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Editor’s Letter: A new dawn for the heavyweight division… or is it?

Oleksandr Usyk and Anthony Joshua fought for the first time at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on September 25, 2021 (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
Usyk or Joshua will become the man at heavyweight following Fury’s latest ‘retirement’ but an even bigger change is brewing, writes Matt Christie

TYSON FURY has announced his retirement for the umpteenth time. On this occasion, however, he informed the World Boxing Council (WBC) and The Ring of his decision. Days before, Fury declared that Isaac Lowe was his new trainer while teasing the prospect of a horrible third fight with Derek Chisora.

At Boxing News, we still fully expect to see Fury in the ring again before too long. The WBC have retained the Gypsy King as belt-holder, while offering Fury a deadline of August 26 to really make up his mind. No doubt because the outcome of this weekend’s Oleksandr Usyk-Anthony Joshua rematch could well see Fury change it again.

However, it left the Transnational Boxing Ranking Board (TBRB) with a decision to make regarding the world heavyweight championship. The committee have taken Fury at his word this time, he’s a grown man after all, and opted to declare the title vacant with the winner of Saudi Arabia’s clash between the number one contender (Usyk) and number two (Joshua) set to claim the throne.

In all honesty, BN would have preferred to wait a few months until the dust in Fury’s overactive brain had settled, particularly after bearing witness to the peculiar workings of that brain for so long. But we fully support the decision of TBRB, nonetheless. In short, Fury can only cry wolf so many times.

Usyk-Joshua II is a worthwhile heavyweight title fight between two men focused on proving they’re the best in the world. Yet we’re already waiting for Tyson’s retirement to be reneged, and it might happen in a matter of days. (If he was really that set on retirement, why did he not insist on relinquishing the WBC strap there and then?)

Waiting, also, for people in the Fury business to call their man the ‘linear’ champion, something he has supposedly been since 2015, despite countless other retirements occurring in the interim. Tyson no doubt understands the consequences of promising he’s not an active fighter anymore, however. He will unquestionably be welcomed back when he realises he still wants to be.

For now, our interest is focused on what happens this weekend.

For Joshua, this represents the most important fight of his life to date. He is widely expected to lose, a position he has never been in before. That he was so determined to enter into such a contest, against a man who beat him so completely 11 months ago, speaks volumes for his character and desire to be the best he can be. Regardless of the outcome in Jeddah on Saturday night, he deserves complete respect for that.

Usyk is laying it all on the line, too. One can only imagine how the war in Ukraine has changed his life, and the burden it has become. Things were much simpler before his last contest. Should he achieve it, victory will be dedicated to his family, his loved ones, his country.

Yet the biggest boxing story in the long-term – bigger than Fury’s mind games, bigger than Joshua gaining revenge or Usyk confirming his superiority – might turn out to be Saudi Arabia reaffirming its position of power in high-end professional boxing. 

Should Saturday night’s event be deemed a success by the Saudis, it’s difficult to see how anywhere else will be able to compete when it comes to financial clout. But to ignore the very obvious sportswashing, which attempts to disguise the executions, unjust imprisonments and woeful human rights record, is wrong.

One wonders how this might affect the sport in the long-term, should the Middle East become the regular host of the biggest fights. Like the growth of pay-per-view, when fighters increasingly demanded PPV wages, we could soon be in a position where they’re insisting on Middle Eastern wages, too. Yet again, the sport of boxing will have to defend itself from accusations that, morally, too much is difficult to justify.

But who will defend it? Where does the buck stop? In professional boxing, as we should all know by now, the buck doesn’t even exist. From experience, it is a largely pointless exercise to attempt to hold the moral high ground because the people that can make a difference really don’t care about such matters. Furthermore, how many boxing fans really care? Those invested in the Saudi revolution might say if they can deliver the kind of fights those fans want to see, plenty won’t care at all.

That remains to be seen, particularly if Joshua wins, Fury returns, and the pair of them decide to do battle thousands of miles from home.

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