By Keith Idec
NEW YORK – Anthony Joshua was as surprised as anyone when he learned Monday that Tyson Fury signed a co-promotional agreement with Bob Arum’s Top Rank Inc.
The IBF/IBO/WBA/WBO heavyweight champion suspects he would’ve taken more criticism than Fury if he had been the one to agree to a deal that would’ve further complicated making a fight against rival Deontay Wilder. He’s not sure, however, that Fury signed with Top Rank and ESPN simply to avoid facing Wilder in an immediate rematch.
And that’s coming from Fury’s biggest British rival.
“It’s interesting because if that was me, it’d be, ‘Oh, he doesn’t wanna fight. He’s going to a different network,’ ” Joshua said Tuesday before a press conference at Madison Square Garden to promote his June 1 fight against Jarrell Miller. “But it’s good for him if he’s happy. As he said, if he doesn’t fight me, he doesn’t mind sitting back in this rocking chair and kind of enjoying his multimillion-pound tour. So, he’s made the decision based on what’s right for him, I felt.”
The 30-year-old Fury feels aligning with Arum’s experienced company, combined with the broad reach of ESPN, gives him more leverage in negotiations for a rematch with Wilder. It also could help him make sizeable purses for lesser fights if the Wilder rematch doesn’t happen next.
A deal nearly was completed late last week for Fury (27-0-1, 19 KOs) and Wilder (40-0-1, 39 KOs) to fight again May 18 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn. The Top Rank-Fury announcement Monday morning muddled negotiations, but Joshua thinks there’s still a chance Wilder and Fury will fight next.
“I think there will be a way that they can get it together,” Joshua said. “But it’s interesting. Maybe it could’ve been a situation where he could’ve fought [for Top Rank and ESPN] after. He could’ve signed the deal after [fighting Wilder again]. But it’s very interesting. I don’t know why he would’ve done that deal if it would’ve jeopardized the fight.
“But at the same time, I feel like he done the deal hoping it wouldn’t jeopardize the fight because they’re keen on getting that rematch. That’s what jeopardized the April 13th date, is that Tyson Fury and Wilder rematch. So, it’d be interesting to wonder why he would sign a deal after all that who-ha, to jeopardize the fight once more. Do you know what I mean? That’s interesting.”
Wilder and Fury fought to a controversial draw December 1 at Staples Center in Los Angeles. Fury survived two knockdowns – one apiece in the ninth and 12th rounds – to make it to the final bell in a 12-round match many experts and fans felt Fury won.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.