“NO REMATCH clause,” exclaimed Tyson Fury on Monday. “The winner takes the glory, the loser goes home with his dick in his hand. How about that? Agree to that you f**king b**ch.”
That charming social media address to Oleksandr Usyk, as negotiations reach a crucial stage to seal their April 29 showdown at Wembley Stadium, instigated the latest twist in the saga to bring together the two best heavyweights on the planet.
Last week, after speaking to key players at the business table, we reported that the contest was close to collapse. Within days of going to press, however, it seemed that the fighters had resurrected the most important fight in boxing after Usyk agreed to Fury’s public demands of a 70/30 split in his favour.
After Usyk accepted the terms – with the caveat of a £1m payment to Ukraine – Fury returned to social media to tell everyone he had started training for the truly mouthwatering contest. And then, as we dared to believe the fight was really upon us, came Monday’s curious outburst about the rematch clause.
“Greedy Belly,” Usyk, who holds the IBF, WBO and WBA belts, responded. “Rematch clause came from your side, not mine. Stop whining and ducking and be a man and ink the contract or vacate the [WBC] belt. I need undisputed and not to play your stupid games.”
Team Usyk’s frustration with Fury is understood, particularly after they agreed to only take 30 per cent of the purse. Though Fury’s demand for no rematch was also met with public derision, this was merely Tyson Fury doing what Tyson Fury does. Boxing News understands that the mechanics of the rematch clause – like, for example, what happens if one of them gets injured in the interim? – were being relayed to Fury by his lawyer when, growing ever more disinterested and impatient, he decided – again – to literally take matters into his own hands.
He remembers seeing a proposed 2021 fight with Anthony Joshua collapse due to an old rematch clause he’d agreed with Deontay Wilder and is keen to avoid such a scenario occurring again. Fury wants this fight, we’re assured, but he is growing weary of wading through the kind of terms and conditions that must be in place for fights of this magnitude.
So where are we now? As we go to press on Tuesday March 14, it is understood that a final contract will be shared between the two parties and there will then be a deadline of one week for an agreement to be reached. It is not thought that the rematch clause, if Team Usyk insist upon it, will scupper the contest. Though the finer points might be complicated, it will be in the interests of both fighters that one is there.
That aforementioned payment to Ukraine was queried by some reporters as a potential sticking point but that too is all but agreed. What Fury can’t do, however, is hand over a significant wad without an understanding of where it is going or what it will pay for. So, it seems that a payment to a charity or the equivalent, as opposed to essentially buying weaponry for the Ukrainian government, is how that will be solved.
We’re therefore in a brighter place than this time last week. The tone of those behind the scenes is considerably more upbeat than it was then. So, we wait, and we hope. And that’s really all we can do, while being acutely aware that the noises we hear, both publicly and privately, are already designed to prepare us for the worst. Both Team Fury and Team Usyk are making it clear they want the contest and, should it fail to materialise, it will only be the fault of the opposing party.
April 29 is only six weeks away, let’s not forget. Though this is a contest that sells itself, the marketeers will have to work quickly to ensure this bout gets the attention it merits. And we don’t for one second believe that Fury has only just started training, but it’s true that there is a lot to cram into those six weeks. A fight week, for example, will be demanding on the boxers’ time. Before that, there will be other media obligations that will steal the space from their calendars. Drug testing procedures will need to begin.
Fury-Usyk would surely be the biggest event the sport has seen since Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao came together on May 2, 2015. The contract to that super-fight was signed and sealed on February 23, giving the paymasters a little under 10 weeks to stage the event.
For now, though, let’s keep our glasses half full and look forward with optimism. We will soon know if the fight boxing so desperately needs is indeed within touching distance. If not, the sport is again left with its dick in its hands.