There is a saying in life that is way easier to tear something down than to build it up – never has that been truer than the timeline for Tyson Fury vs Anthony Joshua.
The manner in which months of negotiations for an all-British superfight unravelled in a matter of hours in May was quite stunning.
One day we had Fury announcing an August 14 date to face Joshua in Saudi Arabia was in the bag, the very next that grand plan lay in ruins. Shattered by a legal ruling from the United States.
Boxing’s crazy politics had claimed another victim, and the fight to crown the sport’s first undisputed world heavyweight champion since 1999 had been scuppered.
Now, instead, Fury will face Deontay Wilder in a trilogy fight in Las Vegas on Saturday, knowing that even if he wins, the carrot of a moneyspinning showdown with AJ is at best a year away. That courtesy of Joshua losing his IBF, WBA and WBO heavyweight titles to Oleksandr Usyk in London on September 25.
The dream of Fury vs Joshua is not dead yet, but to again reach the marketing value of a territory paying a $155million (£109million) site fee they both need to be world champions and both need to be coming off wins. So Fury must beat Wilder, and Joshua must win his expected rematch with Usyk. Neither is anywhere near certain.
In reality this article could be four times as long as it actually is. The daily machinations have been regular with updates from the likes of promoters Eddie Hearn and Bob Arum. We’ve attempted to boil it down to the crucial landmarks.
Fury vs Joshua: How it all fell apart
The road to Fury vs Joshua had been a long one – this fight had been likely for years. But in the last 17 months it had become almost inevitable. And a necessity for a number of reasons. Here is how the story goes:
In June 2019 Joshua had suffered his first professional defeat to unheralded underdog Andy Ruiz Jr at Madison Square Garden. Any future undisputed showdown with Fury (or anyone else) means he has to regain those IBF, WBA and WBO belts. He does so in a comfortable points victory in Saudi Arabia, against an opponent who had clearly enjoyed the fruits of his labours at the Garden too much. Ruiz tipped the scales at 283lbs – 15lbs heavier than for the first fight. He struggles to get close enough to AJ to land the sort of flurries which had troubled him so much in NYC. Joshua is the king again.
Fury and Wilder had met in December 2018 in Staples Center, Los Angeles, with the WBC, Ring magazine and lineal heavyweight titles on the line. ‘The Gypsy King’ had only just returned to the ring from a near three-year hiatus caused by mental health issues and huge weight gain (up to 400lbs). Fury fought masterfully to outbox Wilder, but was knocked down twice by the ‘Bronze Bomber’ – including heavily in the 12th and final round. The end result would be a controversial draw.
The inevitable rematch finally took place in February 2020 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas – and the result this time is never ever in doubt. Fury comes in heavier and more aggressive at 273lbs. He goes on the front foot from the first bell and utterly dominates the outgunned Wilder. The towel finally comes in during Round 7 from the Wilder corner to end a savage beating. Wilder (42-1-1) has suffered his first professional defeat and Fury – like AJ – is now a two-time world heavyweight champion.
Now the two British behemoths hold all the marbles in boxing’s marquee weight class. A fight between the two must now be on the cards. Wilder meanwhile immediately exercises his contractual right to a further rematch with Fury. It’s a decision which will have massive ramifications more than a year down the road.
Massive news sets boxing Twitter alight – the two British world champions have agreed in principle the financial structure of a two-fight deal. No contracts or dates, but importantly they are on the same page. They will share revenues 50-50 from their first meeting, with the winner subsequently then taking a 60-40 upside from the rematch.
Shockwaves as Fury says his planned trilogy with Wilder is off. A Saturday December 19 date has been scuppered by US TV networks due to the crowded schedule that day. ‘The Gypsy King’ says that is the last straw. He will forget Wilder and instead look for a UK homecoming bout on Saturday December 5.
Fury must now wait until 2021 to make his eagerly-awaited ring return. That UK homecoming planned for December 5 will not happen. His opponent was likely to have been unbeaten German Agit Kabayel.
Bulgarian Kubrat Pulev presents what is now seen as the final obstacle to a Fury vs Joshua superfight taking place in 2021. And AJ removes it in style in front of a small and socially-distanced crowd at Wembley’s SSE Arena in London. He knocks out the challenger for his IBF, WBA and WBO world titles in style in Round 9 to crown an impressive performance. Full steam ahead for that unification showdown.
Arum and Top Rank appear to remain confident that the arbitration with Wilder will not be an issue for Fury vs Joshua plans. And the 89-year-old Hall of Famer says Fury may never fight Wilder again due to the slurs the American threw out after their rematch in Vegas.
Fury may have moved on from Wilder, but Wilder clearly has not moved on from Fury. The co-manager of ‘The Bronze Bomber’, Shelly Finkel, says he is “going for everything” in a bid to force that trilogy fight. Mediation leading to arbitration between the two camps is a reality and again it’s a story which months down the line will come dramatically back to life.
Without signed contracts, a big fight is never really even close to being done. But now we have signed contracts. Hearn tells Mark Kriegel of ESPN that Fury and Joshua have both inked a two-fight deal and that the sides now have 30 days to agree a date and venue. Saudi Arabia remains the hottest of favourites with live crowds still a pipedream in the UK due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Fury takes to Twitter to give fight fans (at least in the UK) the news they have been desperate to hear for months. A date and venue is now confirmed for the all-British unification match – Saturday August 14 in Saudi Arabia.
“massive announcement” FURY VS JOSHUA IS ON AUGUST 14 in The kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The worlds biggest sporting event all eyes on us. @SCEEKSA @gsaksa_en @trboxing @mtkglobal @frankwarren_tv @marbella @wowhydrate #LETTHEGAMESBEGIN #saudiarabia #TYSONOFARABIA pic.twitter.com/ZKIAXLictV
— TYSON FURY (@Tyson_Fury) May 16, 2021
The site fee is the biggest in boxing history – a reported $155million (£109million). The excitement is massive – but it will not last for long…
The shockwaves caused by this news are seismic. The jubilation arising from Fury’s announcement the previous day evaporates in a matter of seconds. The ruling from Daniel Weinstein says Fury must give Wilder that trilogy fight – and he must do so by September 15. He does allow for the possibility the pair can come to a resolution or extension, but that seems unlikely.
Any hope of Fury and Wilder agreeing an extension or resolution disappears pretty swiftly. Within 24 hours of that arbitration ruling, Fury’s co-promoter Arum says there will be no step-aside payment. Team Wilder meanwhile says they turned down step-aside – claiming instead, via trainer Malik Scott, that the former champion “wants blood, not money”.
Things are unravelling at pace now. Usyk’s promoter Alex Krassyuk tells Furyjoshua.com that he is already in talks with Eddie Hearn about making Joshua vs Usyk. The WBO meanwhile asks AJ to show cause within 48 hours why he should not have to defend against his mandatory challenger.
Hearn fails in his bid to gain an extension to that 48-hour timeframe from the WBO. The sanctioning body considers all sides and says it must be Joshua vs Usyk next. The two sides have 10 days to agree the fight or it will go to purse bids.
We can forget Fury vs Joshua for now at least. Fury appears on TV during the coverage of Josh Taylor vs Jose Ramirez in Las Vegas to sign his contract for the trilogy fight against Wilder.
Once more and for all. pic.twitter.com/5wSYOe4VJ5
— Top Rank Boxing (@trboxing) May 23, 2021
It will take place in Las Vegas on Saturday October 9 at T-Mobile Arena. This after a planned July 24 date was scuppered by Fury testing positive for COVID-19.
Even after that false start back in May, there was still hope that the dream match would take place in early 2022. Joshua was favoured to beat Usyk and Fury will be favoured to beat Wilder (again).
Usyk though was never going to pay any heed to that script, and he comprehensively outboxed and outfought Joshua en route to a unanimous decision victory at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
The Ukrainian displayed all the brilliant ringcraft, movement and hand speed we knew he possessed. He also showcased significant cojones to stand in the pocket and trade with AJ when the moment required it.
There is a rematch clause, and the second meeting will likely take place in February 2022 in London or Kiev. But Joshua will need a major change in gameplan to produce a different result. The world awaits once again.