Boxing is at a weird crossroads that not everyone is getting behind, although we are still seeing some great fights in 2023.
Gervonta Davis flooring Ryan Garcia in April, Artur Beterbiev and Anthony Yarde going to war in January and Katie Taylor being handed her first professional defeat in May will all live long in the memory.
However, Jake Paul told talkSPORT on Wednesday it’s the men’s heavyweight division that’s been letting the side down, with far too many high-profile fights already falling through.
It’s hard to disagree with one of the pioneers of the new-ish phenomenon of the YouTubers joining the fight game with Paul’s defeat to Tommy Fury being the bout that’s grabbed the most headlines this year.
Hopes of seeing Tyson Fury and Oleksandr Usyk in an undisputed heavyweight world title bout are dead in the water at present, while the prospect of an all-British clash between the ‘Gypsy King’ and Anthony Joshua seems further away than it ever has been. And let’s not get started on whether we’ll see Deontay Wilder take on Andy Ruiz.
In fact, neither Fury nor Usyk have fought this year, while Joshua’s only 2023 outing was a forgettable points win over the relatively unknown Jermaine Franklin.
Paul issued a plea to Fury, Usyk and Joshua on talkSPORT on Wednesday to swallow any pride they’ve got and get these elite fights happening. However, Hearn disputed any suggestion that Joshua is in any way to blame.
“We live in a world of criticism, don’t we? If you listened to Twitter you’d never really want to get out of bed in the morning,” Hearn told talkSPORT on Thursday.
“When you look at AJ’s CV, I don’t see the criticism. I think he’s always been in those big fights, and he is an occasion. He’s going to make an absolute fortune to fight Deontay Wilder, but he wants to risk it all against Dillian Whyte because he loves the excitement, he loves the thrill.
“Even Oleksandr Usyk is facing Daniel Dubois before he maybe fights Tyson Fury. So, I think you’ve got a couple of good fights there for the heavyweight landscape.
“Tyson Fury is Tyson Fury, he’s going to do his own thing. We are in the business of Anthony Joshua, he’s got a huge fight on August 12, and if he wins that he’s got Deontay Wilder – what a six months that would be for him.”
Hearn raises a good point ahead of Joshua’s showdown with Whyte, which you can listen to live on talkSPORT by the way – AJ didn’t have to take the fight. The smart decision would probably be to hold out for Wilder and the massive payday he’s set for in Saudi Arabia.
Money can’t buy everything, though. It’s no substitute for the joy either Joshua or Whyte will feel upon having their arm raised by the referee after a victory over the enemy.
There’s no world title on the line, it won’t even play out at a sold out Wembley – this is purely about two guys who can’t stand each other settling a score in a feud that’s lingered for years.
“I think at this stage it’s win by any means necessary. This fight’s not going 12 rounds,” Hearn told talkSPORT.
“The press conference is on Monday, Dillian Whyte will try to get in AJ’s head. He’ll look him in the eye, try to put doubts in his mind, try and talk to him, I know exactly what he’ll do.
“But I think AJ’s up for that. I think he wants that at this stage in his career.
“I think if AJ can win by knockout it puts a massive statement out to the heavyweight division and you go into that Wilder fight with plenty of confidence.
“At this stage it’s win by any means necessary.”
Whatever happens on August 12, there will be fireworks – something that’s been lacking in men’s heavyweight boxing this year.
And just maybe the spectacle inside London’s O2 Arena could be enough to give the division the shot in the arm it needs.
Joshua vs Whyte on talkSPORT
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Anthony Joshua vs Dillian Whyte is live on talkSPORT – the home of boxing – on 12 August