US TV pushes for Joshua-Wilder

Anthony Joshua has the backing of influential American broadcaster Showtime in his pursuit of Deontay Wilder.

Both heavyweight champions' fights are broadcast in the United States by Showtime, which wants to exert its clout to help agree a fight for the undisputed title.

"We do. We have a vested interest in both guys, and feel attached to each," Showtime vice president and general manager Stephen Espinoza told Sky Sports.

"If we can help mediate, we will. We have offered that. We are a key element of the negotiation."

Joshua unified the IBF, WBA and WBO belts against Joseph Parker on March 31, after WBC holder Wilder retained his belt against Luis Ortiz.

"Wilder has my 100 per cent attention," Joshua told Sky Sports this week. "We're about to make another offer to Wilder's team – a very good offer that should create a lot of interest from Wilder."

Joshua's promoter Eddie Hearn first held talks with Wilder's representative Shelley Finkel in late 2017 and Showtime has now lent its weight to a fight for all four major belts.

"If we can grease the wheels, in terms of getting the deal done attractively to everyone, then we will do our best," Espinoza said.

"I have no doubt that this fight will happen. 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.

"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 making this fight at the right time, under the right conditions."

Joshua sold almost quarter of a million tickets in 11 months having twice filled Cardiff's Principality Stadium after beating Wladimir Klitschko at Wembley. His popularity has begun to resonate in the United States, according to Espinoza.

He said: "There is absolutely a demand from US boxing fans to see AJ. 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 premier in the US against someone else."

Showtime does not have a definitive preference on whether Joshua-Wilder, if it can be agreed, should be staged in the UK or the US.

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

"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."