There are just some fights in the sport which far exceed any alphabet trinket at stake.
Those involved in the biggest heavyweight fight to be made might be forced to put that theory to the test.
Handlers for lineal heavyweight champion Tyson Fury and unified titlist Anthony Joshua continue to push forward with talks for a potential all-British heavyweight superfight. For the moment, such a fight would come with every major title at stake, although Joshua’s outstanding mandatory title defense obligation with Oleksandr Usyk (18-0, 13KOs) remains a significant hurdle to be cleared.
A number of scenarios are being explored, all of which directly involve Matchroom Boxing’s Eddie Hearn who promotes Joshua and co-promoted Usyk along with K2 Promotions-Ukraine for his last three fights.
One such possibility has Watford’s Joshua vacating the WBO title, leaving Usyk to fight the next available challenger in what would be a significantly smaller payday. Another would have the Ukrainian southpaw being financially compensated to step aside and allow Fury-Joshua to happen first, with a written assurance that he would face the winner.
“I obviously work close with Usyk. They are in a strong position as the mandatory challenger,” Hearn noted while in Hollywood, Florida for a pre-fight press conference ahead of Gennadiy Golovkin’s middleweight title defense versus Kamil Szeremeta which takes place this Friday on DAZN. “At the same time, we have a fight on our hands—and sorry to the governing bodies—that eclipses all belts. We just got to be a little bit careful.
“You may be on the verge of going, ‘You know what? Let’s just get rid of all the politics right now. Let’s just drop all the belts.’ Because if you give up one belt, you might as well lose them all.”
Talks of such a heavyweight clash of the titans picked up steam shortly after Joshua (24-1, 22KOs) rid himself of one mandatory challenger. The hulking Brit easily turned away Bulgaria’s Kubrat Pulev (28-2, 14KOs), scoring a one-sided 9th round knockout win over the IBF number-one contender this past Saturday at SSE Arena-Wembley.
The win came more than a year after Joshua regained the WBA/IBF/WBO/IBO belts in a 12-round landslide decision over Andy Ruiz last December in Diriyah, Saudi Arabia. Their rematch was permitted to happen only due to Pulev reluctantly agreeing to wait his turn in line, again with the promise of a straightaway shot at the winner.
Usyk is now in the same position, having abandoned his World cruiserweight championship in pursuit of becoming a two-division champion. That move came with the promise of his being inserted as the number-one contender to Joshua’s WBO title, having since agreed to a stay-busy fight versus Derek Chisora whom he outpointed this past Halloween. The 2012 Olympic Gold medalist from Ukraine has shown extreme reluctance in a willingness to budge beyond that, as his team has repeatedly stated that his next fight will be for the WBO title, regardless of who is standing in the opposite corner.
Similarly, any effort to crown an undisputed champion will only be met with more mandatory obligations. To that, there is a radical solution.
“It gets to the stage where you got the biggest fight in all of boxing. You’re paying each governing body hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars,” points out Hearn. “Now you got another guy who probably wants seven figures to step aside. So you just have to be careful.
“The aim of this fight has always been to be for the undisputed championship, When Anthony Joshua came into my office years ago, that was always the dream. We will do whatever we can to make sure every belt in boxing is on the line for the Tyson Fury fight.”
Manchester’s Fury (30-0-1, 21KOs) reclaimed lineal championship status along with picking up the WBC title following a one-sided 7th round stoppage of Deontay Wilder in their rematch this past February in Las Vegas. Their bout—which came nearly 15 months after they fought to a split decision draw in December 2018—included a contract clause for the losing fighter to call for an immediate third fight which Wilder exercised.
The deadline for when that fight was supposed to take place is now in mediation, representing Fury’s lone hurdle in moving forward with a showdown versus his in-country rival.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox