Deontay Wilder believes Anthony Joshua does not “have the heart” to fight him, but says a bout between the former heavyweight world champions is closer than it ever has been.
The pair are on the same bill in Saudi Arabia on Saturday and could fight each other in 2024 if they both win.
“I don’t want to say he’s 100% afraid, but I think he’s 75%,” said Wilder.
Joshua told BBC Sport he would “love to fight” Wilder, but is eyeing the IBF title first if he beats Otto Wallin.
Wilder is one of the greatest knockout punchers in heavyweight history and, while not convinced about Joshua’s intentions, remains hopeful of getting him in the ring.
“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,” the American told BBC Sport in the build-up to Saturday’s event in Riyadh.
“We’ll see what happens. The future is bright and we are farther [in talks] than we’ve ever been in history. I can say that with certainty.”
On a stacked card in Saudi Arabia, Britain’s Joshua tops the bill against Sweden’s Wallin after Wilder takes on former champion Joseph Parker.
Both Joshua and Wilder are on the comeback trail after losing world titles in the past three years to Oleksandr Usyk and Tyson Fury respectively.
Joshua, 34, is a two-time world champion – having unified the WBA, WBO and IBF divisions – with a record of 26 wins and three defeats.
Wilder, 38, held the WBC belt from 2015 to 2020 until he lost to Fury and 42 of his 43 victories have come by knockout.
Joshua is promoted by Matchroom Boxing and Eddie Hearn, while Wilder has spent most of his career with Premier Boxing Champions and adviser Al Haymon, as well as being managed by Shelly Finkel.
On why the pair have not yet met, Wilder said: “Money hasn’t been the issue. It comes with 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 is as well. That’s why the fight hasn’t happened.”