By Declan Taylor
Wednesday, 13 December
BEST LAID PLANS
It was a wild Wednesday for the Week as news broke of a concrete plan for Anthony Joshua and Deontay Wilder to fight. I have been writing about this contest seriously for the best part of five years – for it to be now less than five months away feels too good to be true.
And, of course, it is. No matter that all sides have a deal in place to fight on March, 9, 2024, the fact is, both of these men have to win far-from-straightforward fights in Riyadh next week first. In fact, both of them starred in probably the greatest promotional video ever, released on Wednesday, during which a number of the key figures involved dressed up as zombies and did zombie things. Anyway, if and only if, Joshua and Wilder both win will the staff at Week Towers begin to dream.
On the subject of dreams, it was revealed on Wednesday that Devin ‘The Dream’ Haney (nice little segue that), walked into the ring for his 140lb fight with Regis Prograis at a whopping 165lbs, according to the California Commission. That was nearly 10lbs heavier than Prograis, a fully-fledged light-welter, and goes some way to explain why Haney suggested his next fight will be up at 147lb.
Thursday, 14 December
EU MUST BE JOKING
Which rolled us nicely into Thursday when basically everyone involved in the making of a potential fight with Conor Benn and Chris Eubank Jr came out and publicly stated that the fight is now off. Kalle Sauerland said it was a commercial issue, Eddie Hearn said he could not believe Eubank had turned down the money while Benn himself claimed it proves Eubank must be scared.
Whatever the case – Eubank-Benn on February 3 is officially dead but by Thursday evening Hearn revealed that he has already had promising talks for Benn to fight Haney instead. Given he has only just beaten Prograis, the fight is unlikely to take place in February but a summer showdown has far more potential.
Elsewhere on Thursday, one fight that was made official for February is the rearranged middleweight clash between Hamzah Sheeraz and Liam Williams. The pair were meant to tangle on December 2 but Sheeraz suffered an ear injury during sparring which forced the postponement. Now they will finally get it on at the Copper Box on February 10 before everyone turns their attention to Tyson Fury against Oleksandr Usyk the following weekend.
Friday, 15 December
PROOF IN THE UDDIN
As people all over the country stuck on Christmas jumpers, got pissed at office parties and snogged members of the accounts department, Friday brought with it a number of pre-weekend newslines. Firstly, Matchroom announced the signing of 20-year-old ace Hamza Uddin. Make no mistake, this is not just any old signing, Uddin is a guy everyone wanted, the youngest ever two-time senior elite national champion with a plethora of other amateur gongs. He has all the tools to be very special.
Elsewhere, The Week checked in with Fun Time Frank Warren, as he packed his suitcases before heading to Riyadh for his second gargantuan show there inside three months. One of the questions on the agenda was who would be boxing first from the two main eventers: Joshua or Wilder
“I think that will all be sorted out early next week,” Warren said. “It isn’t a problem but you have to look at time zones – America is further behind than the UK and Deontay’s fight will want to be seen by the biggest audience. It’s a joint main event but the timings will be announced soon.”
Finally, on Friday night, Jake Paul recorded his first ever win against an actual boxer when he chinned 10-1-1 Andre August inside a round in Orlando, Florida.
Saturday, 16 December
There was boxing of note all over the shop on Saturday on both sides of the Atlantic. At the Armory in Minneapolis, Showtime Boxing officially shut up shop with a low-key show which featured David Morrell stopping Sena Agbeko in two and Chris Colbert getting cleaned out by Jose Valenzuela. Thanks for the memories, you will be missed.
About 1,500 miles south west, Jesse ‘Bam’ Rodriguez produced a virtuoso performance to stop Sunny Edwards after nine rounds of their flyweight unification clash. Within hours of the defeat, Edwards, as is his way, got straight on Twitter to have his say. “Yo,” it started. “@210Bam beat my ass.”
Then Edwards, perhaps boxing’s most active Tweeter, added: “Know there’s a few.. maybe a fair few that’s been waiting for me to fall off. This is your night, enjoy it & savour it. I’ll be back, win lose or draw – real fights only.”
On the subject of Twitter, there was also action on Eubank Jr’s timeline this Sunday as he took a run up at his Wasserman Promoters after Kalle revealed negotiations regarding a fight between the Brit and Etinosa Oliha had begun.
“Went to sleep after agreeing to fight Janibek for world titles…” Eubank Jr Tweeted. “Woke up & now my promoter @sauerlandbros is trying make me fight Etinosa Oliha a boxer nobody has heard of… @wassermanboxing how & why?”
Sunday, 17 December
THE Q WORD
At 05:38 on Sunday, Boxing News sat down with the hooded figure of Sunny Edwards to chop up, in detail, what had happened seven hours previous.
Twitter was awash with people accusing Edwards of quitting, given the climax of the fight when he was pulled out. Former British champion Curtis Woodhouse was particularly outspoken.
Edwards, who suffered a medial orbital fracture to his left eye, said: “At that point my vision wasn’t where I wanted it to be and Grant was already on to me about his opinion on the fight and my face. Yeah, Grant made the decision so here we are.
“In the second round my eye had suffered damage. Grant, from around the eighth round was telling me ‘you don’t realise what your face looks like’. He was basically telling me to make something happen. I made the decision to double down on trying to do something in the fight whilst I could.
“It resulted in me getting dropped quite heavy. At that point I was skating on thin ice with how much I could see out of my left eye. Then Grant pulled the fights and no complaints from me to be honest. At this point I was honest with him for the first time – I said ‘Grant I can’t see this c**t’. It was a hard thing to admit.”
Monday, 18 December
As fight week for Riyadh’s Day of Reckoning card kicked off, the show received a blow as Jai Opetaia confirmed he has vacated the IBF cruiserweight title ahead of Saturday’s showdown with Ellis Zorro. Along with WBA light-heavyweight champ Dmitrii Bivol, the Australian southpaw was one of only two men bringing world titles to the party in Saudi.
Opetaia had been due to face Mairis Briedis next but took the Zorro fight when the Latvian sustained an injury. The IBF, however, were not happy with the situation and despite an appeal by all involved, it appears as though they rejected it leaving Opetaia to reveal the news on Monday.
“I fought through absolute agony to win that belt and it saddens me to relinquish it. But the fact is, Briedis isn’t ready to fight on December 23 and I need to stay active,” said Opetaia. “I simply can’t turn down a career high payday.
“I am the true king of the cruiserweight division… I look forward to getting that IBF belt back as soon as possible and adding all of them, one by one. I’m locked in on Ellis Zorro. I’m here to do a job and I’m not happy until that job is done.”
Tuesday, 19 December
AYA BEING SERVED?
Just like Warren promised, on Tuesday it was confirmed that it will be Joshua against Wallin closing the show in Riyadh, with Wilder-Parker the fight directly before
On what was a quiet few days basically everywhere else for the sport, the fight week in Riyadh really began to gather pace by Tuesday. Jarrell Miller and Joshua ran into each other (not literally, they were standing still) in a hotel lobby, then Big Baby gave Daniel Dubois some grief as well. Wilder, meanwhile, claimed Joshua is ‘75 per cent scared’ to fight him. At least I am 100 per cent sure that’s what he said.
What is without doubt, is that Wilder this week revealed he has recently spent time at a retreat in Costa Rica taking psychoactive drug Ayahuasca. “Man, it’s been one of the top things in my life that I’m glad that I’ve experienced,” he told the Daily Telegraph.
“Ayahuasca has done some beautiful things for a lot of individuals, not only just including myself, where they brought affirmation to their life or some type of understanding of the path that they are running in their life. I’m looking forward to doing it many, many more times. I’m actually looking to do it after this fight as well.”
Presumably he will watch the Joshua fight first, though.