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Here's how boxing could have an undisputed heavyweight champion by the end of 2018

Kevin Iole
Combat columnist

If you’re one of those silly enough to believe that any single fight can “save” boxing, then it stands to reason that Eddie Hearn is the messiah.

The 38-year-old is the managing director of Matchroom Sport, the promoter of WBA/IBF heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua. March is a huge month for the heavyweights, with WBC champion Deontay Wilder defending his title on March 3 at the Barclays Center on Showtime against Luis Ortiz.

And on March 31, Joshua and WBO champion Joseph Parker will meet in Cardiff, Wales, also on Showtime, to unify three of the four major belts.

That could – and we should emphasize could in the strongest possible terms, because this is boxing and we know that promoters almost always act in their own self-interests and not in the interest of the sport at-large – result in an undisputed champion by the end of the year.

Anthony Joshua fights WBO champion Joseph Parker on March 31. (Reuters)

Hearn is going to have a major say in whether that unification takes place. Assuming that both Wilder and Joshua win their fights in March, Hearn said he’s open to a bout for the undisputed title being held in Las Vegas, where it could generate a $20 million paid gate. Only four fights in boxing history – Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao ($72.2 million); Mayweather-Conor McGregor ($55.4 million); Canelo Alvarez-Gennady Golovkin ($27.1 million) and Mayweather-Alvarez ($20 million) – have ever done gates that large.

And this is getting way ahead, but Hearn said he thought it would be good business to have them fight twice, once in the U.S. where Wilder lives and once in the U.K., where Joshua lives.

“We’d fill up that arena with Brits,” Hearn said of a theoretical Joshua-Wilder fight at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. “We’re open to a U.S. fight for the Wilder fight. I think it makes sense to do two, not because we want any rematch clause, but because it’s the biggest fight in world boxing. Why not run it twice? The fans would love to see it. Run it twice. One at Wembley [Stadium in London, where Joshua drew 90,000 to watch him defeat Wladimir Klitschko last year] and once in Vegas, or at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, somewhere like that.

“I think your estimation of [a $20 million] gate is right, because it is the biggest fight in world boxing. It’s the most exciting fight in world boxing. It’s the most dangerous fight in world boxing.”

The good news is that Hearn understands the need to develop boxing and create passion among the fan base.

When an arena is full and energized and there is great passion among the fans, the atmosphere is better and those who are there are more likely to become hooked.

So Hearn isn’t one of those promoters who wants to print a few billboards, send an email announcing tickets are on sale and wait for the money to come rolling in.

“Maybe this is a comp-ticket problem,” Hearn said of promoting fights in the U.S. “You do have a comp culture here, where when the events reach the last few days, the venues and sometimes the promoters [give out comps]. We did some comps [when I promoted] in Long Island [in November]. Those people don’t really know what they’re there for. ‘Who’s fighting?’ ‘I don’t know. I’m just here.’ Those are the kinds of people you don’t really want at the shows, because you want the people who are passionate about being there.

“The guys who are rooting for their guys, that’s how you create passion and atmosphere in the arena. You create stars that people do feel passionately toward and feel emotional about. That’s what we’ve got in the U.K. Every fighter who is a televised fighter has their own following. They’re there, they’re on the edge of their seats, they’re shouting, they’re screaming for their guy. That’s something you’re missing over here [in the U.S.].”

A Joshua-Wilder fight in Las Vegas with the four major belts on the line would create a nearly unprecedented scene at T-Mobile. (AP)

A Joshua-Wilder fight in Las Vegas with the four major belts on the line would create a nearly unprecedented scene at T-Mobile.

While I don’t believe that any one fight could save – or damage – the sport as a whole, having these two fights with the winners meeting for all the marbles will have a huge impact.

It will not only garner the attention of those who have lost touch with boxing because of its innumerable issues, but it will also re-light the flame of hardcore fans, who watch despite always being ready to be disappointed.

If Hearn can get together with Wilder promoter Lou DiBella and manager Al Haymon to get the unification fight made, assuming Joshua and Wilder each win, he’s going to take a big step toward pushing boxing back toward relevancy.

Wilder and Joshua are both charismatic personalities who attract people. With one of them as the unified champion, he’d become a global superstar and inspire passion among millions.

If Hearn is a man of his word and goes forward with a unification in the event of wins by Joshua and Wilder, he’ll go a long way toward cementing his legacy as one of the few promoters who care about the product on a long-term basis and not just on making a quick buck off a one-night score.