Top Rank boss Bob Arum is willing to bypass the biggest boxing match in British history for his own rooting interests.
The 89-year-old co-promoter of Tyson Fury would prefer to see Oleksandr Usyk beat Anthony Joshua on Sept. 25 rather than have Joshua beat WBO mandatory challenger Usyk to further help set-up the super fight against Fury -- should the WBC heavyweight champion also beat Deontay Wilder on Oct. 9.
"Usyk is a friend of mine because he is Vasiliy Lomachenko's friend. He is a terrific guy, funny, articulate and smart,” Arum told Sky Sports. "It is against my economic interest, but I will be rooting for [Usyk] in the fight! I just can't help myself."
Usyk is not promoted by Top Rank, but is often seen ringside at the company’s shows supporting fellow Ukraninan countryman and Olympics gold medal winner Lomachenko. Both fighters also share the same manager in Egis Klimas.
Arum, along with Frank Warren and Joshua promoter Eddie Hearn of Matchroom Boxing, have already struck a two-fight pact in March to pit Fury and Joshua for all of the heavyweight marbles.
In May, Fury prematurely announced an Aug. 14 date to fight Joshua in Saudi Arabia. Days later, an arbitrator ruled Wilder was entitled to a third fight with Fury. The originally announced July 24 date for the Fury vs. Wilder trilogy was moved to later this fall after Fury contracted COVID-19.
Both Joshua and Fury have serious opponents and obstacles to overcome for the fight to finally come to fruition, perhaps as soon as next February should Joshua and Fury both remain victorious and unscathed.
Arum appears unbothered who Fury’s eventual dance partner will be.
"There are a lot of good heavyweights that we could fight," he said. "Tyson, because of his personality, has really appealed to the American audience and is such a big favorite in the U.S. He is larger than life, he is a straight talker, and people in the States love him.
"This is a new era. We have never seen heavyweights of the size that we see now. We've never seen a guy of 6'9'' like Tyson fight the way he does. Or Joshua. They are all huge … In ordinary times a guy like Usyk, against a 6'2'' heavyweight, has a really good shot. But against a massive guy like Joshua? It may be a bridge too far."
Joshua, meanwhile, is promising to disrupt Arum’s wishes.
"I'm looking to do a good job, to handle business, because I have my eyes set on other things [after the Usyk fight],” Joshua told Sky Sports.
Manouk Akopyan is a sports journalist, writer and broadcast reporter. He’s also a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and MMA Journalists Association. He can be reached on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube at @ManoukAkopyan, via email at manouk[dot]akopyan[at]gmail.com or on www.ManoukAkopyan.com