Deontay Wilder claims Anthony Joshua is ‘afraid’ of him ahead of heavyweight fights in Saudi Arabia

Deontay Wilder has claimed that Anthony Joshua is ‘75 per cent’ afraid to box him, as the heavyweights prepare for their respective fights in Saudi Arabia this weekend.

Wilder will box Joseph Parker in Riyadh on Saturday (23 December), on the same card as Joshua’s bout with Otto Wallin. It is expected that Wilder and Joshua will face each other next, but the American still has doubts over “AJ”’s willingness to step in the ring with him.

“I don’t want to say he’s 100 per cent afraid, but I think he’s 75 per cent,” Wilder told the BBC. “I’ve learned over the years, especially dealing in boxing, that nothing is for sure until it’s for sure. And I know that’s a little bit confusing, but what’s understood doesn’t have to be explained.

“We’ll see what happens. The future is bright and we are further [in talks] than we’ve ever been in history. I can say that with certainty. Money hasn’t been the issue. It comes with [Joshua] not having the heart, the will, the courage to step in the ring.

“I don’t really just blame it on Joshua. I blame it on his handlers, on his promotion and his management, because let’s face it: Joshua is the cash cow of the company; without him, no money is drawn into Matchroom. We all know that.

“Not only do I feel Joshua is intimidated of me, but I feel his promoter [Eddie Hearn] is as well. That’s why the fight hasn’t happened.”

Wilder went on a long unbeaten run and became WBC heavyweight champion before losing the title to Tyson Fury in 2020. The pair initially fought to a controversial draw in 2018, before Fury stopped Wilder in their rematch to take the belt. Then, in a trilogy bout in 2021, the Briton knocked out Wilder again to retain the title. Wilder’s only fight since has been his knockout of Robert Helenius in October 2022.

Joshua vs Wallin is expected to be the main event in Riyadh on Saturday, as AJ seeks his third win of the year after beating Helenius and Jermaine Franklin. The Briton outpointed Franklin in April before stopping Helenius.

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