There are the gifts you want, and the gifts you need.
You want the latest Brainiac Smart Phone or that new luxury SUV or a rocket-powered leaf blower. You need a new pair of dress slacks or an electric toothbrush (that old toothbrush has some gunk on it, man).
Occasionally, however, the gift you desperately desire and the gift that makes the most practical sense are one in the same. It’s that way for a prospective Deontay Wilder-Anthony Joshua championship bout. That’s the heavyweight boxing clash that the sports world wants, needs and ultimately deserves.
Boxing is always better when the heavyweight division is carrying its weight. Nothing against the little guys — a great fight is a great fight — but the heavyweights simply bring more thunder to the sport. As fans, we crave that power.
I’ll stop short of calling the heavyweight division a wasteland for most of the 21st century, but it’s at least suffered a dry spell in terms of quality depth. Wladimir Klitschko dominated the division for more than a decade. His legacy as one of the sport’s all-time greats is secure, but he didn’t really have many worthy rivals either.
Well, until Joshua came along. If you’re unfamiliar with him, he’s a 28-year-old wildly popular Brit who is now 20-0 in his career, with 20 knockouts. That includes a 12-round slugfest with Klitschko in the Ukranian big man’s squared circle swan song in April, a match that could (probably should) win Fight of the Year, despite getting about a tenth of the attention of Floyd Mayweather vs. Conor McGregor.
Joshua won a gold medal at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, and he made a smashing professional debut a year later, thumping Italian boxer Emanuelue Leo with a first-round TKO. He’s been busting guys up ever since.
Joshua actually held a job as a bricklayer before he ever took up boxing, and that seems right to me. The guy always looks like he’s smuggling cement blocks in his gloves. His YouTube highlights should come with a warning label: Viewers watching these clips might experience sympathy dizziness and jaw pain.
Of course, if anyone in the boxing game hits any harder than Joshua, it’s Wilder. Here’s the skinny on the thickest heavyweight in the sport: The 32-year-old Alabama native is 39-0 in his nine-year career, with 38 knockouts. Those are the numbers. The eye test spells it out even plainer: Wilder is a bad, bad man.
When he plants that hard right jab, large men crumble like piñatas. Better yet, Wilder owns the kind of Ali-like swagger that Klitschko, for all his greatness, just didn’t possess. The heavyweight champ-eeeen of the world needs a certain charisma.
Joshua vs. Wilder would be one of the biggest heavyweight fights in history — literally. Wilder, aka the Bronze Bomber, stands 6-foot-7 and 227 pounds with an 83-inch reach. Joshua is 6-6 and 249 pounds, with an 82-inch reach. These are a couple of oak trees, only more nimble.
The Joshua-Wilder fight should happen in 2018, but we all know how that goes. After pummeling Bermane Stiverne in a first-round knockout in November, Wilder addressed the looming prospect of Joshua. He called out Joshua’s promoters for protecting their prize champion.
“I think they’re hesitant for a reason,” Wilder said. “They’ve got a great thing going. He can fight literally a guy who doesn’t even have a name and can make millions and millions of dollars off him. Why would they risk taking a chance with the most dangerous heavyweight in the division?”
Here’s the unspoken element of Wilder’s bravado — he needs Joshua just as much as Joshua needs him. Wilder’s own list of vanquished opponents doesn’t exactly read like murderer’s row. Joshua would push Wilder to perhaps his greatest heights, and vice versa.
It’s titillating to consider the rivalry these guys could generate. They could lead a rebirth of the heavyweight division. In addition to Wilder and Joshua, the class features some promising contenders like Jarrell “Big Baby” Miller (20-0-1), Dominic Brazeale (who gave Joshua a war for seven rounds in June 2016 before suffering his only loss in 20 fights), Bulgaria’s Kubrat Pulev (25-1) and New Zealand’s Joseph Parker (24-0). If 6-foot-9 former champion Tyson Fury (25-0) can make a comeback in 2018 – he hasn’t fought since 2015 while dealing with depression and cocaine addiction — the heavyweight division has a shot to be in its best shape since the 1990s, when Mike Tyson, Lennox Lewis, Evander Holyfield and Riddick Bowe ruled the earth.
“The heavyweight division was once in a dark place, but now it is coming into the light,” Wilder said. “It’s exciting and I can’t wait to make it even more exciting.”
Much rigmarole must be sorted out before a Wilder-Joshua fight comes to fruition. They have to figure out where it would take place (Great Britain or the U.S.), the pay-per-view network, and of course the cut of the purse (50-50 seems fair). Joshua also has a unification fight with Parker looming. A Wilder-Brazeale match has been bandied about as well.
That’s fine. It might even make sense for both Wilder and Joshua to get one more fight under their belts before they collide for the first time.
Here’s hoping that it happens before next Christmas. We deserve it.
Otherwise, I’m tossing an uppercut in the direction of that other famous heavyweight — Kris Kringle.