No Need: Putting Anthony Joshua and Deontay Wilder in against Otto Wallin and Joseph Parker is just asking for trouble

By Anish Parekh

“WHEREVER you are in the world tune-in December 23 for one of the greatest boxing cards ever put together!” announced the Queensberry Promotions X account on Wednesday (November 15).

A card featuring Anthony Joshua and Deontay Wilder in Saudi Araba certainly caused a stir and created intrigue among boxing fans around the globe when it was announced on Wednesday evening in London. Not only that, it is a not-so-subtle sign of what to expect next if the two men overcome Otto Wallin and Joseph Parker two days before Christmas.

Fans of a naïve or inexperienced nature will look towards this event as the precursor to something bigger. They’ll assume Wallin and Parker simply serve as fodder before the world inevitably gets the Joshua-Wilder clash it has been pining for. But in a sport containing as much jeopardy as boxing, particularly within the treacherous landscape of the heavyweight division, the word “if” cannot be easily dismissed.

Otto Wallin already almost derailed Wilder’s super-fight rematch with Tyson Fury, when, in 2019, he dragged the “Gypsy King” into a desperate war and opened up a gash above his eye that many felt warranted a stoppage. Joseph Parker, meanwhile, is a former titlist with good fundamentals, hand-speed, and experience against top opposition.

Joseph Parker shadowboxes in the ring

In culinary terms, if this December 23 card is considered as something of a starter, what they have done is let a couple of lunatics into the kitchen with the ability to burn down the whole restaurant before the main course (Joshua-Wilder) is served.

While nowhere near as egregious a cash-grab as Fury vs. Francis Ngannou, there simply isn’t a requirement for a tune-up fight other than to drain the cash-cows of every bit of milk. The clash of styles and personalities between Joshua and Wilder has surely marinated long enough for boxing fans to happily part with their money, yet somehow, seven years after they first simultaneously held titles, fans are not just made to wait to watch them fight but are asked to pay to see the possibility of that clash never happening at all, with the heavy hands of Wallin and Parker ready to turn the “Day of Reckoning” into the “Day of Wrecked Dreams”.

Joshua and Wilder are former titleholders, but both are in their 30s. They’ve been through some wars and are very likely past their best. It’s as if the promoters, who unquestionably know more about the sport than me, have suddenly experienced memory loss and forgotten the number of times perfectly laid plans have been torn up by disruptors such as Buster Douglas, Andy Ruiz and so nearly the aforementioned Francis Ngannou.

Ngannou knocks Tyson Fury during their 10-round heavyweight fight at Boulevard Hall on October 28, 2023 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia (by Justin Setterfield/Getty Images)

In fairness, this is a good card. It is also refreshing to have a number of recognisable names all competing on the same night. However, that perhaps says more about the poor quality of undercards we have been accustomed to of late rather than the supposed greatness of this one; particularly when we take a glance at how the UFC regularly delivers events with significant and meaningful matchups.

I’ll admit, when it was announced that Joshua and Wilder were to fight on the same card in Saudi Arabia, I cynically rolled my eyes and thought that it was so typical of boxing to evade the obvious matchup and risk the mega-fight with a money-fight. Yet, as a fan, I’m almost instinctively compelled and conditioned to watch, even though I feel foolish for doing so.

But it is with the hope of better nights to come that, despite boxing’s constant faltering, I believe it will eventually get things right; meaning, in this instance, Joshua-Wilder will eventually be served as the satisfactory feast famished fans of the sweet science need to justify their claims that this is the greatest sport in the world.

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