Former heavyweight world champions Anthony Joshua and Deontay Wilder are reportedly close to returning to action on the same bill, which will be held in Saudi Arabia on December 23rd.
Dan Rafael has reported that Joshua and Wilder are close to agreeing to share a bill in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, after discussions with Turki Alalshikh of Saudi Arabia’s General Entertainment Authority.
December 23rd was previously reserved for the undisputed heavyweight encounter between WBC world heavyweight champion Tyson Fury and unified heavyweight champion Oleksandr Usyk. However, the prospect of the clash taking place on December 23rd was ruled out by promoter Frank Warren, who insisted that the fight would be pushed back into the early months of 2024 following Fury’s encounter with former UFC heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou last month.
Fury would suffer a third-round knockdown and scrape a split decision victory over Ngannou with scores 96-93 and 95-94 for Fury and 95-94 for Ngannou.
A fight between the heavyweight champions had been agreed and signed before Fury clashed with Ngannou on October 28th.
With Fury-Usyk now delayed, Alalshikh still wanted to proceed with a major boxing event on the December 23rd date and is now close to securing arubably the nest best possible options with Joshua and Wilder.
Talks between Joshua and Wilder to secure a fight between the pair have taken place for most of the year but have yet to succeed in getting any prospective fight over the line. The pair had been close to finalising terms in August of this year with Skills Challenge Entertainment, a Saudi promotional entity. However, changes in the governance in boxing within the kingdom and Alashikh taking a more hands-on approach operationally regarding boxing have now made the former effectively defunct.
It remains to be seen if Joshua and Wilder will face off against each other in 2024, which Joshua’s promoter, Eddie Hearn, had been working towards securing alongside Wilder’s long-time manager, Shelly Finkel.
The reporting of Joshua and Wilder appearing on the same bill has come out of the blue, with Hearn previously stating that Joshua could feature on the December 23rd date but at London’s O2 Arena instead, with no previous mentions of Wilder featuring.
Earlier this week, promoter Frank Warren, talking to TalkSport, revealed that an event would still occur on December 23rd at the Boulevard Hall stadium in Riyadh. The same venue which held Fury vs Ngannou without mentioning who the prospective fighters would be.
“There’s gonna be a big night in December,” Warren said in the interview. “We’ll be announcing it very soon, and it will be massive. You’re gonna love it, I promise you you’re gonna love it.
“I can’t give you all the information at the moment, but everything’s going in the right direction for something to be a historical night of boxing. It’s gonna feature boxers from all over the world. You will be surprised by the names.”
If Wilder is confirmed to feature on December 23rd, it would mark his return to the sport after a fourteen-month absence following his first-round knockout victory over Robert Helenius in October 2022.
Meanwhile, Joshua has remained active with two fights in 2023. First against Jermaine Franklin in April, with Joshua claiming a unanimous decision points win before returning in August to knockout Robert Helenius in seven rounds, with both contests being held at the O2 Arena in London.