While Tyson Fury and Anthony Joshua seem convinced that they will box each other twice in 2021, Eddie Hearn says there are still major hurdles to overcome if that is to become a reality.
Both parties have agreed an outline deal for two fights between the holders of all four major world heavyweight titles. And the two British world champions seem convinced that the fights will happen providing they win their next fights – Fury against Deontay Wilder and Joshua against Kubrat Pulev. Hearn remains a bit more circumspect, however.
“Both guys have accepted it is agreed,” Hearn, Joshua’s promoter, said. “We have to sort out the details that both won’t want to be involved in. As far as they’re concerned it is done, they just have to win their fights.
“The two outstanding issues are Dillian Whyte is the mandatory for the WBC, and [Oleksandr] Usyk is the mandatory for the WBO. Both of those have fights to win too. Whyte has to beat [Alexander] Povetkin and Usyk has to beat [Dereck] Chisora. There’s a lot to untangle.”
Fury’s third fight with Wilder has been tentatively scheduled for December, although it could be difficult to put on with reduced ticket revenue, with fewer fans likely to travel from the UK even if crowds are allowed back into venues by then.
Joshua is due to box Pulev in November, with Whyte-Povetkin all set for August 22 and Usyk-Chisora now likely to go ahead in late October. There is an overwhelming lack of certainty about those plans, however.
“I’m not saying Fury v Wilder won’t happen, but I do think there’s a lot to play out,” Hearn said. “I’ve not heard a lot from Deontay Wilder. We are having major issues with gates and having to deliver that kind of revenue needed for that fight. We have the same issues with Pulev.
“If Wilder doesn’t want it this side of the year then Whyte will have it. AJ is going to box in November, so he’s not going to box again until June 2021. So, there is that huge period where that Dillian Whyte mandatory is due and we will be pushing that very hard.”
While Hearn is set on Joshua facing Pulev in November in the UK, there Is still a great deal of doubt about where it will happen, with the O2 Arena, which has a capacity of nearly 20,000, and the Royal Albert Hall, which has a capacity of nearer 6,000 both still possibilities.
Outside boxing, the World Snooker Championships, which Hearn’s Matchroom company stage at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield starting on July 31, has been designated as one of the British Government’s test events for allowing spectators back into venues.
The Government has stated that they hope fans will be able to return to sporting events in October, but capacities are likely to remain limited.
“We are all now working towards crowds in October but socially-distanced crowds,” Hearn said. “I do think there's good chance in November or December to going someway to filling the O2 for Joshua v Pulev and the O2 would make sense.
“First thing first is to deliver a successful testing event for the government via the snooker and then in October bring crowds back to our events in Cardiff and Newcastle. We expect a limited capacity even at that stage then hopefully, if they are successful, we will able to fill up venues in November and December.
“The work to get the Crucible approved was unbelievable. It is only 350 people but it’s important for that sport and boxing to bring back crowds. We are making plans to stage the rest of the year behind closed doors or maybe a maximum 2,000 audience.
“We can no longer build our business or let it rely on ticket sales to be successful. We have to look at other revenue streams. We are also at the mercy of the Government and the pandemic.
“We could potentially do Joshua v Pulev in front of 2,000 people at the O2. There are a lot of options. It might not be at the O2. We could look to do that fight in front of that kind of number of people.”
Fury and Joshua recently came face to face in Spain, where they were both on holiday, an encounter that both put on social media.
“It was amazing, people think it was a set up!” Hearn said.
“I phoned AJ and asked what happened. He said he was walking down the road and Fury drove up and opened the window and was like 'Alright?'
“He thinks he said to AJ 'Make sure you beat Pulev' and AJ said 'Make sure you beat Wilder' and they both said 'I will' and 'I'll see you next year'.
“It’s good. I think of the last time they came face to face. It was years ago, maybe when they spared each other.”
Ron Lewis is a senior writer for Boxing Scene. He was Boxing Correspondent for The Times, where he worked from 2001-2019 - covering four Olympic Games and numerous world title fights across the globe. He has written about boxing for a wide variety of publications worldwide since the 1980s.