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Anthony Joshua versus Deontay Wilder could grow into a legendary rivalry, says Steven Espinoza

Anthony Cocks

Australian-based boxing journalist Anthony Cocks has been covering the sport for over 15 years for various print and online publications. He refuses to believe that Roberto Duran ever lost to Tommy Hearns and says that Jeff Fenech would destroy Chuck Norris, Bruce Lee and Muhammad Ali on the same night.

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Showtime’s Stephen Espinoza believes that a fight between IBF, WBA and WBO heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua 21-0 (20) and his WBC counterpart Deontay Wilder 40-0 (39) will happen, but that it may not be until spring 2019.

“I have no doubt that this fight will happen,” the President of Showtime’s Sports and Event Programming division told Sky Sport.

“It could be the next fight, the second fight, or in the spring of 2019. I don’t think we’ll see a drawn-out negotiation because I see two fighters anxious to stage a worldwide mega-fight.

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“Deontay will make the decisions that suit him best, as will Anthony. But we have a long history with Deontay, a close working and personal relationship. The same is true with AJ, except the history is not as long. They each know our heart is in the right place. Our interest is in making this fight at the right time, under the right conditions.”

Espinoza’s comments come after Joshua’s promoter Eddie Hearn of Matchroom Sport made Wilder as $USD12.5 million offer to face the unbeaten Englishman, who defeated New Zealand’s Joseph Parker on points to add the WBO title to his collection of belts at Cardiff’s Principality Stadium on March 31.

Wilder was last in action on March 3 when he scored a tenth round TKO over Luis Ortiz at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. The 32-year-old champion had the Cuban challenger on the canvas three times en route to his stoppage victory.

Joshua had a breakthrough performance against former long-time champion Wladimir Klitschko in April last year in a fight that saw both boxers visit the canvas before eventually prevailing by eleventh round TKO.

The victory made American fight fans sit up and take notice, according to Espinoza.

“There is absolutely a demand from US boxing fans to see AJ,” he said. “It is night and day from a year ago, and his momentum will build even more quickly once he has spent some time here.

“He has been a gradual build in the US, but there has been an exponential leap in the awareness and interest of the American market since the Klitschko fight.

“American boxing fans are notoriously impatient, and there is anticipation for Joshua-Wilder. But if it was clear there was a pathway to Joshua-Wilder, then our audience would be satisfied to see Joshua premiere in the US against someone else.”

Espinoza insists that Showtime has no preference on where the fight is held.

“Conversations will be had about the time of day, and the effect of that,” he said. “The atmosphere will be electric wherever it is.

“We haven’t seen anything like AJ’s live crowds over the past year, but there is a glitz, glamour and cache about a big heavyweight fight in Vegas. There is not a bad decision, in terms of the location or timing.

“The hope is that we’re not talking about one fight. They are both relatively young so we hope this could grow into a legendary rivalry.”

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