Two men have emerged as potential challengers for heavyweight world champion Tyson Fury’s next fight, Agit Kabayel and Carlos Takam, Top Rank chairman Bob Arum, Fury’s co-promoter with Frank Warren, told BoxingScene on Tuesday night.
After Fury knocked out Deontay Wilder in the seventh-round of a one-sided rematch to retain the lineal title and win the WBC belt on Feb. 22 in Las Vegas, Wilder quickly exercised his contractual right to an immediate rematch, which was supposed to again be a joint pay-per-view between Fury broadcaster ESPN and Wilder broadcaster Fox.
However, the coronavirus pandemic and Wilder’s biceps surgery pushed the fight back from July to October and then to Dec. 19 at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas, where Arum hoped to have at least a limited amount of fans. But ultimately that date turned out not to work for ESPN because of the rescheduling of major college football games it did not want a pay-per-view to compete with.
With Dec. 19 out of the picture, Fury announced earlier this month that he would forego a third fight with Wilder and instead have a homecoming fight in the United Kingdom on Dec. 5 as a prelude to what he hopes will be an undisputed championship fight with British countryman and unified world titlist Anthony Joshua in 2021. Fury’s side claims that the deadline for the rematch clause with Wilder to be enforced has expired.
So, Fury’s team is looking at various opponents for Dec. 5 and Kabayel and Takam are the leading candidates, according to Arum, who co-promotes both fighters.
“He’s deciding on an opponent,” Arum said of Fury, adding that he still needs to talk about the particulars of any American broadcast with ESPN.
“I don’t know given the football schedule if we can do it on ESPN,” Arum said. “But until I get an opponent I’m not going to ESPN (to discuss it).”
But whoever Fury fights, Arum vowed that even with a possible Joshua fight at stake, he wanted the 32-year-old Fury (30-0-1, 21 KOs) to face a legitimate opponent. Kabayel, the unbeaten former European champion, and former world title challenger Takam would certainly fall into that category.
“I’m not doing a bus boy,” Arum said of Fury’s opponent. “Fury should beat Takam but Takam is at least known and he has been on ESPN. And he looked pretty good in the last fight. The other guy (Kabayel) is undefeated and he has fought some fairly decent guys. I haven’t come up with anybody else.”
Kabayel (20-0, 13 KOs), 28, of Germany, won the vacant European title by lopsided decision against Herve Hubeaux in February 2017 and made three defenses, including by majority decision against longtime contender Dereck Chisora in November 2017, before vacating it in 2019. He is coming off a one-sided unanimous 10-round decision over Evgenios Lazaridis on July 18 in Germany.
Kabayel was supposed to make his United States and Top Rank debut against Puerto Rico’s Victor Bisbal on Jan. 18 but was unable to secure a visa in time and the fight was called off.
Takam (39-5-1, 28 KOs), 39, of France, is as battle-tested as they come though he has lost to four top opponents, including by 10th-round knockout challenging Anthony Joshua for his unified titles on short notice in October 2017. He also has losses to Chisora, former world titlist Joseph Parker and Alexander Povetkin. But Takam has won four fights in a row, including a clear unanimous decision over Jerry Forrest on ESPN as a late substitute on July 9, taking the bout when Jarrell “Big Baby” Miller was dropped due to testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs.
Star Boxing’s Joe DeGuardia, Takam’s co-promoter, hopes his man lands the title shot.
“I’m hopeful that we will be able to put together a deal and we can have the fight,” DeGuardia told BoxingScene. “Years ago (in 2012) an up-and-coming Tyson Fury fought one of my guys, Vinny Maddalone, so it would be a nice full circle to be fighting him with another of my guys for the heavyweight championship.
“Takam has shown he has the pedigree to be fighting for the championship. He’s been active, fought three times in the past 12 months and he looked good against Forrest, a fight he took on two weeks’ notice. He’s been in the gym training. He’s very disciplined and it would be great for him to get this opportunity. Carlos and were talking today and this will be one of the rare times where he would have time train. Most of the time he’s had his big fights on short notice.”
Arum said another opponent who had been considered was contender Oscar Rivas (26-1, 18 KOs), 33, of Montreal, who only loss came by decision in his last fight in July 2019 to Dillian Whyte.
“I discussed Oscar Rivas but the theory is he’s too small. Too small, too short,” Arum said of the 6-foot-1 Rivas compared to the 6-9 Fury.
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.