Heavyweight great Evander Holyfield says the bout between Anthony Joshua and Deontay Wilder will elevate boxing to where it was during his heyday in the 1990s.
Negotiations between the sports two marquee heavyweights have yet to yield an agreement on a fight that would unify the division, with Wilder’s representatives insisting this week they had “no desire” to meet with Joshua’s camp until a “real offer” was presented.
Joshua, the reigning IBF, IBO, WBA and WBO world champion, sealed a 22nd consecutive victory on Saturday night, stopping Alexander Povetkin emphatically in the seventh round at a rocking Wembley Stadium.
Asked who he wanted to fight next, Joshua named Wilder, while an April 13 date, again at Wembley, has already been set for his 23rd bout.
While Wilder, the current WBC champion, fights Tyson Fury in the United States on December 1, Joshua-Wilder remains undoubtedly the most appealing clash in the division.
And Holyfield, boxing’s only four-time world heavyweight champion, added to the clamour this week, saying he had been blown away by the support garnered by Joshua having witnessed it firsthand at Wembley. He also called upon the fighters’ respective parties to get the deal done.
“It would be a great fight,” said the American in Jeddah. “When it’s all said and done you’re talking about what’s fair. Deontay was the heavyweight champion first, but with Joshua, he’s got all these people. I went to Saturday’s fight and there were 100,000 people coming to see him. It’s my first time seeing that ever in my life, to see a man, a boxer, draw that many people.
“I still think as a balance, both of them champions, somebody’s going to win and somebody’s going to lose. But when both people are that good, that’s when the promoter comes in, brings up the big money and gives everybody even money. If you think you’re the champ, you feel that you’re going to win. The whole big thing is what the fight would mean to the individual.”
During a pro career that spanned three decades, Holyfield was involved in some of boxing’s most memorable fights – he was undisputed champion at both cruiserweight and heavyweight – including the infamous 1997 bout against Mike Tyson.
Asked if Joshua and Wilder are talented enough to bring the heavyweight division back to the level it enjoyed in the 1990s, Holyfield said, “I truly think they are. Because Joshua’s a good fighter and he knocks people out, people want to see it. Deontay’s not a skilful fighter, but he knocks people out. People want to see the action.”