How close is a deal for the much-anticipated heavyweight world title unification fight between Anthony Joshua and Joseph Parker?
Close enough that Duco Events promoter David Higgins, co-promoter of Parker, is on his way to England to meet with Joshua promoter Eddie Hearn of Matchroom Boxing to finalize the deal.
“I’m on my way to London because it looks like we are close enough to board this plane and to go see Eddie in person so we can fine-tune the details and put the finishing touches on this deal,” Higgins told ESPN on Sunday night — Monday afternoon in his home country of New Zealand — as he waited for his flight to take off.
Higgins’ 26-hour journey took him from Auckland, New Zealand, to Hong Kong for a layover and then on to London, where he will meet with Hearn. Higgins said he would not make that kind of trip if a deal were not imminent.
“In boxing, some camps haggle and argue over trivial stuff, and it gets in the way of fights,” Higgins said. “They have petty arguments. Eddie is more like me in that he’s straightforward, and based on the negotiations that we have had to date, we can close out the final details and get an announcement in about a week. There are just a few minor things, co-promotional stuff that we’re working on. We’re dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s.”
The probable date for the fight is March 31 at a venue to be determined in the United Kingdom, with a site in England or Wales most likely.
Higgins and Hearn agreed on the split of the revenue a couple of weeks ago, with Joshua’s side getting about two-thirds of the money and Parker’s camp getting one-third.
“When it comes to the major things in this deal, we are already on the same page,” Higgins said. “Everything is positive, so I am going to London with confidence that we will wrap this up and have a big fight.”
Higgins said that one element that has not yet been settled — though it isn’t an issue between him and Hearn — is the American television rights.
Showtime, which has been televising Joshua fights, has a matching right for one more of his bouts under its expiring contract. HBO has had major interest in Joshua, has an exclusive contract with Hearn fighter Daniel Jacobs and televised Parker’s title-winning fight against Andy Ruiz in December 2016. Top Rank’s Bob Arum, who co-promotes Parker, would like to bring the fight to ESPN as part of his long-term deal with the network.
“The discussions for the American television broadcaster are going on right now, but the fight will have a major television outlet in the United States,” Higgins said.
Joshua (20-0, 20 KOs), 28, of England, perhaps the biggest global star in boxing, has defended his world title four times, including drawing 90,000 to Wembley Stadium in London for his epic, 11th-round knockout of former longtime unified world champion Wladimir Klitschko in April in the 2017 ESPN.com fight of the year and 78,000 to Principality Stadium in Cardiff, Wales, for a 10th-round stoppage of former Parker victim Carlos Takam on Oct. 28.
New Zealand’s Parker (24-0, 18 KOs), who turns 26 on Tuesday, has defended his title twice. He won a lopsided decision against Razvan Cojanu in New Zealand on May 6 and then traveled to Manchester, England, and won a majority decision against mandatory challenger Hughie Fury, the cousin of former world champion Tyson Fury, in his hometown on Sept. 23.