EDDIE HEARN believes the deal that will bring Anthony Joshua and Tyson Fury together in May or June will be finalised within the next four weeks.
Once the contracts between the parties are finalised, the not so small matter of the venue will be resolved.
The UK is not under consideration to host. The pandemic brings frankly insurmountable problems given the timescale but, even if that wasn’t the case, Britain’s lack of bargaining power always made the British superfight taking place on British soil unlikely.
We’re told, therefore, that the contest – one of the biggest in boxing history – could end up in one of the following: Australia, Singapore, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Eastern Europe or America.
“We’ve had so many approaches in the past about so many different fights,” Hearn explained. “Generally half of them are real and half are someone who’s trying to spin some commission.
“That’s why I want to get into a position where we can go out collectively to talk to these people once a deal is in place. I think the Middle East will be very aggressive and will be frontrunners in this.
“But we’ve had a lot of other interesting approaches from territories that we might not have thought were players in this fight but I believe they are.”
Hearn effectively ruled out America as a viable option.
“To stage this fight you’re going to need significant government support,” he said. “I don’t think a major gate alone [will be enough], and this is the problem with the US where we could do a huge gate. It needs to be bigger than that.
“It’s going to be difficult for a country that doesn’t have financial support from the government to land an event like this. You need someone who is going to stage the fight as a statement for their country, for exposure for their country, to showcase tourism and to showcase they’re up and running as a nation.
“Anywhere that is reliant on a gate is out of the question in light of the restrictions.”
Hearn rolled his eyes when it was put to him that Fury’s promoter Bob Arum had this week confirmed that a venue was already firmly in place.
“He was having one of his funny fags or whatever, I don’t know,” responded Hearn. “There is definitely not a venue agreed for the fight but there are conversations going on with a number of venues.
“Whether Bob thinks there’s one specifically we’re going to take, there’s absolutely no agreement on a venue yet but there have been a number of offers from venues.
“I don’t want to get into a situation of going backwards and forwards with venues and negotiating site deals until we have a solid deal in place with the fighters and that, for me, is the chronological order of what to do here: Deal agreed, let’s now move forward. Both fighters have to agree with the site deal to make sure they’re happy with where it’s going and we’re almost in a position where we can go out and look at where this fight is going to take place.”
As well as finding a venue there are also various broadcasters to appease. Hearn doesn’t believe that getting Sky Sports, BT Sport, DAZN and ESPN all singing to the same hymn sheet will be a problem.
“I don’t think it will be difficult,” he said. “There’s a solution for everybody. The two broadcast issues are DAZN and ESPN in America; ‘AJ’ has a matching rights deal with DAZN and Fury has an exclusive deal with ESPN. When you flip that in the UK, AJ has an exclusive deal with Sky and Fury has matching rights with BT Sport.
“Is there a deal where all four of those parties can carry the broadcast of the fight? Yeah, I believe there is.
“I can’t speak on behalf of Sky but I’m not sure they would have an issue with saying to the public you can watch on Sky or BT. When it’s a fight of this magnitude, I don’t think anyone is looking to be obstructive.”
Hearn’s deal with Sky Sports expires in the summer. There has been speculation that he will move on, particularly considering his involvement with DAZN. The promoter would not commit but indicated a new deal with the British broadcasters is likely.
“We’ve got a long-standing relationship with Sky and we’re in negotiations to extend that,” said Hearn.
“We’ve had three approaches from different broadcasters to look at or entertain a long-term deal with them. I’m very happy where we are, we have a fantastic pay-per-view platform, we have a great team of people at Sky who have allowed us to grow and have trust in our vision for the sport. We’ll be looking to finalise that in the next four to six weeks.”
Other potential party poopers include: the WBO; their mandatory Oleksandr Usyk; and Deontay Wilder. The former WBC champion is still thought to be chasing the third fight with Fury that was contractually obliged. Mediation with Wilder is ongoing but, according to Hearn, it isn’t expected to prevent Anthony Joshua-Tyson Fury at this juncture.
Usyk and the WBO may not be so easy to solve. But the worst case scenario would appear to be that Joshua-Fury goes ahead without the WBO title at stake.
If all the obstacles are being cleared, removed or at least pushed to one side, why are we still waiting on a deal?
“The deal is done, really, without being signed. The financial elements of the deal are done, we’re talking through the broadcast situation, the only thing really now is to paper it, which is what’s going on at the moment, and when you paper a deal like that, it does go back and forward 15 times before every single letter is approved on the document. From there, we have to go out to the various sites and nail that as well.
“Why is it taking a little bit longer? I don’t think the deal is taking longer, I think the contract is taking longer, if that make sense. So I’m confident we have the basis of a deal in place but we don’t have a signed contract yet, and that is something – over Christmas, with people in and out of the office – has probably taken a little bit longer than I expected and I know that everyone is going to want this absolutely perfect before we announce.”