While unified heavyweight world titleholder Anthony Joshua focuses on his task at hand — training for a much-anticipated unification fight with Joseph Parker on March 31 in Cardiff, Wales — Matchroom Boxing promoter Eddie Hearn is doing what promoters are supposed to do, which is plan ahead.
Should Joshua defeat Parker — and he is the favorite — Hearn said Tuesday that the plan is to have Joshua, one of the biggest sports stars in the United Kingdom, make his United States debut in August, possibly September, at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.
Hearn, the leading promoter in the U.K., was in New York on Tuesday to host the kickoff news conference for the card his Matchroom USA is promoting at Barclays Center on April 28, when former middleweight world titleholder Daniel Jacobs will headline against Polish contender Maciej Sulecki.
In the co-feature of that card, Brooklyn heavyweight contender Jarrell “Big Baby” Miller (20-0-1, 18 KOs), 29, will take on former world title challenger Johann Duhaupas (37-4, 24 KOs), 37, of France, in a title eliminator. Should Miller win — and look good doing so — he is likely to get the next crack at Joshua, Hearn told ESPN.
“Anthony Joshua would never look past Joseph Parker, but our job is to plan the future,” Hearn said. “I’ve been talking to [Barclays Center CEO] Brett Yormark about bringing [Joshua] to New York, and August would be an opportunity to do that. While the unification fight [with Deontay] Wilder looks to be unlikely until [Wilder] gets realistic about the split [of the money], we feel a fight in America would be beneficial to us and, in Brooklyn at Barclays Center, Miller would be the guy, provided he get the win. So there’s a lot for Miller to fight for.
“In an ideal world, we’d like to see AJ’s U.S. debut in August or September. We have a strong relationship with the Barclays Center, and a fight with Miller — a kid from Brooklyn — would be an attractive fight. It’s a nice story.”
Hearn said, however, that he is not counting his chickens before they’ve hatched. March 31 looms. Joshua (20-0, 20 KOs), 28, will make his fifth title defense against Parker (24-0, 18 KOs), 26, of New Zealand, who will be making his third defense.
“Until March 31 happens, we just don’t know. AJ could lose the fight, get injured — anything can happen,” Hearn said. “But New York and America is a focus for us in 2018. It’s one of the territories we want to box in. The Wilder fight, I feel, is inevitable but it’s just a case of when it will happen. It all depends. Wilder has to beat Luis Ortiz [on March 3, also at Barclays Center], and we have Parker and then maybe Miller.
“But we are very serious about America. It’s very important to us and definitely on the agenda for 2018.”
Joshua boxed only twice in 2017, the epic 11th-round knockout of former longtime unified world champion Wladimir Klitschko in April in the fight of the year, followed by a 10th-round knockout of Carlos Takam in October. In 2018, Hearn said Joshua plans to fight three times: the March 31 bout, the August/September fight in the U.S. and then, ideally, a December fight for the undisputed title against Wilder.
“But anything can happen when you’re in these big unification fights,” Hearn said. “We’ll review everything on April 1.”
A significant aspect of Joshua’s plans post-Parker is which American television network he will fight on. The fight with Parker is the final fight of Joshua’s contract with Showtime, which used its final last offer rights to outbid HBO on the Parker fight.
The fight with Parker will be Joshua’s sixth in a row on Showtime, but he will be a free agent afterward. Showtime and HBO, bitter longtime rivals, are both expected to battle for his rights.
Hearn said he spent part of his day Tuesday meeting with Showtime Sports president Stephen Espinoza, discussing a future Joshua deal. Hearn was also with HBO Sports executive vice president Peter Nelson at Tuesday’s news conference, and Nelson’s desire to bring Joshua to HBO is well known.
“We’re talking about potential U.S. broadcast partners moving forward,” Hearn said. “Showtime were the guys who backed Anthony Joshua when other people weren’t interested, so they get first opportunity as far as I’m concerned. They put the money up and invested in AJ’s career when others didn’t. Over the next few months we’ll be working and talking to different American broadcasters. This is a very important decision. It’s not just the money. It’s about picking the broadcaster who can grow AJ’s brand and make him a star in America.
“I had a meeting with Stephen Espinoza [on Tuesday] to talk about Anthony’s future. I get on very well with HBO. They’re hugely interested in signing Anthony Joshua. I’m sure everyone will want to make an offer. We’ll get the Parker fight sorted and decide what’s next for AJ’s future.”