Matchroom promoter Eddie Hearn admits he is still puzzled that Tyson Fury, Bob Arum, Frank Warren and the rest of the Fury delegation did not put up more of a fit for having to walk away from the most lucrative – and most consequential – heavyweight fight in recent memory. 

A court ruling recently mandated that Fury (29-0-1, 21 KOs), the WBC heavyweight titleholder, honor his contract with Deontay Wilder (42-1-1, 41 KOs) for a third fight, thus scuttling the much ballyhooed, but torturously negotiated, matchup with his British counterpart, WBO/WBA/IBF champion Anthony Joshua (24-1 22 KOs) in an event that would have settled the question of who the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world is. 

“The question is who really wanted the fight,” Hearn, who promotes Joshua, told Steve Kim on the 3-Knockdown Rule podcast. “Because if you go back and look at the comments over time no one really sounded like they wanted the fight apart from Tyson Fury. 'AJ' believes Fury never wanted the fight, that he just wanted his name for clout. I’m not so sure. I met with Tyson Fury. I’d like to believe he genuinely wanted the fight.”

“I saw some people commenting, ‘Oh Eddie, do you feel like these guys played you all along?’ If they did, f--- ‘em,” Eddie continued. “Because at the end of the day I’m not in the business of playing people, I’m in the business of making great fights and trying to deliver for my fighters.”

Still, Hearn said he would have thought that there would have been a conversation about locking up a Joshua-Fury fight for later this year, say, in December, but nobody from Fury’s team seemed interested in pursuing those discussions. For months, negotiations for the Joshua-Fury fight seemed to drag out interminably, within in the public realm, no less, with Arum and Warren dousing cold water over the fight on one hand, and Hearn, on the other, hinting repeatedly that a deal was imminent with this or that sheikh over in Saudi Arabia, reportedly to the tune of a $150 million site fee.

But a judge from an American arbitration court ruled that Fury had to fight Wilder again before Sept. 15, which effectively put the kibosh on all the speculation. Fury-Wilder III is scheduled for July 24 in Las Vegas.

Hearn says while he is accustomed to receiving bad news on a “day-to-day” basis in boxing, he noted that the news of the superfight’s cancellation stung a bit more than usual. “I felt a little betrayed,” he said.

“When [the court order for Fury-Joshua III] happened we spoke to Bob Arum. He went, ‘I can’t believe this terrible decision, blah, blah, blah, no worries, we’ll speak soon,’” Hearn recounted. “Are you f------ kidding me? I spent five months of my life of you telling me – and Frank Warren telling me – that this fight won’t happen because I can’t get a deal over the line and the money's not there. We do everything we said we were going to do and now you just tell me it’s over. I said, ‘What are you going to do about it.’ He said ‘What do you mean?’ ‘What are you going to do now?’ He said, ‘We’re going to fight Wilder.’ I said, ‘Surely there’s a conversation to be had. Is there a step-aside? Is there a deal? You always get a number and you go from there.’ ‘No, no, no, we’re just gonna do the fight.’ And then I got off the phone.”

“I was kind of baffled at the time. It took me a little time to digest it. I just thought to myself where is Tyson Fury phoning up these guys going, ‘What have you done? I was making $60 million more for my fight, this was the undisputed fight. I don’t want to fight Deontay Wilder again.’ But he wasn’t. He was like, “Oh well, I’m fighting Wilder. Off we go.’ The whole thing stunk.”