What next for Tyson Fury v Anthony Joshua after promoter says £200m mega-fight is ‘dead in the water’?

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·7-min read
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
Tyson Fury v Anthony Joshua — Tyson Fury v Anthony Joshua £200m mega-fight ‘dead in the water’ - AFP
Tyson Fury v Anthony Joshua — Tyson Fury v Anthony Joshua £200m mega-fight ‘dead in the water’ - AFP

Tyson Fury's USA promoter Bob Arum claimed on Thursday night that the heavyweight's £200 million mega-fight this summer with Anthony Joshua is "dead in the water".

The fierce rivals had been expected to fight in July or August for the undisputed heavyweight title, with Saudi Arabia understood to have offered £107 million to host what is the richest fight in British boxing history.

But after Joshua's promoter Eddie Hearn said on Thursday that the fight is a done deal, Arum told the Telegraph Sport that both boxers will have to fight alternative opponents owing to delays in negotiations.

"It will take months for the Saudis to do their due diligence on such a huge deal," explained Arum. "It is not just a site fee, there are ancillary demands from the Saudis stretching into the broadcast deals and other things, it could take months for it all to play out. It could even take until 2022 the way it looks right now.

"The fight in July or August is dead in the water as far as we are concerned. The two fighters need to go and have other fights this summer while the negotiations for that fight in the Middle East conclude."

Arum added that he and Fury's UK promoter Frank Warren were "on the same page" with where they stand on the fight.

"It is absurd what Hearn is saying that it is a done deal," said Arum from Las Vegas, where the 'Gypsy King' Fury is in training. "If we had just done a site deal without all the other complications that have arisen, we would have a fight by now.

"Tyson Fury is fuming about it and is refusing to keep waiting."

Arum and Fury are due to go to the Kentucky Derby this weekend with the nonagenarian promoter invited by the owners of the horse 'King Fury' which is running in the elite horse racing event there.

Concerns had surfaced in the last 24 hours over the final contract for the Joshua-Fury blockbuster with conflicting news emerging from the respective camps of the two fighters.

Both Arum and Warren - respectively Fury's USA and UK promoters - expressed concerns that final terms have not been sent out after Hearn had told them nine days ago - according to Arum - that a final contract was "24 hours away" for a fight to take place on July 24, July 31 or August 7, in the Middle East.

Hearn has explained this week that the "long form site agreement" is taking longer than expected, and had urged patience. He insisted that he will not stop "to get the fight over the line", that he is "a one-man army going out to try and make this fight", and that Fury's team "is about 40 people" to deal with, although that has been denied by Frank Warren ("it's Bob, me and Tyson's lawyer, Robert Davis").

The conflict between the sides was made clear by Hearn on Thursday who said: "We last had communication on Friday of last week and Thursday. Arum said in an interview, we haven't spoken for two weeks, yet five days ago he was telling the world it was a done deal. I think he's trying to put pressure on. We're a couple of days later than expected. The situation is still the same."

Hearn added: "We have an offer in writing from a site, the same site that we've dealt with before. The same people we've dealt with before. We know all about them. This is a done deal from that site."

Arum said Fury and Joshua "should find other opponents this summer and meet in December. We cannot wait around any longer. There was a 30-day turnaround for the site and everything else to be agreed after we signed for the two heavyweights to fight each other, but that has now stretched to 45 days."

Joshua may have to face his mandatory WBO challenger Oleksandr Usyk.

Fury last fought, against Deontay Wilder, fourteen months ago, winning the WBC belt. Joshua defeated Kubrat Pulev last December retaining his belts.

Why the impasse, will fight happen and can it move venue?

By Gareth A Davies

So what are the sticking points?

Contracts. Obligations. The fine print. And time. It appears that the contract with the Saudi brokers is much more extensive than just a site fee, with certain demands reaching beyond simply hosting the event. That could be a share of broadcast buy-ins, and other commercial add-ons. The Saudis clearly want a return on their investment far greater than just hosting the event.

The timing is becoming crucial. By August, the proposed date, Fury will have been inactive for 18 months having last fought 14 months ago, a long period ahead of arguably the biggest and most important fight of his career. Joshua, meanwhile, was in action last December. Fury, and his promoters, are desperate for to have a fight date in the diary to work towards.

Will the blockbuster fight still go ahead later this year ?

Yes, but only if the two heavyweights win their interim contests. Fury could fight Wilder for the third time, defending the WBC crown. On Tuesday, the Las-Vegas based Arum flew by private jet with Fury to an arbitration session in California, to attend a mediation session in a proposed third bout between Fury and Wilder. Wilder's team have claimed that a trilogy fight is binding, although the contracted period, Arum has claimed, ran out last year, during the Covid-19 lockdown.

Joshua could take on the challenge of Usyk. But a defeat for either Fury or Joshua in their respective fights would lessen the match-up if and when they do meet, and would rule out the tag of 'undisputed', or ruler of all the belts, which has not been the case since Lennox Lewis was the heavyweight king almost 20 years ago.

The counter-claim: the site deal for the Joshua-Fury fight is just 24 hours from being officially confirmed

While Arum has told Telegraph Sport that it is unacceptable to have waited 45 days already for the 30-day agreement on the site date and venue to be finalised, after both parties had accepted the fight in the Middle East, there has been a counter claim this week that the the formalities for the $150 million dollar site deal in Saudi Arabia will be completed over the next 24 hours allowing the fight to go ahead in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, in early August. This weekend will be the proving of that.

Let's not forget. . . Covid-19 has created this scenario

It is only the complications with Covid-19 that have pushed the £200m contest towards the Middle East, with Wembley Stadium initially ruled out due to anticipated crowd restrictions this summer. Otherwise we would be looking at a summer blockbuster in this country. The hardest part of the deal was agreed in June 2020, when both sides agreed on a 50/50 split for the first fight, and a 60/40 divide for the winner/loser in a second fight. In normal negotiations in major fights the split of the purse can be the most complex part to iron out.

Could the fight be hosted elsewhere?

It could go to Florida or Texas, this summer, of course. 70,000 fans will attend Saul Canelo Álvarez v Billy Joe Saunders next weekend, May 8, in Texas, but the expectation of £70-100m paydays for the two heavyweights has seen money become one of the talking points of the contest. Is it out of control? Not where boxing is concerned. Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao grossed $700m, and Mayweather against Conor McGregor bankrolled $600m. Both fights were in Las Vegas and raised record-breaking pay-per-view figures.