The great fear that politics and contracts could scupper the much-anticipated all-British bout for four of boxing’s major world heavyweight championships has proved well-founded.
Ask any fan of the sport in the UK, and Tyson Fury v Anthony Joshua is the bout they all want to see. Thanks to an American court ruling, the super-fight has at best been delayed and at worst may now never happen. It seems that Deontay Wilder could not be bought to step aside. Either that or he wasn’t offered enough money to do so.
Once it became clear that “The Gypsy King” Fury was contractually and therefore legally obliged to complete his trilogy of bouts with Wilder, the WBO wasted absolutely no time in ordering Joshua to face their mandatory challenger Oleksandr Usyk. There is at least another hurdle for both British boxers to clear now before they can even think about facing off.
Both Fury and Joshua have been training for a prospective bout against each other, not Wilder out to avenge the stunning defeat he suffered in February 2020 or the unbeaten Ukrainian boxer Usyk, who took on all-comers at cruiserweight. The dynamics at the top of the sport have changed suddenly.
Fury now faces “The Bronze Bomber” Wilder for a third time on 24 July in Las Vegas, which will end a feud over the WBC heavyweight title that has lasted two-and-a-half years. This is an opponent the Manchester-born boxer knows very well after an incredible and controversial draw in their first encounter, and the sensational rematch last July.
Prior to launching any bid at about becoming undisputed world heavyweight champion, Joshua will next tackle the man who won every major cruiserweight championship in the sport. Usyk is 18-0 and has already beaten two of AJ’s compatriot contemporaries in Tony Bellew and Derek Chisora in recent fights.
Despite that, the betting on boxing should make Joshua a hot favourite for a successful defence. Likewise, Fury is unbeaten in two previous fights with Wilder so logically heads the market on their third bout. Neither may find retaining their belts as easily the odds suggest.
All great sporting sagas have drama in them. The stories of both Fury and Joshua haven’t exactly been plain sailing up until this point either. AJ lost and regained his WBO, WBA, IBO and IBF titles when trading defeats with Andy Ruiz Jr in 2019, while Fury scaled the heavyweight heights and dethroned Wladimir Klitschko only for his life outside the ring to spiral out of control.
He has conquered those personal demons, however, and returned to boxing as good as if not better than ever. Fury surprised so many experts moving away from the astute and smart tactical approach to past fights when pummelling Wilder with offensive flurries that forced the American’s corner to throw in the towel.
The journey to the all-British bout still has more twists and turns still to come. Everyone in England will be hoping Fury and Joshua do get to fight for all the gold in the end.