It’s still a long way off from actually happening, but the big news in boxing this week is that Tyson Fury and Anthony Joshua have agreed to a two-fight deal that would start in 2021 after interim and mandatory bouts for the two heavyweight titleholders, paving a clear road to an undisputed heavyweight championship clash.
Fury (30-0-1, 21 KO) and Joshua (23-1, 21 KO) are two of boxing’s biggest names, and “heavyweight championship of the world” still carries, by itself, more weight than just about anything in terms of a marketing tool. When you can legitimately call it “undisputed,” that beefs it up even more.
It’s shaping up as a huge fight, no question. But as Tyson Fury did on ESPN on Thursday night, Matchroom promoter Eddie Hearn warns that there is still a lot of ground to cover.
“There’s still work to do, but the good news is we have a deal in place in principle, in terms of the financial end of the deal. Mostly in all these major fights, that is the principal problem in getting the deal over the line. That’s been agreed,” Hearn said in a YouTube interview.
“There are obstacles to overcome — some broadcast issues, venue, of course, has to be decided as well, and the small matter of a couple of fights in between. Dillian Whyte’s mandatory (against Fury), as well, which we have to push for with the WBC. So still a long way to go, but everyone confident that we’re moving toward the biggest fight in boxing in 2021.”
The broadcast issues would be both the United States and United Kingdom, one figures. In the U.S., Joshua has fought exclusively on DAZN since its launch in the States, and Fury has his deal with Top Rank and ESPN.
And this, obviously, is a pay-per-view quality fight. To take it off of traditional PPV, DAZN would likely have to cough up an absolutely enormous rights fee to replace the PPV that would come in. That simply might not be possible, and in all reality, it’s probably a bad idea. DAZN may be better served simply offering this, alongside ESPN+, as a PPV fight on their service, as we saw ESPN and FOX do with their streaming platforms for Wilder-Fury 2, with an old school cable and satellite TV option also available.
In the U.K., the issue would be between Sky Sports and BT Sport, who have Joshua and Fury, respectively. There’s a chance they could co-promote a PPV like ESPN and FOX did last year, or HBO and Showtime did a couple times over the years.
Realistically, that shouldn’t be the biggest headache. As Hearn noted, financial numbers for the fighters themselves are usually the hardest things to figure out. Once that gets done, everything else usually falls into place.
As for venue, Hearn knows British boxing fans would love to see it at Wembley Stadium or another of the big venues in the United Kingdom, but says it’s not that simple.
“Everyone will talk about this fight taking place in the U.K. because it’s between two Brits, and that’s, in an ideal world, definitely something that we’d look at and look favorably upon,” he began. “I keep saying to people — I had a little argument on the radio, they said, ‘Just do it in England! Just do it in England!’ It doesn’t work like that. We have to go back to report to these peoples teams, we have to report the offers that are coming in.
“It’s a fight between two guys. As I said to Nicky Campbell, you can sit in the studio in your comfy chair [and say] ‘Just do it here!’ These guys are going in to have a fight in a 20-by-20-foot ring with 10-ounce gloves on, and it’s a dangerous, dangerous sport. So let them make their money.
“If we can do the fight in the U.K., that’s fantastic. We know that Saudi Arabia would love to have this fight, and we had a wonderful experience there last time with the Andy Ruiz there. Tyson Fury’s also performed there in WWE. We’ve had offers from China, we’ve had offers from around the world.
“This is the biggest fight in boxing. It doesn’t get any bigger. There’s not going to be any country that stages major events that won’t want this fight, and that’s something to be dealt with during the next month or so.”
As Hearn is saying — and he goes into more in the video up top — there are lots of hurdles to leap still. Fury has Deontay Wilder and maybe Dillian Whyte. Joshua has Kubrat Pulev and maybe Oleksandr Usyk. And any loss by Fury or Joshua sinks this agreement.
There’s a lot of road to cover. It’s encouraging news, but it’s no guarantee.