Deontay Wilder’s (41-0-1, 40 KOs) one-punch knockout of Dominic Breazeale on May 18 at Barclays Center became the shot heard around the world overnight.
A roughly 30-minute train ride away from Barclays Center, it will be Anthony Joshua’s (21-0, 20 KOs) turn this coming Saturday in Madison Square Garden, where he’ll defend the WBA Super, IBF and WBO World Heavyweight Titles – Wilder owns the WBC – against Andy Ruiz (32-1, 21 KOs) in his United States debut.
The bout was originally scheduled to be Joshua versus Brooklyn-born Jarrell Miller, but he tested positive for three different steroids in April, and was scrapped for Ruiz late in the proceedings.
Two weeks from Saturday, Lineal Heavyweight Champion Tyson Fury (27-0-1, 19 KOs) will return after his December draw with Wilder to face Tom Schwarz in Las Vegas, the first of his new contract with Top Rank and ESPN.
Fury has been critical of Joshua in the past, questioning his mettle and desire to be the best.
“I respect all boxers who get in that ring, but I do offer more respect to Deontay Wilder than Anthony Joshua because Wilder has proven he is willing to step up and fight the best,” Fury said on ESPN last week. “He fought Luis Ortiz and nobody wanted to fight him. He stepped in the ring with me. He’s been trying to fight Anthony Joshua for so long.”
Fury added that Joshua has never fought outside the United Kingdom.
“Anthony Joshua needs to prove himself on the world’s stage,” he said.
This is the growing criticism that Joshua will have to respond to when he’s in New York City this weekend.
But regardless of how he fights on Saturday, he won’t match the bouts of Wilder and Fury, the latter of whom came out of retirement after nearly three years in 2018 and quickly challenged the WBC World Champion, arguably winning in the eyes of many.
Many believe that Joshua and his promoter, Eddie Hearn of Matchroom Boxing, have been privately avoiding a matchup with Wilder, who has been publicly calling out Joshua for years.
Fury, who fell into drug addiction and ballooned to 400 pounds after defeating previous Lineal and Unified Heavyweight Champion Wladimir Klitschko in November 2015, assures his fight with Wilder was incredibly easy to set up. (Joshua subsequently defeated Klitschko to unify.)
With Joshua, there are legitimate questions as to whether or not his team really wants Wilder or Fury as much as they claim to in public.
“He needs to prove he’s willing to step up to the plate and fight the best,” Fury added. “There was a lot of talk about Wilder and Joshua going back and forth for over a year. It took me, a fat bald guy, to come back after three years out of the ring to accept the challenge. What type of a world champion is this?”
While Joshua does have three of the world major world titles in boxing’s marquee division, and is arguably the most marketable man in the sport, how will his legacy be remembered if there is never a Wilder or Fury on his résumé?
Wilder and Fury at least engaged in a memorable and entertaining draw last December, where Wilder scored two knockdowns, including a dramatic left hook that appeared to leave Fury out cold in round 12.
Joshua has yet to face the other best heavyweights of this era, and although he defeated Klitschko, the former champion was over 40 and well past his best years.
It was also 17 months after Fury upset Klitschko, and Joshua was actually knocked down by the former undisputed champion before recording an 11th-round stoppage.
Joshua may have all the money, the backing and the titles, but watching idly as Wilder and Fury fought five months ago didn’t bode well for his image and overall standing.
Wilder and Fury’s willingness to fight and do business with one another put a lot of pressure on the broad shoulders of the UK phenom.
With seemingly everything in his favor, Joshua still has a lot to prove, and unfortunately we won’t get many answers this weekend at MSG.