After months of protracted negotiations it seemed the heavyweight showdown between Anthony Joshua and Tyson Fury was close to being finalised, only for a legal ruling in the United States to scupper the deal.
Fury announced last week he would take on Joshua in Saudi Arabia on August 14 but hours later an arbitration hearing upheld Deontay Wilder’s claim that he was contractually owed a third fight with the WBC champion.
Here, the PA news agency takes a look at what has happened since then as the all-British affair pitting two fighters who hold all four major world titles against each other has been, at least temporarily, shelved.
So, Joshua-Fury is off then?
It seems so, at least for now. Fury was supporting Josh Taylor on Saturday night and publicly signed his contract for a trilogy fight against Wilder shortly before his Top Rank stablemate and fellow Briton defeated Jose Ramirez. The date for Fury-Wilder III is July 24 in Las Vegas, with the T-Mobile Arena and Allegiant Stadium – the home of NFL side the Las Vegas Raiders – the venues reportedly under consideration. That will probably be revealed once Wilder signs his deal and there is an official announcement.
Should this fight have happened sooner?
Fury comprehensively defeated Wilder via seventh-round stoppage in their February 2020 rematch 14 months after their first fight ended in a controversial split draw. The next instalment of their rivalry was slated to occur last summer but a bicep injury to Wilder – he subsequently had surgery on his left arm – and the Covid-19 pandemic nixed the proposals. A showdown last winter was scrapped because of a lack of available television dates, prompting Fury to move on based on the assumption, incorrectly as it turns out, that the agreement between them had expired.
So it is Fury’s fault the Joshua fight has fallen through?
It would be hugely unfair to apportion blame to the fighter in this situation, given this is a legal issue. Fury has been boxed into a corner and claimed his adversary wanted 20million US dollars to step aside, which was a non-starter. However, sympathy is in short supply for the ‘Gypsy King’, with the overwhelming majority of fans seemingly siding with Joshua. The WBA, IBF and WBO champion even stuck the boot in last week as he labelled Fury a “fraud” in a furious back-and-forth social media exchange.
Now Fury is tied up, what does Joshua do?
News of the arbitrator’s ruling prompted Joshua’s promoter Eddie Hearn to start working on “plan B”, with WBO mandatory challenger Oleksandr Usyk mentioned as an alternative to Fury. The WBO last Wednesday gave Hearn 48 hours to “show cause” why Joshua-Usyk should not be next and the Matchroom chief’s appeal for an extension until Monday morning was rejected. Therefore, the sanctioning body has told the fighters they have until May 31 to reach an agreement for a fight or purse bids will be immediately called.
Can a Joshua-Fury fight happen later this year, then?
Steady on. Fury may have dominated Wilder when they were last in the ring but the American, as he displayed in their first fight, is one of the biggest hitters in history, with 41 knockout wins in 44 fights. While Fury will be heavily favoured, it is not a foregone conclusion that he will have his hand raised. Similarly, Joshua cannot afford to overlook the unbeaten Usyk even though the former cruiserweight kingpin is relatively untested in the top division. The Ukrainian arguably possesses the greater skills and if he can withstand Joshua’s power then the challenger will prove a highly tricky proposition. Nothing can be taken for granted in boxing and if one or both of Joshua and Fury lose then a fight between them becomes less appealing. And even if they do win, who is to say what happens next? The pair could face further mandatories. It is why there was so much frustration last week – windows for undisputed title fights do not come along often and this one has slammed shut.