TYSON FURY remains the frontrunner to be named Fighter of the Year despite that year ending in February. A December 5 homecoming against Agit Kabayel, designed to put the icing on a 2020 cake baked with the scrambling of Deontay Wilder, is now off the table.
It was hoped Fury would top Frank Warren’s 40th anniversary show at the Royal Albert Hall (still set to go ahead with Anthony Yarde-Lyndon Arthur topping the bill) but in the end, largely because of the Covid world we now live in, terms couldn’t be agreed.
Fury is represented by Warren in this country but, according to Frank, his US promoters Top Rank put forth demands that couldn’t be met. Fury’s US broadcaster, ESPN, wanted the event to be delayed until the early hours of the morning to suit American audiences. Finding the finances for such an event was also difficult in a sporting world operating without revenue from ticket sales.
There’s also the not so small matter of Wilder to consider. Though it was widely reported his window to sign for a third fight had closed, the former WBC heavyweight champion believes he’s still legally obliged to the contest and that case is currently in arbitration in America. Contracts aside, Wilder’s performance in their return, when he was defeated in seven one-sided rounds in Las Vegas, didn’t exactly merit it and neither has his conduct since as he’s blamed everyone and everything bar himself for the loss.
In the immediate aftermath, Wilder pointed to the ludicrous outfit he wore into the ring as the culprit for exhausting him. It was too heavy, he said. In fairness it looked too heavy, and it’s a long old walk from the changing rooms in the MGM Grand to the ring, but it surely couldn’t have been the first time he’d tried it on. His long-term co-trainer, Mark Breland, was chastised and later sacked for throwing in the towel while Wilder was getting the life pounded out of him. Wilder may not now be in a position to do anything at all if that contest had continued in the same manner for much longer. He’s also insinuated that his water was tampered with by Breland.
“It’s a shame because I like Wilder a lot,” Warren told Boxing News. “But he’s been embarrassing himself. Breland acted like his friend and this is how he gets treated.”
Even if there’s some truth to Wilder’s claims, a simple, ‘I know what went wrong and I’ll put it right next time’, would have sufficed. Keep it classy and all that. It’s hoped that behind the scenes he’s facing the truth and is not now chasing a third contest purely for the paycheque. His ramblings speak of an unwell man, he needs the right people around him to ensure his mind is stable enough to box again.
Fury’s mind should also be monitored carefully. It’s likely he’s facing at least a year out of the ring. The last time he endured such chaos, albeit when he found himself facing allegations of performance enhancing drug use, his career went into a tailspin. There is always that fear with an inactive Tyson Fury.
None of this should overshadow what the “Gypsy King” achieved this year. Even if 2020 had been a normal year, the battering of Wilder would have been hard to top. Like Marvin Hagler in 1985, who was named joint Fighter of the Year by The Ring on the strength of beating Thomas Hearns in three rounds, Fury thrashing Wilder so completely deserves the highest accolade.
It should also have led directly to the biggest no-brainer in boxing: Fury vs Joshua. The longer we’re waiting for it and the more obstacles that are put in front of it, the less likely it becomes. If Fury and Wilder have to fight in front of an audience, as Bob Arum has always maintained, everything gets delayed again.
“If it’s not Wilder next for Tyson, then it will be Anthony Joshua,” said Warren. “That’s the fight we all want isn’t it?”
It should be that simple. But it in boxing, it rarely is.