Anthony Joshua has questioned Deontay Wilder’s professionalism after the American heavyweight champion accused his British counterpart of “running scared”.
The Watford-born boxer, the current WBA and IBF champion, seems certain to meet WBC strap holder Wilder in a world heavyweight title unification bout next year, with talks already under way between the two parties.
Joshua’s promoter, Eddie Hearn, met with Wilder’s representatives in the United States on Thursday, emphasising afterwards that the fight will be made only on his client’s terms. London and Las Vegas have been mooted as possible hosts, with Hearn saying fights could take place in both cities.
Joshua last fought two weeks ago, defeating Frenchman Carlos Takam in the 10th round to take his record to 20-0 - all coming via knockouts. Last week, Wilder floored Bermane Stiverne in the first round before declaring "war" on Joshua. He accused Hearn of delaying negotiations and has since said Joshua "feared" getting into the ring with him.
Currently in Dubai to promote the Dubai Fitness Challenge, Joshua denied on Sunday that Wilder’s trash-talking has annoyed him, but said: “It just shows what type of person he is. I’ve dealt with professionals in this industry and I’ve dealt with unprofessionals in this industry and I know what type of person Deontay Wilder is.
“I fought only nine to 10 days ago and Wilder fought the week after and said I’ve been running scared. Which was quite interesting because I was defending my heavyweight title and he was defending his.
“I didn’t have any idea that he was actually calling me out for a challenge. This is the first time I heard of it in public. So I’ve spoken about it and said him talking is great for the sport. Let’s make it a reality.
“It’s something we have to work on behind closed doors. Just don’t say you want to fight. He should have reached out privately, seen where we want to do it, how we want to do it and then mention ‘I want to fight Anthony in the UK and I want to do it like this’. Because then it’s a reality. At the moment he just opened his mouth without thinking.”
Joshua, 28, insisted it is his camp who are determined to make the fight happen, hence Hearn’s trip to New York last week. He said also he has no preference as to where the fight takes place, even though Wembley Stadium has been mentioned as a potential venue.
“If I’m honest, as a fighter it can be anywhere,” he said. “The main objective is the win. But from a PR perspective, a media perspective, a fan perspective, this is where negotiations take place and this is the reality of boxing. Wilder calling me out, it’s not like we’re going to have the fight and do it next week.
“These are the type of questions that need to be answered. But two athletes wanting to come together in the pure form and compete? One-hundred per cent that’s where I stand on it. It’s no problem.
“On the terms of where and the narratives of how we make this fight happen, that’s why Eddie’s in America trying to find out where they stand and what their ideas are. I might want it in England, they might want it in America. It’s an issue.”
Wilder’s victory against Stiverne two Saturdays ago lifted him to 39-0 (38 KOs), with 19 of those wins coming in the first round. The American is champion in what is widely regarded a limited division and, although Joshua acknowledges he “has to rate anyone who steps in the ring”, he said a match-up against him would represent a considerable step up for the 32-year-old American.
“He should be on the verge of retirement,” Joshua said. “He should have had some real iconic fights. Thirty-nine fights, when you look at guys like [Evander] Holyfield - I know these guys went way beyond their time - but when you look at Mayweather 50 and 0, Deontay Wilder’s coming to the end of his career.
“He’s still trying to compete with people who haven’t been in the game for long. He’s had an interesting career, and in reality after 40 fights and nine to 10 years in the game, is trying to have one significant fight and trying to use that as a fight to sum up his own career. I don’t really respect that.
“I could’ve done the same thing as Deontay Wilder and I could’ve been stringing along and fighting X, X and X. But I jumped at the opportunity in my 15th fight to fight for the world heavyweight championship.
“And if I had’ve turned down the [Wladimir] Klitschko fight, turned down the Charles Martin fight, we wouldn’t be here right now. I took the opportunity. Opportunities always present themselves, no matter at what time. Even in times of recession in business, people see opportunity.
“If you say the heavyweight division wasn’t booming at the time Wilder was fighting, there were still opportunities he could’ve taken that would’ve enhanced his career. But he didn’t take them at the time. So I don’t see that as an excuse.”