Earlier today just outside of London, England at the Hilton Syon Park Hotel American premier cable network Showtime revealed one of their biggest boxing coups in recent years.
Eddie Hearn, head of British promotion Matchroom Boxing, announced that International Boxing Federation heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua signed a multi-fight deal with Showtime. This was done at the press conference launching the promotion of Joshua’s first title defense against Dominic Breazeale being held May 25 at London’s o2 Arena. Showtime Sports executive vice president Stephen Espinoza was also on hand for the event.
In signing Joshua, arguably the fastest rising commodity in the sport, Showtime has put itself at the forefront of an ongoing renaissance in the heavyweight division. The network already is the de-facto home of World Boxing Council champion Deontay Wilder and will also show his mandatory defense against Alexander Povetkin in Moscow, Russia on May 21. Showtime will also thanks to Joshua be able to possibly also land New Zealand prospect Joseph Parker.
Hearn stated that the decision to sign Joshua to an American network came to the choice between Showtime and rival HBO, who has their own heavyweight stable featuring Wladimir Klitschko and World Boxing Association interim champion Luis Ortiz. In terms of style and logistics Showtime makes more sense for Joshua with the network either showing the feed from British counterpart Sky Sports as part of their Showtime Boxing International series or having their main broadcast team of Mauro Ranallo, Al Bernstein, and Paulie Malignaggi fly to England. HBO for its part has their broadcast team of Jim Lampley, Max Kellerman, and Roy Jones Jr. call their international cards from a U.S. studio with the exception of welterweight Manny Pacquiao’s fights held in Macau, China.
The keyword when it comes to this situation is ‘international’ due to choices made by Joshua earlier in his life. In 2009 he had an ankle bracelet upon release from Reading Prison and was pulled over in 2011 by police in north London for speeding where 8 oz. of marijuana in his possession were discovered. The 2011 incident resulted in Joshua pleading guilty to charges of possession with intent to supply a class B drug in British court and almost cost him his spot on the 2012 British Olympic team. That conviction could for the time being also prevent him from crossing the Atlantic and making his debut on American shores due to current immigration laws.
That bump in the road could be a blessing in disguise as Joshua has become big money in England. His April 9 fight where he took the IBF title from then-champion Charles Martin via second round knockout sold out in 90 seconds after it was announced. The fight announced today with Breazeale, an American whose undefeated record is murky at best, sold out in 30 minutes. Any fighter who goes to England to be put against Joshua is guaranteed to get a decent payday.
A payday that has now become much more lucrative thanks to Showtime.