In what might be the most exciting piece of news we’ve had in recent weeks, ESPN’s Mark Kriegel was informed by his sources that talks are underway to make a blockbuster fight between Tyson Fury and Anthony Joshua. According to ESPN, MTK Global – who manage Fury – are negotiating with Joshua’s promoter Eddie Hearn on behalf of Top Rank and Queensbury Promotions, who promote Fury, because of the rift between Hearn and Frank Warren. Here’s the catch though; the talks at this stage are predominantly focused on where the fight would take place, and it looks like Saudi Arabia, or somewhere in the United Arab Emirates. There were other unconfirmed reports that Saudi Arabia are willing to put up £400m for the fight.
This presents a moral dilemma – Saudi Arabia’s human rights record is eye-wateringly awful, however they may be the only region on the planet who can come up with the funds to actually get this fight made. I’ll be honest, I swallowed my morals and watched Joshua’s rematch with Andy Ruiz in the desert, so I’d absolutely do the same for a fight with Fury, as bad as it would taste.
There’s also the glaring issue that the biggest fight in British boxing history wouldn’t actually be taking place here in the UK. Boxing News’ Matt Christie has already fantasised about a Wembley clash between Fury and Joshua in these pages – it would be unforgettable.
Alas, boxing follows the money – if Saudi Arabia is our only hope of getting this fight, then so be it. As Fury himself said to ESPN: “I’ll fight in Timbuktu if the money’s right. I have a bag, and I will travel.”
However, any Fury-Joshua deal would have to include enough money to pay off Deontay Wilder and Kubrat Pulev to step away from their respective contracted fights with the two reigning champions. At this stage, neither man intends to do so.
Shelley Finkel, who manages Wilder, told ESPN and BoxingScene.com that “as far as we are concerned, the next fight for Deontay Wilder is the third fight with Tyson Fury.” Now, the pedant in me notices how this doesn’t actually rule out Wilder stepping aside – he could take the money and wait on the sidelines until the dust settles and then fight Fury.
Pulev’s team were more bullish though, releasing a statement that read: “There’s no way out, even though Joshua keeps looking for new ways to avoid us. We have exercised our right to fight for the title we’ve been waiting for for years.
“We understand that a fight with Fury and Joshua is big for the United Kingdom. The last we checked, we do not all live under a newly established British Empire. Let’s just all do the right thing and move forward with the fights we have in writing. After Anthony Joshua loses to Kubrat, he can go fight whoever he wants.”
Indeed, but one suspects suspect if enough money were offered, Pulev would step aside.
The British Boxing Board of Control gave more details about the eventual return of live boxing shows here in the UK in a statement that outlined how they hope for the sport to resume professionally in July, but that this will most likely be behind closed doors and these shows will each have five fights maximum. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; the Board know what they’re doing.
ESPN’s Salvador Rodriguez unearthed yet another sad tale during the coronavirus crisis; in Mexico, former strawweight world champion Mario Rodriguez is now cutting people’s hair for 50 pesos (roughly $2) after the gym he trained people in closed.
Rodriguez retired last year after his trainer was shot and killed, and then moved into coaching himself. After his gym was forced to close during this pandemic, he’s now trying to make ends meet cutting hair. If it wasn’t already clear; world titles don’t guarantee wealth, especially in the smaller weights.
If you’re looking for more existential reading during this period of lockdown, The Spectator has you covered. Simon Barnes wrote a piece titled “What’s the point of boxing?” in which he argues that it’s actually a very inefficient form of combat, if your aim is to incapacitate your opponent as quickly as possible. He lands on the argument that it’s not about that, though. Boxing – putting your fists up and swinging – is a human instinct that has existed for thousands of years, one that is linked to an assertion of dominance, rather than more lethal aims. He notes how animals like cobras, impala rams and even humpback whales perform similar rituals when challenging one another, rather than using their most dangerous assets.
It’s an interesting take, though Barnes finishes by noting that the winner and loser both walk away living and breathing – by no means a guaranteed outcome in boxing. Speak to actual boxers and they’ll tell you it’s more than just a sport or a ritual of competition – many of them really are fighting for their lives.
Matchmaker and promoter Richard Poxon has set up a new boxing magazine show on YouTube – Black Eye Barber Show. He’s started up the channel with former world champions Johnny Nelson and Anthony Crolla and the trio are providing regular content, whether it’s breaking down the latest boxing news or interviewing key figures.
It started out in a make-shift studio Poxon pulled together but has obviously shifted to a conference video call format while everyone is in lockdown. The show presents a pretty open take on various topics and, where possible, pulls in guests with expert views on them.
In a similar vein, Sky Sports apparently fired the staffer who came up with their show titles before launching The Boxing Show on YouTube, where Anna Woolhouse conducts various interviews, harking back to the Ringside glory days. In the most recent episode Hearn insisted Dillian Whyte will fight Alexander Povetkin sometime soon behind closed doors. It’s interesting to see how broadcasters and other stakeholders are adapting content during these times; YouTube is clearly a popular stomping ground. Outlets like IFL, Boxing Social and Seconds Out – which rely on their YouTube content – now have much stronger competition to compete against, with far less news to cover at the moment.