FOR boxing, 2021 could be off to an encouraging start. We appear to be edging ever closer to a historic fight between Tyson Fury and Anthony Joshua, as promoters from both sides have expressed their confidence in the bout taking place this year.
Speaking to Barbershop Conversations, Bob Arum – who co-promotes Fury – said he is almost entirely certain the fight will happen and even claimed a location has been agreed.
“We have a location, that’s true,” he said. “We have a location and, as far as the date is confirmed, we haven’t zeroed in on a date.
“It could be as late as June because it would give more time to solve the coronavirus problem. By June, most people will be vaccinated, so it’s possible.
“And then we would do the fight, pay-per-view in the UK and pay-per-view early evening in the United States.”
However, in response, Eddie Hearn – Joshua’s promoter – told IFL that a location has not yet been agreed and that there are still several in play, but did not want to discuss it further until it is officially finalised.
Despite that, he did also reiterate that he too is all but certain Fury-Joshua will be signed, sealed and delivered in 2021, stressing that he sees no major hurdles getting in the way at this point.
One aspect of the negotiations that has not been explored too deeply is the broadcast rights in both the UK and US. With Fury and Joshua aligned to competing platforms in both territories, there would apparently be a significant conflict there, but that does not appear to be the case.
Arum’s comments confirm what we already knew, that the fight would be PPV in both countries, suggesting that streaming service DAZN, with whom Joshua works, will offer up a PPV option for this fight, just as they did for Canelo Alvarez’ win over Callum Smith late last year.
While Arum’s and Hearn’s points about a location seem to contradict, it’s likely that Arum was referring to a site that is currently a frontrunner in the negotiations but has not yet been formally agreed. Hearn, having learned from mistakes in the past, is keeping his cards slightly closer to the chest when speaking to the media as was evidenced when he talked to Boxing News and other print media.
In his chat with Barbershop Conversations, Arum also touched on the issue of Deontay Wilder’s legal pursuit of a third fight with Fury, noting that “I don’t wanna get into legalities, but the idea of anybody stopping the Fury vs Joshua fight just can’t happen.”
In addition to this, Arum also spoke to Sky Sports about Fury-Joshua and went into some detail about Oleksandr Usyk’s mandated shot at Joshua’s WBO title.
Usyk – whose agreement with Matchroom Boxing has now ended – appears unwilling to step aside and allow Fury and Joshua to fight for all the marbles. Hearn and co. suggested Usyk fight Joe Joyce for an ‘interim’ title – which makes no sense given the point of that spurious belt is for it to only be used when a champion is unable to fight – or, as Arum suggested, give Usyk a slot on the Fury-Joshua undercard and then fight the winner.
The other option, of course, is for Joshua to drop the WBO belt and fight Fury anyway. Hearn has even recently said that both fighters could can all the titles and fight each other in a statement to the sport’s various sanctioning bodies. An unlikely scenario, but an enticing one.
Yes, there is significant and historic weight to the fight being labelled as ‘undisputed’ – but could anyone seriously argue against the victor being the best heavyweight on the planet?
It doesn’t help that with each passing week the value of world titles in boxing seem to dip. Just this week, WBC President Mauricio Sulaiman said UFC star – who is 0-1 as a professional boxer – is just one win away from getting a crack at one of their world titles.
Speaking to Sun Sport, Sulaiman said that all McGregor needs to do is fight and beat a ranked opponent, then his path is clear to a title shot. As things stand, with McGregor’s fighting weight, that would be against one of the Charlo twins or – say it ain’t so – Canelo Alvarez.
Sulaiman cited Vasiliy Lomachenko as an example of a fighter challenging for a world title in his second professional bout. He failed to mention the fact that Lomachenko was one of the greatest amateur boxers of all time, and that McGregor did not progress beyond the novice stage of his amateur boxing journey.
The only surprising thing about this is that Sulaiman and the other heads of sanctioning bodies are still trying to explain away their ridiculous policies and decisions rather than just letting us see the dollar signs in their eyes.
It would take fights like Fury-Joshua being purposefully conducted without titles on the line to loosen the stranglehold these organisations have on the sport, but it would be truly stunning if that were to actually happen.
What is less surprising is that Sergey Kovalev proclaims his innocence after testing positive for a banned substance ahead of his Jan 30 fight with Bektemir Melikuziev. Dan Rafael revealed for Boxing Scene that the adverse finding had been found in a Voluntary Anti Doping Agency (VADA) test, and that Kovalev’s team maintain “he did not purposefully ingest any banned substances.”
They have requested the testing of Kovalev’s B sample, though given his recent track record outside of the ring – assault charges against women, driving under the influence, illegally streaming a DAZN card on social media – one couldn’t be blamed for being sceptical about this failed test.