Top Rank chairman Bob Arum on Saturday chalked up heavyweight champion Tyson Fury’s recent comments that downplayed there being a deal agreed to for an undisputed title fight with unified titlist Anthony Joshua as being due to his frustration.
“He’s getting impatient. That’s how he is,” Arum told BoxingScene from Cabo San Lucas, where he was on vacation for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic began now that he is vaccinated.
“I think that everybody is proceeding the way they should be proceeding. When the fight will take place, where it will take place -- that will work itself out. But right now we’ve got a mother f------ pandemic. You can’t look at this like it’s (2019).”
On Friday, Fury attended the MTK Global card in Bolton, England, to support his friend Isaac Lowe, who won on the undercard. During the ESPN+ stream of the card, Fury did an interview with the broadcasters and was asked about the fight with British countryman Joshua, which has been in negotiations for months but is all but finalized, according to Joshua promoter Eddie Hearn and Fury co-promoters Arum and Frank Warren. In fact, Hearn said in recent days that an announcement was imminent.
However, Fury said as far as he was concerned the fight was not a done deal and he threw cold water on it being announced any time soon.
“I'm not training anymore," Fury said during the interview. “I'm not training no more. I've never stopped training since December 2017, and even after these world title fights, I trained the next day. I go running 10 miles, doing things. I'm in the gym sparring and messing around.
“I'm taking some time away from the game at the moment, because, like I say, I've been ready to fight since I beat Deontay Wilder last year. I've had no success in getting another fight, which is down to the Covid and a lot going on. At the moment I'm just concentrating on getting me 10 pints of Stella to 12 everyday.”
Fury went on to say, “Everyone in this building knows more about this fight than I do. Apparently, it’s done, it’s signed. We got a date, a venue. News to me. I don't know jack. I don't know anything. As far as I'm concerned, I'm not even training anymore. I've stopped training. (Trainer) Sugar Hill (Steward) has gone home. He went home in November, end of November. (Assistant trainer) Andy Lee’s gone home. I’m burnt out, ya know? I need a rest, mentally and physically and emotionally.”
Arum said he was sure that Fury was just frustrated and said there are no outstanding issues in finalizing the fight – other than when and where it will take place, and that is only because of the uncertainty caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
“That’s his nature. He’s impatient,” Arum said of Fury. “Listen, if I could wave a wand and end the pandemic wouldn’t I do it? We’re all on the same page. Eddie’s on the same page, everybody’s on the same page.”
Fury complained about not having a date for the fight during his interview on Friday and Arum said there was none yet other than the hope it could take place by late June or early July at the earliest.
“Look, everybody is stuck in the same thing, the coronavirus,” Arum said. “Nobody is going to put up money while the virus will impact spectators and everything. All these athletes are unhappy but so am I unhappy. So is everybody unhappy. Just be patient and it will straighten out.”
The camps recently agreed to terms and exchanged contracts to make sure all the language was agreeable. Arum said they agreed but are in a holding pattern over the site and date.
“The problem is when can we schedule the fight and where,” Arum said. “Everybody is in the same boat. Nobody is going to allow a big crowd except the f------ governor of Texas, who don’t give a sh--. Everybody else is going to take precautions.”
The likely site is Saudi Arabia, which put up tens of millions of dollars to host Joshua’s rematch with Andy Ruiz in December 2019. Arum said that was one of the locations interested in the fight while another source with knowledge of the discussions told BoxingScene that Saudi Arabia was the probable site -- but only if there can be a large crowd.
“The big money other than the gate will come from the U.K. pay-per-view and you want to get it as close to prime time as possible,” Arum said of Saudi Arabia being a possible site since it is only a three-hour time difference between there and the United Kingdom.
Asked if he was at all concerned about so many fans becoming restless with how long it was taking for the fight to be finalized, Arum was terse.
“You know what I say? Go f--- yourself. Find a life. That’s what I would say to them,” Arum said. “For Christ sake, we’re all dealing with a fraught situation that is none of our fault and we don’t have the expertise if there is any expertise to deal with it. “(The earliest would be) end of June, beginning of July. But, again, I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know what the medical experts are saying.
“We’re all in a very fraught situation because we’re dealing with an element we have no control over. I’m hoping to get spectators for May 22 (in Las Vegas for the Jose Ramirez-Josh Taylor undisputed junior welterweight title fight) but what happens if there’s a surge (in Covid-19) and the governor says, ‘Screw you, no spectators.’ (Fury) looks at it from his standpoint, training and all of that sort of stuff and he’s angry. Not angry at us, angry at the pandemic I guess. We can’t wave a wand and make it go away.
“There are no substantive issues except for the pandemic. Who’s going to put up money for a site unless they can attract people from the outside? He’s impatient. He’s a fighter. He’s training. He wants a date. He wants to know how he prepares. We all want that. It is what it is. There are no villains here other than the pandemic. Not Eddie. Everybody is behaving appropriately except the pandemic.”
While Joshua (24-1, 22 KOs) went one year without a fight he returned in December to knockout mandatory challenger Kubrat Pulev in the ninth round in London. Fury (30-0-1, 21 KOs), 32, has not boxed since February 2020 when he knocked out Deontay Wilder in the seventh round of their rematch to retain the lineal title and win the WBC belt.
Dan Rafael was ESPN.com's senior boxing writer for fifteen years, and covered the sport for five years at USA Today. He was the 2013 BWAA Nat Fleischer Award winner for excellence in boxing journalism.