It's the fight everyone wants to see - and our countdown to Tyson Fury vs Anthony Joshua begins with a look at how we get there.
Tyson Fury vs Anthony Joshua: the road to a superfight
A fight between Tyson Fury (30-0-1) and Anthony Joshua (23-1) would be the biggest in British boxing history - a meeting of two world heavyweight champions at the peak of their powers and an intoxicating clash of personalities and styles.
Last week the sporting media went into meltdown when Joshua’s promoter Eddie Hearn and Fury himself both announced that the fighters had ‘agreed in principle’ to the financial structure for a two-fight deal, likely for 2021.
But as the dust settles after the resulting frenzy, now comes the reality that there are a number of obstacles still in the way of these two men actually getting into a ring together.
Here furyjoshua.com looks at the hurdles which must be overcome before this huge event can become reality.
Fury vs Joshua: What needs to happen next
While Hearn and Fury were extremely positive and upbeat as they announced that ‘agreement’ between the two fighters, Frank Warren and Bob Arum were not quite so bullish.
Boxing history is littered with dream fights which never actually happened, or happened later than they should have. Floyd Mayweather Jr and Manny Pacquiao remember, finally locked horns for their superfight in 2015 when the perfect time was 2010.
So here are just a few of the bridges which have to be crossed before we properly go into a frenzy of excitement for the fight which will captivate the nation.
As already detailed, all we have at this stage is a broad financial structure which has been ‘agreed in essence’ per Hearn. A two-fight deal with a 50-50 split for the first bout and the winner taking a 60-40 share for the rematch. Nothing unusual there for top-level boxing.
But until we have signed contracts, we have no fight - and while the various promotional parties have stressed they are all on the same page in the desire to do a deal which both fighters want, nothing is guaranteed yet.
Daniel Kinahan, adviser to Fury and the subject of a flurry of media coverage in the UK and Ireland about his alleged past, has handled negotiations with Hearn and Matchroom so far - and Fury credited him last week with being fundamental to "getting the deal across the line".
Fury meanwhile is co-promoted by Warren’s Queensberry Promotions and Arum’s Top Rank - and the 88-year-old Hall of Famer Arum gave a fascinating insight into the dynamic between the promoters, telling Seconds Out: "I’m in a unique position, because I really on a personal basis like Frank, I’ve been dealing with him for years, and I also like Eddie - his father Barry and I did a lot of fights together a couple of decades ago.
"So again, whenever things seem to get out of line with Frank and Eddie - which happens quite often - there’s Dan (Kinahan) to come in and make peace, and also I think myself. I think Eddie and Frank both respect me as well."
Warren meanwhile admitted: "It’s not gonna get any more competitive than this. The camps are against each other, the fighters are against each other. It’s got all the ingredients of a massive, massive showdown."
Fury vs Wilder 3
Such was the manner of Fury’s destruction of Wilder in their rematch in Las Vegas in February, there was an element of surprise when ‘The Bronze Bomber’ (42-1-1) immediately exercised his contractual right to a trilogy fight.
But while Fury’s aggressive gameplan overpowered Wilder and highlighted his technical flaws in that rematch, we shouldn’t forget he was dropped twice in their first meeting - a controversial draw in Los Angeles back in December 2018. A third fight is no formality against the most explosive puncher in the heavyweight division.
The bout was initially scheduled to take place in July but a combination of the COVID-19 pandemic and a bicep injury for Wilder quickly scuppered that plan. October was then mooted, but now the fight is likely to take place in November or December per Arum.
The venue will depend largely on which site can actually allow a paying crowd into an arena after the COVID lockdown. The rematch at the MGM Grand Garden Arena drew a record live gate for a heavyweight bout of just under $17million - a tough hole to fill were this one to go ahead behind closed doors.
At the moment Macau appears to be the favourite to stage the fight if crowds are not allowed back to sporting events in the United States by the fourth quarter of this year. Even Australia over Christmas has been mooted, but that would appear to be an outside chance.
Fury unsurprisingly is favourite to defeat Wilder again at 2/7, with Deontay an 11/4 shot.
Joshua vs Pulev
Thirty-nine-year-old Bulgarian Kubrat Pulev (28-1) is the mandatory challenger for Joshua’s IBF belt, and had been due to meet AJ at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on June 20. But then COVID-19 struck.
As with Fury vs Wilder 3, the hope is the fight can now be staged before the end of the year with Hearn keen to avoid Joshua’s enforced hiatus (he last fought against Andy Ruiz Jr in December 2019) lasting too much longer.
Again the main issue here is the venue, with a number of possibilities being mentioned - including the ancient Roman amphitheatre in Pula, Croatia. Some recent updates though have Hearn even considering putting the fight on in front of small and socially distancing VIP crowd at a venue such as the Royal Albert Hall.
Pulev’s previous challenge for world title glory ended in a knockout defeat by Wladimir Klitschko back in 2014, and while his co-promoter Arum continually talks up his chances, the challenger is a 5/1 shot with Joshua a heavy 1/8 favourite.
Mandatory mayhem: undisputed or not?
Now this is where it gets really confusing....
Boxing’s sanctioning bodies often seem to provide more questions than solutions - the last thing a sport so often mired in politics needs. And Fury vs Joshua could yet become another high-profile casualty.
While both fighters already have interim fights before any Fury vs Joshua showdown can happen, their future mandatory obligations could yet throw further spanners in the works.
Dillian Whyte (27-1) has been sitting and waiting seemingly since the beginning of time as the mandatory challenger for Fury’s WBC belt. He, like Joshua, is promoted by Hearn’s Matchroom outfit and is supposed to get his title shot by the end of February 2021.
WBC president Mauricio Sulaiman reiterated recently that Whyte should get his chance to fight for the title after Fury vs Wilder 3, and Whyte has now taken legal action in a bid to make sure that happens.
Meanwhile the WBO has also thrown its hat into the mandatory ring by saying Joshua must face its leading contender - classy former cruiserweight king Oleksandr Usyk (17-0) - next if he safely negotiates Pulev.
Many experts believe the WBC issue can and probably will be removed by the body handing Fury ‘franchise champion’ status (they did so with Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez at middleweight and Vasyl Lomachenko at lightweight). This would remove the need for Fury to face mandatory challengers and hand Whyte the WBC title, but would also throw up another issue per former ESPN lead boxing writer Dan Rafael.
He told IFL TV: "Let’s say Lomachenko goes in the ring against Teofimo Lopez as the WBC’s franchise lightweight champion and Teofimo Lopez should win the fight, he doesn’t get the WBC franchise title. So the point is I guess it’s cool to have, but it’s basically a trophy title.
"My perspective - and I’ve said this to Mauricio (Sulaiman), who obviously disagreed with me - I would say that the winner of a Fury vs Joshua fight, if Fury goes in as the franchise champion, the winner of the fight will be the lineal champion, will be the number one heavyweight in the world, will have the belts that Joshua has, but will not have the WBC title because that would be given to Whyte.
"So therefore, while that winner is number one - no doubt about it - he’s not the undisputed champion and the reason why is because the undisputed champion means you’ve got all four titles. You wouldn’t have all four titles."
Confused? You will be. Watch this space and prepare to be fascinated and frustrated in equal measures during the coming months.
The venue: home or away?
This fight is made for Wembley Stadium, right? Outdoors in front of a raucous crowd of 90,000 providing an incredible backdrop to the biggest fight in British boxing history.
Not so fast.
Promoters - as with all areas of this event - will look to create a market for the site fee (the money paid by the venue hosting the site) and are already talking about multiple territories being potential landing spots.
While London and Las Vegas are sure to be in the mix as existing fight capitals, Saudi Arabia is now also an obvious contender having staged Joshua’s rematch win over Ruiz Jr last December. And those three options are likely the tip of the iceberg with a number of countries expected to show interest. Which one will come up with the highest bid?
So while UK fight fans - and every self-respecting expert - would desperately love to see Fury vs Joshua take place on these shores, at this stage there remains a very real chance it won’t.
TV channel: who will show the fight?
The battle to actually broadcast a Fury vs Joshua is one of the most fascinating sub-plots to the promotion. Again it is a story of hundreds of millions of pounds with an all-star cast of characters.
Joshua’s rematch win over Ruiz Jr last December drew a domestic record of 1.6million buys on Sky Sports Box Office - each paying £24.99 a time. Those numbers would likely be dwarfed by this, so what’s not to like?
In the UK though, while Joshua’s fights air on Sky, Fury’s are aired on BT Sport. So how do we get around that issue?
History has shown the potential for joint PPV broadcasts and this could be the answer here - HBO and Showtime for example teamed up in 2015 for Mayweather vs Pacquiao - and the result was the all-time US pay-per-view record with 4.6million buys at $89.95 a time.
The other intriguing market would of course be the United States, where Fury has two fights remaining on a five-fight deal with ESPN which is reportedly worth £80million. Meanwhile Joshua’s recent bouts since 2018 have been aired by fledgling streaming service DAZN - which calls itself ‘the Netflix of sports’.
Again the question remains how that tricky area would be navigated, and we should mention that up to now DAZN has been a staunch opponent of PPV - preferring to charge its subscribers a relatively low monthly subscription fee rather than bigger one-off charges for specific fights.
Further afield, DAZN is also planning a global launch of its service with boxing at the forefront, so how could that affect the market for this fight? And could it even be a factor in the UK? Meanwhile could this represent a tantalising opportunity for Amazon and its Prime Video offering, which has already dipped its toes into sports streaming with the English Premier League, top-level tennis and the NFL?
Whatever happens, we know that if and when Fury and Joshua do meet, some TV companies are going to make them extremely rich(er).
Traditionally fighters will receive a base guaranteed purse with the potential for a massive upside based on PPV profits. Joshua reportedly earned £46million for his rematch win over Ruiz Jr, while Fury reportedly picked up more than £40million for crushing Wilder.
For this fight, expect bigger still. Much bigger.
The date: when will Fury vs Joshua happen?
It’s easy to see that while both fighters - and indeed all parties - want this fight to happen, it’s not actually that close to being a certainty just yet. The date is just one area still to be set.
If indeed they do end up signing contracts for a two-fight deal - and it is to take place in 2021 - the first of those meetings would appear likely to take place next summer. Assuming of course that both come through their bouts with Wilder and Pulev respectively - a defeat for either would throw an enormous spanner in the works.
The mandatory obligations they face for both the WBC and the WBO add in yet more uncertainty - it’s difficult if not impossible to see each man fitting in another interim fight early next year ahead of any meeting next summer.
So all we can say at this stage is that there is a good chance the fight happens - and at this stage the summer of 2021 would appear to remain the favourite for the first bout.
But what we can also say is that while we would then know who the number one heavyweight in Britain and the world is, there is a distinct chance they might not emerge as the undisputed champion.
So to sum up, we have the potential for an incredible event, one where the build-up and sub-plots are almost as fascinating as the likely fireworks inside the ropes.
It promises to be quite a ride...