Even though a mega-fight between heavyweight champions Tyson Fury and Anthony Joshua has already been agreed upon, it’s on the backburner for now because of the global pandemic caused by coronavirus, and due to the fact that each fighter still has unfinished business with other opponents.
Co-promoter Frank Warren and Fury, however, are increasingly growing impatient to get the boxer back into the ring.
Sanctioning body semantics and mandatories aside, Fury is contractually obligated to give Deontay Wilder a rematch after beating him in February, and Joshua still owes Kubrat Pulev the long-due, IBF-mandated shot in a fight that was announced yet postponed earlier this year.
In the meantime, idle hands from both the WBC champion Fury and WBO, WBA, IBF and IBO titlist Joshua’s side signed off on a two-fight deal between the fighters for a future date.
Top Rank boss Bob Arum hinted Monday in an interview that the Fury-Wilder trilogy could be further delayed from the December 19 targeted date and instead take place in 2021, a development Warren and Fury are not too fond of.
“I spoke to [Fury] Monday morning. He was quite frustrated when [the Arum interview came out]. I was unaware of it. It came out of the blue … Fury told me, 'I want to fight this year.' That's my job, to make sure he fights this year,” Warren told BT Sport. “Fury fighting [in February 2021] is not happening. He's fighting this year. Either [with Wilder], or another fight. We want to fulfill his contractual commitment. He's not going to wait till February.
“Let's cut through it—what's the fight everybody wants to see? I don't want to hear about Dillian Whyte, and all these guys. The fight everybody wants to see is [Fury vs. Joshua]. That is the fight. Any boxing fan, and certainly any British boxing fan, that's the one. All the others, you go down that list, and put out a poll, no one would vote for other fights ... Let's get the fans what they want.”
Warren and Fury’s attitude is a cavalier one considering the multitude of hurdles they have to overcome to make the pipedream of Joshua next a reality. The onus to make a Fury vs. Joshua fight a commercial success would necessitate having fans in an arena. In a non-Covid19 world, 80,000-plus fans would be guaranteed to attend the bout in the UK.
Warren is cognizant that fans need to be a part of big-time boxing cards, but he’s also accepted the new way to do business in boxing.
“Well, [fans not being in attendance] can be [an issue], but if this is the world we're in, this is the world we’re in. Sometimes fights can disappear, and don't happen for various reasons. Let’s see what happens,” said Warren.
Arum is also aware that Fury’s next fight—which all signs still point to Wilder, because he has never expressed any interest of stepping aside—should make business sense and be pulled off in a safe and sensible manner during the pandemic.
In an interview with TalkSport on Monday (which Warren and Fury were reacting to), Arum offered the following regarding Fury and other principles immediately involved in the picture.
“The WBC approved the trilogy contract and that provides for postponements. And certainly, if you can’t do it with spectators, a reasonable postponement would be okay. It’s a different kind of fight. The Fury vs Wilder fight in the United States is a major, major fight. Dillian Whyte, nobody ever heard of him in the United States,” said Arum.
“Eddie Hearn tells you guys something different from what he tells me. But he has to take the position that advocates for Dillian Whyte. I’m absolutely clear that the Wilder fight will push ahead and then we’ll see. Then, if he wants to push Dillian Whyte to fight the winner of that fight and to deprive Joshua of the tremendous revenue that would come from a Fury vs Joshua fight, that’s on Eddie.
“I can’t talk for the WBC, I know based on my conversations with Mauricio [Sulaiman] that if the fight had to be postponed to the beginning of February, that fight would go on. What then he would determine in terms of Whyte, he might say, ‘No, Fury if he beats Wilder will have to fight Whyte.’ And therefore that would affect the Joshua fight, but again, one step at a time.
“All I know is that we are not ingrates. Tyson Fury, Top Rank, we were given the opportunity by Wilder… How do you turn your back on Wilder? That would be absolutely improper. Again, our goal is to do Fury and Wilder, and then if Fury wins, to go right to a Joshua fight plus a rematch. That’s where we stand. It would be an absolute travesty. All these mandatories, schmandatories. People are looking for what the public wants.
“If Joshua is successful against Pulev and Fury is successful against Wilder, then everybody on both sides of the pond will look at Fury and Joshua as the fight that they wanna see. And they don’t care about the mandatories, whether it’s Usyk on the WBO side or Whyte on the WBC side. People don’t care, they would be outraged."
Manouk Akopyan is a sports journalist and member of the Boxing Writers Assn. of America since 2011. He has written for the likes of the LA Times, Guardian, USA Today, Philadelphia Inquirer, Men’s Health and NFL.com. He can be reached on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube at @ManoukAkopyan or via email at manouk[dot]akopyan[at]gmail.com.