From the moment they secured the televised rights for his eventual 2nd round knockout of Charles Martin to win a piece of the heavyweight crown, it was apparent that the brass at Showtime was keen on entering the Anthony Joshua business.
That goal was realized on Wednesday, when the network announced a multi-fight agreement as the exclusive U.S. television partner of the unbeaten 2012 Olympic Gold medalist and newly minted heavyweight titlist.
“I’m delighted to announce that Anthony Joshua has signed a multi-fight deal with Showtime,” stated Eddie Hearn, head of Matchroom Boxing during a press conference at Hilton Syon Park just outside of London.
Tipping their hand a bit, Joshua and Hearn were joined at the dais by Stephen Espinoza, executive VP of Showtime Sports, all but confirming the network’s previous tease of “an exciting announcement” was in fact dedicated to signing the unbeaten heavyweight.
“British boxing is at an all-time high,” stated Espinoza. “There are more world champions from here than anywhere currently. We believe that Anthony Joshua is a future star of the sport.”
The first fight under the long-term pact will come June 25, when Joshua (16-0, 16KOs) faces Dominic Breazeale in the first defense of his heavyweight title. The bout will take place at O2 Arena in London, which was sold out within 30 minutes of tickets going on sale.
As the fight is clearly a big deal in London, it will also make for a big day and evening of boxing for stateside audiences.
Showtime’s live coverage from overseas will come in the form of a Saturday matinee on this side of the pond given the time difference. The event serves as a mouth-watering lead-in to boxing action in primetime on free-to-air CBS in the United States, when Keith Thurman puts his unbeaten record and welterweight title on the line versus Shawn Porter live from Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.
Joshua’s signing with Showtime comes following a hectic week of network shopping for Hearn, who was stateside in late April in search of a long-term deal for his prized heavyweight. While boxing has made a comeback on the free networks in the U.S., the only two dogs in the hunt where Showtime and HBO.
The signing is less surprising considering the relationship already in place between Showtime and Hearn’s Matchroom Boxing. The network unveiled its Showtime Boxing International series in 2015, with all of its events featuring Matchroom fighters – Kell Brook, Scott Quigg and most recently, Joshua in his two-round annihilation of Martin on April 9 at O2 Arena.
Reigning super middleweight titlist James Degale has also been prominently featured on Showtime Championship Boxing series in each of his last two fights, both of which have taken place in North America. The most recent trip came last weekend, when he turned back the stiff challenge of Rogelio ‘Porky’ Medina in Washington D.C. to make the second defense of his super middleweight title.
The bout was paired up with fellow 168-pound beltholder Badou Jack, who beat Lucian Bute every way but officially as he was forced to setlle for a majority draw. It was good enough for Jack and Degale to proceed with a unification bout later this year, which will air on Showtime, either from England or Las Vegas.
Assuming he emerges victorious over Breazeale (17-0, 15KOs) – a 2012 U.S Olympian – Joshua’s next fight should be rolling in around that time as well, continuing a significant trend as experienced by the American cable giant.
The June 25 clash between Joshua and Breazeale will serve as either the 4th or 5th title fight to have aired on Showtime within the first six months of 2016. The latter figure is contingent upon confirmation of the network securing U.S. rights to air the May 21 clash between unbeaten titlist Deontay Wilder and former beltholder Alexander Povtkin live from Moscow, Russia.
In securing both Wilder and Joshua on its airwaves, a clear path has been created for what could be a titanic showdown as long as they both continue to win.
For now, the biggest victory goes to Showtime in landing perhaps the hottest rising commodity in the sport today.
Jake Donovan is the managing editor of BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox_v2