Hearn said. "That's why he wanted the Dillian Whyte fight, it's hard for him to get up to fights like this.

"If he hits Wilder on the chin then it's over. This is about Anthony Joshua now, it's not about pleasing others. He's given everything to British boxing."

A fight between Joshua and Wilder had been discussed in the past, most notably when both fighters collectively held all four heavyweight world titles, although several attempts at negotiations collapsed.

But as Joshua and Wilder aim to surge back into title contention and with a potentially career-leading purses up for grabs, the fight finally looks set to go ahead.

Wilder is one of the most dangerous punchers in boxing history and stopped Helenius in the first round last October. Joshua was therefore under pressure to deliver a similarly emphatic performance, and while it took time to get the stoppage, the style in which he ended the fight should increase the hype ahead of his proposed showdown with the 'Bronze Bomber'.

When asked in the ring about a potential fight with Wilder, Joshua said: "My back's gone, is there a doctor in here? I want to carry this heavyweight division to the top."

Joshua has experienced contrasting fortunes when fighting in Saudi Arabia. On his first appearance in the kingdom in December 2019, he comfortably reclaimed the IBF, WBA, and WBO world titles from Andy Ruiz following his shock stoppage defeat to the Mexican-American at New York City's Madison Square Garden six months prior.

However, he suffered an emotional split decision loss to Oleksandr Usyk in Jeddah 12 months ago having been beaten by the Ukrainian in their first fight in London in September 2021.

Former WBC belt holder Wilder, meanwhile, has not fought since his first-round knockout against Helenius. The American, 37, holds a professional record of 43 wins (42 KOs), two defeats and one draw. His only losses came against Tyson Fury in the second two fights of their epic trilogy.

Updated: August 13, 2023, 7:51 AM