Anthony Joshua's Boxing Multiverse, Part 3: What if Deontay Wilder accepted fight for undisputed heavyweight champion?

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It's officially fight week! Anthony Joshua's rematch with Oleksandr Usyk in Saudi Arabia represents another fork in the road moment for the former heavyweight champion. On the eve of a potentially career-altering fight, The Sporting News looks back on the four biggest moments that have come to define the former heavyweight champion's career and ponders "what if?" with the 32-year-old boxing superstar.

Welcome to the Anthony Joshua multiverse. 


There was a time when a fight between WBC titleholder Deontay Wilder and WBA (Super), WBO and IBF champion Anthony Joshua was on the verge of taking place and decided who the first undisputed heavyweight champion of the four-belt era would be. 

The two sides were deep into talks in 2018 and went as far as Wilder reportedly accepting a deal to face Joshua in the United Kingdom. But then, as always in boxing, things broke down in a hurry over money. It was reported that Wilder was initially offered $12.5 million but then countered with demands to get a $50 million payday for the clash of the giants. 

The two sides tussled over location and money until they reached an impasse. Joshua would go on to face Alexander Povetkin while Wilder opted to defend his title against Tyson Fury. 

Things were never the same for Joshua and Wilder after that. 

But what if Joshua and Wilder found a middle ground to make the fight? How would that have reshaped the landscape of the sport?

MORE: Join DAZN to watch Usyk vs. Joshua 2

If Joshua and Wilder met in on the originally proposed date of September 15 at Wembley Stadium it would have been a massive event that had the potential to smash attendance records in the U.K. while also pulling in a huge pay-per-view butyrate (as long as it wasn’t on DAZN). But it also would have left a few heavyweights out in the cold.

Before we get to the fight itself, what would have happened to Tyson Fury? Fury was in the midst of making his comeback following a “retirement” to work on his mental health and personal demons. After making his successful return against Sefer Seferi in June 2018, Fury defeated Francesco Pianeta in August. However, instead of going into a fight with Wilder in December, Fury would have had to wait as The Bronze Bomber would have been busy with Anthony Joshua. 

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If Fury wanted to stay busy with increasingly better opposition, he likely would have lined up a December fight with Dillian Whyte, Derek Chisora or Alexander Povetkin. Chances are that he would have ended up facing the winner of Wilder-Joshua sometime in 2019. 

Oleksandr Usyk may very well have made his heavyweight debut just as he did in 2019 but might have been waiting for his turn at heavyweight gold as the Wilder-Joshua-Fury carousel would have just started spinning.

The fight itself between Wilder and Joshua would have been a massive event and incredibly difficult to predict considering that both fighters would have entered undefeated with a combined record of 61-0 with 59 knockouts. Regardless of the outcome, it would have been perceived as one of the biggest heavyweight fights in boxing history. 

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Although both have become stars in their own right, nothing would have compared to how their respective careers would have been boosted heading into this fight. A global media tour would have likely taken place to set the stage for the biggest heavyweight fight of the 21st century to determine an undisputed champion. 

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It’s hard to believe that this fight would have gone on without a rematch clause with the winner getting home court advantage and the opportunity to either bring the fight to the United States or see it remain in the U.K.

Whoever won would have had the boxing world in the palm of their hand and probably would have gone on to become the biggest star in the sport. But now both are looking to rebound from losses and get their respective careers back on track. 

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