Anhony Joshua will earn a career-high payday of $60 million (£47 million) in a mega-fight with Deontay Wilder in Saudi Arabia in the first quarter of 2024 after his sensational seventh round knockout of late replacement opponent Robert Helenius in London on Saturday night.
Eddie Hearn, Joshua’s promoter, has insisted that the announcement is “imminent” and was joined by Prince Khalid bin Abdulaziz ringside after Joshua’s demolition of Helenius.
“If Joshua hits Wilder on the chin, then it is over. This is about Anthony Joshua now, it is not about pleasing others. He has given everything to British boxing,” added Hearn, confident of an official announcement “in the next couple of weeks”.
After claiming the 26th victory of his professional career, Joshua rounded on his critics who had booed the contest in a quiet period of the third round against Helenius inside the O2 Arena, the former two-time heavyweight world champion consistently under pressure over his evolving style.
“Why am I going to go in there and trade from round one?” reasoned Joshua. “We are building confidence in myself, which is important and I have confidence in my team. It was a late replacement and Helenius’s reputation was damaged due to the fact he was knocked out in a round, but he’s a very good operator.
“He was presenting certain obstacles for me to get over and Derrick [James, trainer] guided me to that knock-out. I am just happy to get the win because I always know after one win it can lead onto something spectacular and I believe we’re onto something big.
“Are they booing me or booing Helenius? That is the question. I think they don’t understand it is competitive boxing. We are trying to shut each other’s passes down. It is a game of chess. When you are playing, it is the most interesting and thinking man’s sport but from the outside chess is a boring game.”
“No doubt the once plundering, care-free destroyer of opponents has now gone, to be replaced by a more cautious fighter, but Joshua produced a thunderous sensational finish mid-way through the seventh period.
As Hearn told Telegraph Sport: “AJ isn’t a gung-ho fighter anymore and we are seeing him evolve as a different kind of fighter, just like Wladimir Klitschko did all those years ago after his defeats, and it’s working for AJ. This is a rebuilding process.”
Malik Scott, Wilder’s trainer, was at Saturday night’s event with his charge Gerald Washington, who was defeated on points by Derek Chisora, and relayed a message from Wilder, the former World Boxing Council champion, the most devastating single punch knockout artist in the sport.
“He [Wilder] was like “we needed that”,” Scott told the October Red YouTube Channel. “We both said the same thing because at first it was looking like it was getting ready to go the distance so when the knockout came I called him on FaceTime and he was like “I’m glad he got that, we needed it done just like that”. So we’re both satisfied, the fight is bigger to me than it was because of the knockout, so shout out to AJ to going out there and getting the job done.
“Deontay will be more than ready for a January showdown. Last time I checked with Deontay we were looking for something for October, hopefully we can lock in an opponent and from there we’ll go and knock out AJ in January.”
Although David Haye and Tony Bellew, among others, reasoned that Joshua should take one more fight before facing the American, a triumphant Joshua insisted he is “ready”.
“Any time is a good time to fight. It could have been Wilder eight years ago or Wilder now. It don’t matter,” Joshua said. “It is only a fight and boxing wins so roll on really. There is no worry to me when it is. I am just happy we can get the fight going and I think people appreciate that I am doing my best to keep heavyweight boxing on the map. I have played my part in bringing entertainment to heavyweight boxing.
“We’ll look back in years to come and think, ‘look at that era, that guy fought everyone,’ and that’s what is important. Not protecting your zero. It is about fighting the best and giving your best.”
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