LAST week Deontay Wilder, the WBC heavyweight champion, was fantasising about unifying the division against the winner of the December rematch between Andy Ruiz and Anthony Joshua and even suggested Tyson Fury, the man with whom he has a score to settle, might be willing to accept step-aside money to make the dream come true.
Fury, though, has told Wilder to think again.
Still smarting from their draw in December, Fury has insisted no amount of money would get him to withdraw from their proposed February rematch and remains convinced Wilder has no interest in sharing the ring with him again.
“I’ve heard about Wilder saying he wants to pay me some step-aside money, but I wouldn’t take $50 million to step aside because it doesn’t mean that much to me. I only care about winning,” Fury told Gareth A. Davies of The Daily Telegraph.
“The truth is Wilder doesn’t want to fight me. He couldn’t beat me when I’d had three years out the ring and he couldn’t beat me when he knocked me down twice. He hasn’t got a chance of beating me now.
“I don’t care if he’s got 104 belts. Belts are lovely things to have, to hold, to win. But it’s about more than a belt between me and Deontay Wilder. I want to beat the man himself.”
That’s the spirit. (Though, admittedly, it would have made for an even more powerful statement had we heard it six months ago and the rematch, Wilder vs. Fury II, was imminent. As it happens, we still have some time to wait and this is boxing, so a lot can – and usually does – go wrong.)
If it wasn’t causing enough controversy already, the December 7 heavyweight title rematch between Andy Ruiz Jnr and Anthony Joshua in Saudi Arabia could be supported by a women’s fight on its undercard.
It would be a welcome move, no doubt, but whether it will be quite so well received in a country with a history of infringing on human rights laws is another question entirely.
Speaking to 5 Live Boxing, Joshua, the former WBA, IBF and WBO heavyweight champion, said: “We are looking at potentially putting a woman on the undercard. We’ve listened to the critics and asked questions to organisers. The event will be spectacular, no doubt about it.
“We hear they are building the grassroots out there. What boxing has done for the likes of myself, building confidence, this is what boxing is to Saudi Arabia. It’s not just two men coming together to fight.”
No, it’s not. Women do it, too. They do it all over the world, in fact, and in an ideal world they would be free to do it in Saudi Arabia on December 7 as well.
“That would be incredibly ground-breaking,” said the show’s promoter Eddie Hearn. “Saudi Arabia are trying to showcase to the world via sport and entertainment that ‘We are changing’. There’s no better message than delivering that.”