Speculation and rumour are never far from the boxing headlines. Most of the time, it gets filed under ignore; but when an unlikely bout is mooted directly on social media from one fighter to another, it catches the eye and makes one think.
That happened this week when WBC heavyweight champion Tyson Fury put the challenge out there to his countryman Anthony Joshua. Joshua, just off a very recent defeat to unified champion Oleksandr Usyk, is the man Fury wants to face as he looks to stay busy ahead of his anticipated undisputed battle with Usyk next year.
Let's review what is known so far before answering the question posed at the top of the page.
Fury got the ball rolling on Tuesday, September 6, by posting a video on his social media channels inviting Joshua to rumble for the WBC and Lineal championships. Fury argued that Joshua, just off the back of going the distance with Usyk, should be match fit for a date “a few months” down the line. He invited the former unified champion to let him know if he had any interest.
— TYSON FURY (@Tyson_Fury) September 5, 2022
Joshua fired up his social media accounts to state that he was interested, would be ready for a December date, and for Fury's team to contact his management with an offer. They now had my attention.
Fury followed up by sharing another clip on social media explaining that he would be offering Joshua a 60/40 split. Fury's terms regarding dates and venues – November 26 at Wembley Stadium in London, England, or December 3 at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff, Wales – then emerged. Apparently, this is in the document that Fury sent to Joshua's representatives. December 3 is being reported by the Manchester Evening News as the latest Fury wants to fight this year so he can glove up against Usyk in March next year.
The tentative word around the campfire is Joshua has accepted the 60/40 split. There is bickering over the date, and potential split of any purse should the two English boxers fight a re-match. There are many T's to be crossed, and even more, I's to be dotted it seems.
What Are The Chances?
Perhaps it is the pessimist in me, but I don't think this event will come to fruition at this stage, although I hope I am wrong. It looks like this started off as some banter from Fury to liven up a dull Tuesday as the season changes from summer to autumn. The banter grew arms and legs. While the initial response was positive, it now seems like something will get in the way of us witnessing a year-ending winter stadium spectacular.
The already mentioned split of the purse should a re-match take place can surely be ironed out, but can both parties agree to a date for fight number one before we think about anything else?Fury's proposed dates haven't been accepted. The date Joshua promoter Eddie Hearn mentioned was December 17. Fury seems unwilling to budge from the options noted above.
Mentioning promoters – would the two big dogs in the UK, Eddie Hearn and Frank Warren, be willing to work together? There aren't many examples of them doing so over the years, and there definitely is some real animosity between the two. Fury's US promoter Top Rank would presumably be involved in negotiations too – perhaps Bob Arum could mediate between the bosses of Matchroom and Queensberry.
Broadcasting would also need to be thrashed out – Fury is signed to BT Sport, and Joshua has his brand-new deal with DAZN. Could those two entities work together on a joint pay-per-view for the UK market? Would Fury's American broadcaster ESPN have any say in things? Just say the December 17 date is agreed upon. That would mean 13 weeks from now, we'd be in the midst of Fury-Joshua fight week. Is that too tight a turnaround for Joshua, a heavyweight more accustomed to around eight to nine months between fights since 2019?
Pros and Cons for Anthony Joshua
As Tyson Fury is pushing to fight Joshua before the calendar flips to 2023, I assume he has weighed it up carefully in his mind. Perhaps Fury sees a man broken, a boxer willing to get in the ring but unwilling to go deep into the trenches if required during a contest. A fighter he could toy with while he waits on Usyk being ready to fight next year. What of Joshua though?
August 20 was not that long ago. Physically he may have healed from his exertions in Saudi Arabia against Usyk. Psychologically though, will he be ready for the challenge of Fury this year? We all remember Joshua's in-ring stint on the microphone after the Usyk result was announced. Was he just releasing some pressure, or should there be a concern for his overall mental health? Could his ego handle a third defeat in a row and a fourth in his last six bouts should he be defeated by Fury?
Would a defeat affect the value of Joshua's worldwide output deal with streaming broadcaster DAZN? I don't know. On one hand, DAZN would benefit from their man being involved in another huge fight so soon after facing Usyk for a second time; on the other, they probably have built Joshua occasionally winning bouts into their business plan. Would defeat affect Joshua's standing amongst hardcore and casual observers of boxing? Something for him to consider.
Joshua would be a pretty big underdog going in against Fury, but he could catch lightning in a bottle and win. Although Joshua was upset after losing to Usyk recently, I think he should be proud of the effort put forth that night against the great Ukrainian. The English heavyweight showed improvement from his first encounter with Usyk. Another camp with his new training team (Robert Garcia and Angel Fernandez) should render more improvement.
Also on the plus side of the ledger for Joshua is the fact that Fury seems to be overlooking and underestimating him. Already planning a date to face Usyk, there is a danger Fury may not give Joshua the respect he deserves. As good as Fury is, this aspect of a hastily arranged bout between the two reminds me of Lennox Lewis' first fight against Hasim Rahman. One punch is all it takes – Joshua could win and capture Fury's title. Then it would be him in the picture to face Usyk for undisputed.
If Joshua could find a way to win then, it would elevate his standing and legacy immeasurably. The final pro for Joshua is the most obvious one – money. While he won't go cold or hungry this winter, the opportunity to generate another huge payday in a career that won't last forever must be appealing.
The Answer Is…
At the time of writing, the information available states that today is the deadline Fury's team have given to Joshua's management for a definitive answer. I'm pretty sure there will be some flexibility, but perhaps by the weekend, we will know if this is really going to happen or if it is dead in the water.
— TYSON FURY (@Tyson_Fury) September 8, 2022
Sometimes in life, shots at glory present themselves when we least expect them. Coming off the back of consecutive defeats to Usyk, Joshua and his team would not have thought about fighting for a heavyweight title again for quite some time. The fact he could do so before the end of the year must be making his head spin.
We've come a long way around to this. The opportunity for this generation's two best UK heavyweights to face one another has arrived at a time that has caught just about everyone by surprise. Will negotiations get messy and out of hand, which prevents anything from happening? Probably, that's boxing and life. But should Anthony Joshua make some concessions on his side and agree to face Tyson Fury at the end of the year?
You bet your bottom dollar he should!