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ANTHONY JOSHUA and Eddie Hearn came under fire from heavyweight legends and Hall of Fame broadcaster Jim Gray out in Los Angeles on the eve of Deontay Wilder’s showdown with Tyson Fury.
Lennox Lewis, Evander Holyfield, Michael Spinks, Gerry Cooney, Riddick Bowe, Earnie Shavers and James “Buster” Douglas were in attendance to address the media and conversation soon switched from tomorrow’s showdown to the WBA, IBF and WBO heavyweight champion, Joshua.
The unbeaten Brit and his promoter Eddie Hearn were involved in drawn out negotiations with Wilder in the summer with reports of a $50m offer from the WBC champion’s team failing to bring the two heavyweights together. Instead, Joshua faced WBA mandatory, Alexander Povetkin, in September.
“Deontay Wilder came to England to challenge Anthony Joshua but Joshua didn’t answer the call so Tyson Fury answered the call,” said Lennox Lewis.
Evander Holyfield added: “I think to truly be the heavyweight champion of the world you have to fight any guy in the world – if the money is the right amount.”
So would $50m be the right amount?
“I’m in business,” laughed Holyfield.
“We’re gladiators and we’re in a gladiator’s sport,” Lewis said, “you have to take on all-comers. If you don’t the public will say, ‘You are supposed to be the best, so fight the best.’ That’s the way it should be.”
Attention soon turned to Eddie Hearn’s role in Joshua’s career.
“But you have to think maybe it’s Eddie Hearn who doesn’t want the fight [with Wilder],” said Cooney. “Over in the UK he can sell out 80,000 seats for Joshua fighting B-rated guys like [Alexander] Povetkin.”
Lewis infamously couldn’t get Riddick Bowe in the ring in the 90s when both ruled over the division. Back then, Bowe – who had lost to Lewis in the 1988 Olympic final – was advised to dump his WBC belt in the bin. Lewis was later awarded the title but failed to tempt Bowe, managed by Rock Newman, into a superfight.
“If it had been up to me, I would have fought Lennox Lewis. If I could do it all again I would fight Lennox.”
Lewis, the last man regarded as ‘undisputed’ heavyweight champion, said: “I was leading my own career so I told my manager who I wanted to fight.”
Holyfield, with tongue in cheek, admitted his manager Lou Duva chose his opponents for him.
“I left that to Lou. I didn’t want to choose because I might pick someone who would beat me and then I’d be sad.”
Holyfield won the heavyweight title for the first time in 1990 when he knocked out Buster Douglas in three rounds.
“Unfortunately I chose who I wanted to fight and I wanted to fight this man,” said Douglas. “I wanted to fight the best. Champions should fight the best.”