FOR months it seemed all but certain that IBF, WBA and WBO heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua will fight Dillian Whyte at Wembley Stadium on April 13 yet the recent split draw between former world champion Tyson Fury and WBC holder Deontay Wilder appears to have hastened a possible match between Joshua and Wilder or even Joshua-Fury if the parties can agree terms.

In a somewhat confusing interview with ESPN’s First Take, the Londoner stated that Wilder is his number one target as he holds the WBC’s green belt. Then he wrote off a potential Fury fight by asserting that when he turned professional he was not aware of the lineal history of the division and therefore doesn’t have time to promote and prepare for the contest.

In fact, you would expect something to be firmed up in early-January, as you would need all of February and March for promotional and other duties. The 29-year-old, though, was keen to stress that he is waiting for a serious offer.

“He [Wilder] is saying I won’t fight him but, as I’ve said, I’m willing to fight Deontay Wilder on April 13 in London, so I don’t know what more I have to do to get that message across,” he said when talking to Max Kellerman.

He added: “I made sure with the negotiations, I booked the date in advance, set the venue in advance and I’m making my point clear in front of everyone watching: I’m willing to fight any one of these guys, especially the champion Deontay Wilder. On April 13 at Wembley [Stadium]. What more can I say?”

Joshua initially dismissed Fury due to the fact he does not hold a title, and seems less than impressed with claims that the “Gypsy King” is seen by some as the lineal holder, a claim that was pushed to breaking point during Fury’s near three-year hiatus.
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“When I was joining the heavyweight ranks, nobody told me about [being] lineal champion,” said Joshua. “I knew about the WBC, IBO, IBF, WBA and WBO [belts] and I’ve got my hands on four of them. So where has lineal popped up out of the woodwork from?

“But if I’ve got to get my hands on that too and that’s the belt the world’s interested in, Fury can step in if he’s serious. That’s where I’m coming from, I want to fight the champions. I’m the one leading the pack, I’ve been doing that since I made my debut. Five years in, seven world title defences and I’m running the game — I mean business. I don’t know what more I have to do to get that message across to the world.”

As clarifications goes it seems to have just muddied some already murky waters, but it will be music to the ears of everyone who wants to see a round robin between Joshua, Fury, and Wilder. Still, it will not go down well with Whyte and those who desperately want to see a rematch of what was a pretty one-sided 2015 fight when you take Whyte’s second-round left hook out of the equation. Whyte also has a sizeable task on his plate when he meets Dereck Chisora at London’s O2 next Saturday.

Another thing to consider is that Joshua has had two fights a year during the past two years, so if he wishes to retain all of his titles one of his 2019 slots will be used to accommodate the IBF’s mandatory challenger Kubrat Pulev. If Whyte does indeed get the nod for April it means that Joshua may have to go out three times in 2019 in order to ensure that Wilder and Fury do not steal his thunder again.

Without wishing to sound like Columbo, there is one final thing about the interview that bothers me. Wilder has not come across as the easiest person to negotiate with — at least not for Team Joshua, the Fury fight happened fairly quickly and painlessly — so as negotiating tactics go telling him that he has to accept Wembley on April 13 as a base camp offer could be like holding a red rag to a bull.

All the American has to do is to counter with an offer for the fight to take place in the US and we will once again by dragged into the Groundhog Day-esque grind of their previous attempts at making a fight.

Paisley’s Alex Whelan may not be a household name yet the 63-year-old trainer is seen as a legend in his local area. The man who trained Kevin McIntyre and Kris Karslaw shows no sign of slowing down after guiding Kash Farooq to a British bantamweight title win over Jamie Wilson (w rsf 1) in September. “Untouchable” then proved that the victory was no fluke by winning a decision over Iain Butcher last month.

The Pakistan-born, Glasgow-based champion has established a firm bond with his coach, and the 22-year-old told the Paisley Daily Express that he has not looked back since hooking up with Whelan.

“I’ve always had the skill, the fitness, but Alex has taken me to the next level strength and conditioning wise,” he said. “He’s given me a diet plan and stuff that I didn’t really have a clue about. As boxers we need to look after our bodies and you need those type of people to come in and give you the right information.”

Whelan won several bodybuilding titles as a young man so it is no surprise that he knows how to knock up a diet sheet; he also believes that his charge has enough skill to progress beyond domestic level. “Everybody’s raving about him as the next best thing to come out of Scotland,” stated Whelan.

“The plan is to get him to compete for a European title and then take that to a world title at some stage. Kash is a very good boxer. He’s always won on points as he didn’t have enough power. We wanted to get his body fat down and his muscle weight up. After I started training him, his next three fights he won by knockout. His strength levels went up about 40 per cent.”

SALE’S Sam “Nowhere 2” Hyde picked up a horrendous swelling to his left eye when losing to Richard Riakporhe in eight rounds in October. The 25-year-old was leading on all three scorecards when a right hook caused the injury that eventually prompted his corner to throw in the towel.

Despite this setback, Hyde believes that he can have a strong 2019 and remains on course to fulfil his career ambitions. “In my career I’ve always shown heart and guts, I’ve always said there’s no chance that I’ll ever give up and you’ve got to put me to sleep to beat me, otherwise I’ll keep coming,” he said when talking to the Manchester Evening News.

“In the space of 12 months I’ve dislocated my knee in a fight which I got up to win [against Gheorghe Danut in October of last year] and had a huge haematoma on the side of my face. So even though I didn’t get the win on the night, I think I did win in the long run because all the millions watching saw a bit about me, saw my different attributes and also the kind of heart I have inside and outside the ring.”

Despite looking like it was possibly a long-term injury, Hyde revealed that his eye was on the mend within days and that he can get back into action within months. “I had cryotherapy in Altrincham, so within four days it was back to normal so it looked worse than it was,” he added.

“I didn’t fracture anything, I didn’t break anything, it was just a bit of a freak injury…I’m hoping to fight in February. I’ll be back in the title mix before we know it and I’d like to get that British title.”