Undefeated IBF Heavyweight Champion Anthony Joshua and unbeaten American challenger Dominic Breazeale had an intense face-to-face meeting on Wednesday before a contingent of major sports media outlets in London to formally announce their June 25 showdown.
The two were joined by Showtime Sports Executive Vice President & General Manager Stephen Espinoza and Matchroom Sports President Eddie Hearn, as the executives announced Joshua’s new exclusive U.S. television deal. All four participants later took part on a teleconference with U.S. media.
Highlights from Wednesday’s press conference at the Hilton London, Syon Park and teleconference are below.
Joshua (16-0, 16 KOs) will make the first defense of his heavyweight title against Los Angeles’ Breazeale (17-0, 15 KOs) live on Showtime at the sold-out The O2 arena in London. The heavyweight showdown is the first of a multi-fight licensing agreement for Showtime Networks Inc., to be the exclusive U.S. television partner of Joshua, the 2012 Olympic Gold Medalist from London.
Before the press conference, Breazeale and Joshua had to be separated. Breazeale approached Joshua and was asked if there was a problem. “I don’t know, brother, I’ve just come here to get the belt,” Breazeale said. “On June 25, you’ve got a problem. You’re a bad man because you’ve got a belt now.
“This is not acting, it’s heavyweight boxing. You can act all big and bad in front of all these cameras and your promoters, but in the end you’ve got to put a mouthpiece in your mouth and gloves on your hands.”
Joshua then told Breazeale if he had a problem, they could “settle it man to man.”
Here’s what Joshua and Breazeale had to say from the podium on Wednesday in London:
“There are a lot of positive things happening in boxing and a lot amazing things happening in my career at the moment. But I know enough to realize that this is a dangerous sport and you are only as good as your last fight. I fought and lost in the amateurs, and I know how quickly this can all change. It’s my job now to prepare myself properly and to keep this momentum rolling.
“Dominic and I are equals in many ways. He came up around the same time I did, through the Olympic Games and all. Now, with this U.S. TV deal with SHOWTIME and the deal with Sky Sports, Dominic Breazeale gets a chance to announce himself on the UK scene. And I have the chance to do the same in the U.S.”
“I’ll never overlook, never drop the ball. As far as I’m concerned, I am the underdog. I know every day of training camp and every hour of every day, where I am in my preparations leading up to a fight. We have less than seven weeks to go and we will be ready.”
“I am not here looking to see the final round. I’m not here to look at the judges’ scorecards. I am here to knock Anthony Joshua out. Period.
“I am very excited. I wish this fight was this weekend.”
When asked if he expected to fare better than his counterpart, Charles Martin.
“We are two totally different fighters. Anthony Joshua knows he is now getting in there with a beast. He knows he is in for a dog fight. He’s going to hit me and I am going to hit him. And whoever’s will breaks first will lose this fight.
“Charles Martin wasn’t prepared. He dropped the ball. He fought the wrong fight at the wrong time. He had just won the belt, was excited about that, and he took the wrong fight. I haven’t made that mistake. I won’t make that mistake.”
Here’s what the principals had to say during Wednesday’s teleconference with U.S. reporters:
STEPHEN ESPINOZA, SHOWTIME SPORTS Executive Vice President
“UK boxing is on fire right now. There are more UK champions than any other country right now and at SHOWTIME we pride ourselves on bringing our viewers the best fights and the best boxers on the planet, whether they be American, British or from any other country. It is no surprise that our desire, our quest to seek out the most talented and most exciting boxers on the planet, has led us to Eddie’s doorstep and to this deal with Anthony Joshua. We have been discussing this for quite some time. Eddie is a great advocate and ultimately Anthony’s performances have spoken for themselves.
“We had originally intended to put Anthony on SHOWTIME two fights ago but the logistics just didn’t work out, so we were fortunate enough to make his U.S. TV debut with the title fight against Charles Martin and now we’ve done a deal in which we’ve hopefully laid a foundation for hosting Anthony on SHOWTIME for the remainder of his career.
“It was bold of them for entrusting this portion of their career to SHOWTIME. There’s a wealth of good fights in the heavyweight division and most importantly of all, Eddie and Anthony are willing to take all of them.
“I’m not the biggest fan of multi-fight deals but when you have a promoter and a boxer who have committed to taking the best fights available, big or small, in the U.S. or the UK and anywhere else, it brings a lot of comfort to the network in doing those types of deals. From that perspective it was a no-brainer. We’re thrilled to have them.”
On coming to American and making statement:
“It’s a great opportunity to be on SHOWTIME because when I look back at my amateurs, I think that’s why I’ve had such a good career in Great Britain so far. It’s because people have been out to follow me since I was an amateur fighter. SHOWTIME worked with me on my first defense and now I get to build with the Americans. I’ve got friends out there and we’re going to build to a wider audience. If we can keep on building and growing organically, by the time I come out there it will be unbelievable. Just like I’m at home.”
On who he thinks will be his biggest challenge:
“I would have to say, Klitschko or Wilder. Klitschko because of the experience and Wilder because he’s the heavyweight champion of the world who’s defended his belt on multiple occasions. So I have to give him credit as the strong force of the division right now because he’s the only other champion who has defended his belt. As far as Klitschko, he’s won the belt and defended it time and time again. Those two are the main names I’m looking at.”
On how his life has changed since becoming a heavyweight champ:
“I’ve had no time. It has been three weeks since the belt was won and I know it was nice for my family. They all had a great time and my mom is telling everyone. So it’s nice to see her enjoy the fruits of labor, but for me, we got straight to organizing the next project, which is why we’re here now.
“You’re not a real deal until you fight in the states, so I thought there was a plan. Eddie has been doing a great job in the background while I’ve been in the gym and they (Hearn and SHOWTIME) pulled something together that is unprecedented, historical. So, credit to the guys that put it together while we’re in the gym putting in the work. At first I was surprised because I didn’t understand the capacity of it, but now I’m looking forward to seeing how we build up things in America.”