It's the fight everyone wants to see - and our countdown to Tyson Fury vs Anthony Joshua continues 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.
On June 10, 2020 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.
Obstacles still remain in the way of them finally getting in the ring together, though the path to that showdown is now starting to clear.
Here furyjoshua.com looks at the hurdles which must still 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 really would have been 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.
Arum is now handling negotiations with Hearn and Matchroom after Daniel Kinahan stepped back following a media storm about his involvement in the planned fight.
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 concussive puncher in the heavyweight division.
Fury vs Wilder 3 had initially been scheduled to take place in July 2020, but a combination of the COVID-19 pandemic and a bicep injury for Wilder quickly scuppered that plan. October was then mooted but again quickly shelved.
Now Arum hopes the bout can be staged on Saturday December 19, though it appears his favoured venue - the brand-new $2billion Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas (home of the NFL’s Las Vegas Raiders) - could be ruled out. The Raiders have said the stadium will be closed to fans for the entirety of the 2020 football season.
Arum has consistently stated that the fight cannot happen behind closed doors due to the lost revenue from not having a live gate. The February 2020 rematch remember pulled in almost $17million through the turnstiles, a record for a heavyweight bout.
If December 19 is scuppered by the pandemic, then Arum has stated there is a backup plan to hold the fight in the first week in February 2021, in Asia. Warren meanwhile has said Fury is set on fighting before the end of 2020, so the pressure is on to finally make the fight happen.
Fury unsurprisingly is favourite to defeat Wilder again at 2-7, with Deontay an 11-4 shot.
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 the pandemic 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 having been mentioned - including the ancient Roman amphitheatre in Pula, Croatia, the Royal Albert Hall with a small VIP crowd, and even a boat.
Hearn however now says the likelihood is the bout will take place at London’s O2 Arena in early December, though there remains “a strong possibility” that it will be behind closed doors.
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 had started to get 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 had showed all the signs of becoming yet another high-profile casualty.
While both fighters already have interim fights before any Fury vs Joshua showdown can happen, their future mandatory obligations have also been threatening to throw further spanners in the works.
The picture however did clear significantly on August 22 when Dillian Whyte was stopped in five rounds by Alexander Povetkin at Matchroom Fight Camp in Brentwood, Essex.
Whyte had been the World Boxing Council (WBC) mandatory contender for more than 1000 days, and the sanctioning body had ordered the winner of Fury vs Wilder 3 to meet him next, assuming he overcame Povetkin.
That did not happen of course, and now it will be at least a year before Fury (if he beats Wilder) has any WBC mandatory commitments, clearing the way for a clash with Joshua.
The one remaining possible blocker could be the World Boxing Organisation (WBO), which has former cruiserweight king Oleksandr Usyk (17-0) as its mandatory.
The noises from the Usyk camp in recent weeks have been that Joshua should defend his WBO belt against Usyk next if he overcomes Pulev. But it remains to be seen whether the sanctioning body will try to make that happen.
Usyk meanwhile, who has had only one bout at heavyweight so far, is expected to meet Dereck Chisora in a pay-per-view fight in late October.
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 showdown 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 fight 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 fees for specific fights.
Further afield, DAZN is also planning a global launch of its service in more than 200 markets 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 National Football League (NFL)?
Whatever happens, we do know that if and when Fury and Joshua do meet, 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 £25million for crushing Wilder in their rematch.
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 yet to being a certainty. The date is just one area still to be set.
Whyte’s defeat by Povetkin means it is now much more likely that the first instalment of the Fury vs Joshua saga will take place in the summer of 2021. Assuming Fury disposes of Wilder and Joshua overcomes Pulev.
If as expected they sign a two-fight deal then it is likely the rematch would be immediate and would also take place in 2021, towards the back end of the year.
The Whyte defeat also increases the chances the fight will be for the undisputed heavyweight championship with all four major belts (WBC, IBF, WBA and WBO) on the line.
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...