Fury (30-0-1) and Joshua (23-1) currently hold all the major world heavyweight title belts and have agreed in principle the financial structure for a two-fight deal next year. But despite that, there is still a fear that boxing’s complicated political landscape could yet scupper the dream match.
Fury must face Deontay Wilder for a third time before he can even consider fighting Joshua, while AJ has a mandatory defence against number 1 IBF contender Kubrat Pulev (28-1). Add to those interim bouts the fact WBC mandatory contender Dillian Whyte (27-1) is due a title shot by the end of February 2021 and Oleksandr Usyk (17-0) is next up for the WBO, and the route to undisputed is clearly something of a minefield.
But Hearn says despite that, the fight must happen, telling The Punchline podcast: “We should give up if we don’t deliver that fight. Not even us, boxing should give up. If you can’t deliver that fight, where there’s pots of money for both guys, there’s pots of legacy, there’s the undisputed heavyweight championship of the world.
“And sometimes I think we forget to remember, we’ve got two British world heavyweight champions. One geezer’s got three belts, one geezer’s got one belt. And together, when they fight each other, one bloke is gonna have all the belts. And you’ve got Dillian Whyte and you’ve got all these other fighters as well. We’re completely dominating the most glamorous division in the sport.”
Joshua’s shock first professional defeat at the hands of late stand-in Andy Ruiz Jr in June 2019 and Fury’s demolition of Deontay Wilder in their February 2020 rematch completely changed the Fury vs Joshua narrative – with Tyson replacing AJ as odds-on favourite to win should the two ever meet.
Hearn is unsurprised, admitting: “We’re all fickle. We sometimes separate ourselves from the fact that when we are in our fan element, we are extremely fickle. Boxing fans are more fickle than any fans – one bad performance or one little slip-up, and you’re absolute dogs***.
“When AJ lost to Ruiz, it was like ‘well, he’s a hype job’. And it’s like, hang on, he beat Dillian Whyte, Wladimir Klitschko, Dominic Breazeale, Carlos Takam, Joseph Parker, Alexander Povetkin. ‘Oh, well, they were all over the hill weren’t they’. Well no, what you f***ing talking about, AJ was a novice when he fought those guys. ‘Nah, he’s got no chin mate, that fat geezer just knocked him out, he’s s***’.
“Then he comes back and he boxes Ruiz’s head off, to the right instructions, and it’s ‘oh he was just running scared all night’. Yet Fury beat Klitschko, and he done exactly the same thing, and actually probably tenfold, and at the time nobody gave Fury the credit.”
The heavyweight division isn’t boxing’s marquee attraction for nothing – it’s the potential for a fight to change irrevocably or be over within an instant thanks to one punch which makes it such a potent product.
“You can never be comfortable going into a heavyweight fight with your fighter,” said Hearn.
“You know, that one moment – I’m six foot from these guys and I’m seeing right hands sort of whizz past the head and I’m thinking ‘f***ing hell, only one can put the lights out. And that’s what makes it so compelling.”