By: Sean Crose
And so it appears that Tyson Fury and Anthony Joshua are finally going to fight to see who the undisputed champion of boxing’s heavyweight division is. The two men, both British and both arguably in their primes, are towering figures, and have bested every opponent they have met. The fight, scheduled for August 14th in Saudi Arabia, is going to be promoted as an enormous international sporting event. Those involved, including promoters Eddie Hearn, Bob Arum, and Frank Warren, along with the fighters themselves, stand to make enormous sums. This matchup has taken forever to be made, though. Indeed, an official announcement has yet to be presented. What’s with the lumbering pace?
Covid has a great deal to do with it, of course. For over a year, it’s been beyond challenging to find a place to host an event of this magnitude while assuring those involved they would earn the kinds of dollars they would expect to. Big fights generally require huge audiences, after all, and sports were essentially existing in an audience free zone for the better part of the past fourteen months. What’s more, the I dotting and T crossing involved in presenting an event like this can be beyond tedious. Putting together a professional fight of this nature also involves personalities, agendas, backbiting, politics, shifting opinions, media hounding, and fan impatience. In other words, getting this bout made has been no easy task.
The last time Fury was in the ring, he bested Deontay Wilder in dominating fashion. That rematch of Fury and Wilder’s 2018 battle was a pay per view success involving ESPN and Fox, which were aligned with both fighters respectively. Although it didn’t break the stellar threshold of one hundred million buys, the match did well enough for then President Donald Trump to consider inviting both combatants to the White House afterward. With a subsequent third fight between Fury and Wilder falling through (at least for the time being), all eyes turned to multi-titlist Joshua as Fury’s logical next opponent. Joshua, however, wouldn’t be just any opponent. He’d be entering the ring as Fury’s equal, a man who could sell out Wembley Stadium and delight legions of fans. This left the promoters to hammer out the most large scale heavyweight title fight since 2002’s one sided extravaganza between an over the hill Mike Tyson and a brilliant Lennox Lewis.
And so began the circus. In January there were reports of Hearn claiming a “deal is done,” while Fury posted “Coming soon somewhere near you. 2021,” on social media along with a makeshift poster for the fight. “We’re gonna smash AJ,” Fury posted later in the month, “…one round, two rounds, three rounds, done! Yes!” By February, however, matters appeared to have gotten bogged down. “Eddie,” Arum advised Hearn, “I think you should stop talking about Fury vs Joshua.” By month’s end, Fury was telling the world he wanted to fight twice in 2021, with or without Joshua. Then, in March, Fury declared that a third Wilder fight might indeed be next on the agenda. The anticipated pairing with Joshua appeared to be on shaky ground. With spring just around the corner, Hearn warned that “if it don’t happen in the summer, it might not happen at all.” Uncertain times.
By April, however, things appeared to be looking up again. “I’m pretty confident this fight is going to get made in the next few days,” Fury told Behind the Gloves, “because from what I’ve heard, there are some big players involved and there’s some big offers come in from very rich people and very rich countries.” By mid month, Hearn triumphantly declared that “both sides have approved” of a deal. Unfortunately for Hearn, more than approval was required. Matters essentially had to be set in stone before any celebration would be in order. On and on it went. In late April, Warren stated that “we can’t go on forever with this,” while Arum said the fight was “dead in the water.” In May, Hearn told the world “you’ll get an announcement very soon.” Then, just last week he said the match would be going down “August the seventh, (or) August the fourteenth,” in Saudi Arabia.
Finally, this past weekend, Fury all but made things official, declaring on social media that “this fight is 100 percent on August 14.” No more conjecture, no more maybes, everything set in stone, with both sides finally in agreement. August 14th, Saudi Arabia, the match was on. Looking at matters objectively, the road to Fury-Joshua hasn’t been nearly as long as some negotiations have been. The Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao drama will hopefully forever hold the sport’s record for tedious diplomacy. What’s more, the negatives facing Hearn – who by all indications took the lead in making this bout happen – and company were considerable. Turning a dream bout a reality, then, has been quite a feat
Yet, as they say, don’t believe what your told until you see the two men in the ring. You just never know when it comes to boxing.
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