The Great Heavyweight Soap Opera
Unless we get a Hollywood style last-minute intervention, it looks like the Tyson Fury Anthony Joshua heavyweight unification blockbuster will be lost to contractual small print. The discarded extra, that wouldn’t go away and now he threatens a rewrite of the whole production. A multi-million dollar pantomime, he’s behind you, they tried to ignore him, they might now boo, but they can’t now ignore. A problem that might too big for even the mighty dollar to push away to one side. Joshua and Eddie Hearn have every right to feel frustrated with how the episode appears to have concluded. Joshua especially has let his feelings be known on social media, calling Fury a fraud and accusing him of letting boxing down. The blame probably lies elsewhere.
The Fury-Joshua saga has played out like a soap opera. Big announcements that in reality announce very little, negativity and positivity from the rival sides that at times led you to think are they negotiating the same fight. One side spitting eternal optimising, the other preaching doom and gloom.
But on Saturday, it looked like a done deal, Tyson Fury added more fuel to the fire soon after, finally, the final chapter appeared written in the long story of demands and counter demands. But there was still no official announcement. We wondered why.
The delay in formally announcing the fight probably had nothing to do with what was simmering behind the scenes, but the conspiracy theories nevertheless added to the entertainment on display. The keyboard warriors would have enjoyed their moment. They always do.
The Deontay Wilder arbitration issues are nothing new, they said it wasn’t a problem. They now know, it most certainly was. An American judge has almost certainly put the final nail into seeing an undisputed heavyweight champion of the world crowned anytime soon.
Fury says Wilder wants $20m to step aside, Team Wilder says their man just wants the fight. Bob Arum says he won’t pay Wilder a penny. The veteran promoter just wants to be rid of Wilder. Beat Wilder, then fight Joshua in December, Arum says. He should know, boxing is rarely that straightforward.
Arum has mentioned a July date for the trilogy fight with Wilder, surely too soon for the former WBC champion. Matchroom are now in talks with Oleksandr Usyk, dates in August already being mooted. At this stage, Joshua-Usyk looks far more likely than Fury-Joshua.
Seeing Fury fight Wilder for a third time doesn’t carry much interest to this observer. Wilder was thoroughly dismantled, bullied even by Fury in their rematch. Walking down the big punching Wilder seemed like a mission to oblivion for Fury, but he executed his master plan to perfection.
The cocktail of excuses came thick and fast from the Wilder camp, each one more ludicrous than the last. A fighter in delusion, or worse, either way, there were worrying. Wilder has only just resurfaced in training footage, and after the beating he took from Fury in February 2020, he would be well advised to wait regardless of any court ruling.
Wilder you sense needs a confidence-building win, the mental fragility that comes with the manner of how he lost his unbeaten record will be hard to overcome. Going straight back in seems one hell of a risky strategy.
If Wilder did decide to sit on his hands and wait, he can sit and watch Fury and Joshua put more miles on their body clocks. Waiting will enhance his chances of ending the trilogy the better fighter.
He will be painted the villain of the story, the fighter that stopped the biggest fight in recent memory. But Wilder believed he had a legal right to face Fury for a third time, a court agreed. After spending a considerable amount of money to force the fight, I don’t see him standing aside now. It might be to his detriment, but Wilder seems intent on facing his demons this summer.
Usyk is the fighter who potentially gains the most out of boxing’s latest own goal. A chance to replicate what he did at the lower weight has come much sooner than he would have expected.
Joshua-Usyk is a fight of real intrigue, a really good fight, but not the one we wanted, or indeed Fury and Joshua wanted. Fights like those usually carry a little more threat, a little more danger of future plans being derailed. Minds elsewhere thinking of what might have been. Andy Ruiz Jr hit the jackpot out of similar good fortune, Usyk might do the same.
Wilder has a punchers chance if nothing else, and Usyk has the credentials to make Joshua have an extremely uncomfortable evening should they meet in August. Wilder and Usyk could very well be in the right place at the right time.
But yet again boxing shoots itself in the foot, another embarrassing episode, one you suspect that could and should have been avoided. Talks are still ongoing to retrieve what now appears lost. If those talks fail, it will be a missed opportunity and one that might not come around ever again.