One of the biggest fights — maybe the biggest fight in all of boxing — that can be made in 2021 would be a potential undisputed heavyweight title bout between Tyson Fury and Anthony Joshua.
Fury holds the WBC title and is also unanimously considered the division’s top dog (well, maybe not unanimously, if you ask Joshua’s promoter or shit-stirrers having a good time). Joshua holds the WBA, IBF, and WBO titles.
It’s not easy to make undisputed title fights in a four-belt era, which is why there have been so few. But people love the idea, sometimes so much that they’ll just go along with a lie to pretend they saw one, and it’s incredibly easily to market, too. “Undisputed” sounds good to everyone.
But promotional and broadcast affiliate walls are often in the way, not to mention the many obligations that fighters who hold WBC, WBA, IBF, or WBO titles have to deal with, what with mandatory challengers and all this. It’s just hard to do.
“To see this showdown, Fury-Joshua, would be tremendous for everyone in the sport of boxing. We will absolutely support it. The WBC has no blocks right now. There is no mandatory contender. There is an issue that we are aware that Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder have some sort of mediation process going on and that’s the only thing, but we don’t have any details. We’re just hoping that everything gets resolved and everybody is happy and we see great fights inside the ring.”
The “issue” Sulaiman mentions that is in mediation at the moment involves Fury’s contractually obligated — or not! that’s the part that will be decided — third fight with Deontay Wilder. Their rematch in February included a re-rematch clause, and Wilder did exercise it after the bout. But through various issues not just limited to the COVID-19 pandemic, the fight couldn’t be scheduled in a timely fashion, and Fury’s team believe the clause has expired. Wilder’s team believe they are still owed the fight.
That’s what is in question, but other than that, as Sulaiman said, Fury has nothing he has to do. There’s no mandatory challenger, and even if/when Alexander Povetkin and Dillian Whyte settle one in January, it won’t actually be enforced or ordered by the WBC any time in 2021.
That does leave Fury (30-0-1, 21 KO) open to face Joshua (23-1, 21 KO), but Joshua does have obligations. First is IBF mandatory Kubrat Pulev on Dec. 12, and he will have WBO mandatory Oleksandr Usyk to deal with if he beats Pulev, with Usyk having zero intention of “stepping aside” or delaying any further.
If Fury-Joshua does happen, there are at least two more fights to get through for AJ, and Fury’s not going to want to sit idle for a year waiting for him, either, so Fury will also get out there and put his belt up at some point, be it Wilder or Agit Kabayel or Carlos Takam or some combination of those guys, or someone else. And even no-brainer matchups carry the risk that the other fighter will be out there trying to win, and one punch is all it can take, especially at heavyweight.
If it’s going to happen, it’ll be in the fall of 2021 at the earliest, most likely. That would give AJ time to face Pulev on Dec. 12, Usyk perhaps in April or May, and for Fury to get whatever comes of the Wilder situation done and also fight at least once himself to stay sharp. So you’re looking at Sept. 2021 at the earliest, and most likely we’d probably be talking Nov. or Dec. of 2021 for full preparation, full promotion, and — hopefully! — a chance by then to gather a massive crowd at Wembley Stadium or Allegiant Stadium or Dubai or Saudi Arabia or wherever.