Will Tyson Fury and Anthony Joshua actually fight this time?



The two key questions here are: Why is Fury doing this? And will a fight with Joshua actually come together by December?

The second is the easier to answer.

Joshua lost the WBA, WBO, IBF and IBO heavvyweight titles to Usyk last year and failed to regain them from the unbeaten Ukrainian last month. While the Briton, 32, is ranked in each of those governing body’s divisions, he does not occupy a spot in the WBC rankings. Nor does Usyk, but the southpaw at least has the belts that would make the organisations more likely to put rankings aside and arrange a bout with WBC champion Fury. Joshua may not receive such aid from the powers that be.

Then there is Joshua’s new broadcast deal with DAZN, the streaming service reportedly paying the Olympic gold medalist £100million per year for his presence on its platform. Despite DAZN’s significant investment to pry Joshua from Sky Sports earlier this year, it was somehow unable to secure rights to air Joshua vs Usyk 2, and Sky won a bidding war for the bout. As such, AJ will move forward with DAZN as somewhat damaged goods. The streaming service will surely be hoping to see their marquee heavyweight in a series of winnable fights in the near future, producing the captivating knockouts that made him a household name. You’d be hard pressed to find someone who would argue that a clash with Fury exists within those parameters. And say DAZN were open to making the fight, believing that the contest would trump a ‘Joshua vs mid-tier heavyweight, rinse and repeat’ strategy and repay a chunk of what they owe Joshua; Fury’s fights air on BT Sport and there would be further hurdles to clear over the course of the next three months.

Anthony Joshua (left) has been outpointed by Oleksandr Usyk twice over the last year (Nick Potts/PA)

Similarly problematic would be monetary issues; Fury was recently demanding £500m to fight Joshua or Usyk but tweeted on Tuesday: “This is easy fight to make, normal champion to challenger privileges.” The purse split would therefore be heavily weighted in Fury’s favour, something that Joshua’s promoter Eddie Hearn would be very unlikely to agree to.

And Hearn’s thoughts on the matter are certainly relevant. Joshua’s successive losses to Usyk have naturally increased scepticism in AJ’s abilities and decreased yearning for an all-British fight with Fury. If Joshua were to fight Fury now, so soon after his lowest moment, that moment may in fact be maintained. A third straight defeat for Joshua might actually force the 32-year-old to prematurely leave behind boxing to focus on his other ventures, something that some fans expected Joshua to do after his latest loss to Usyk. Hearn will be desperate to ensure that none of the above happens.

Of course, Joshua’s mindset cannot be overlooked in all of this. “Yea calm. I don’t do the online discussions just for clout, so if [you’re] really about it shout @258mgt,” he tweeted in respone to Fury’s video challenge. “I’ll be ready in December. Khalas [done].”

However, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Joshua is anything but calm about the prospect of facing Fury. You will never see a suggestion in these pages that a fighter is truly afraid of another, but Joshua did not seem fully confident ahead of his rematch with Usyk, and the Briton broke into a bizarre rant after coming up short against the Ukrainian for the second time – Joshua involuntarily exhibiting that the pressure had finally proven too much for him. A career-defining clash with Fury would heap more pressure on Joshua than he has ever experienced, and now may just be the worst time for AJ to enter such a bout.

But the first question is still unanswered: Why is Fury doing this?

There is certainly the possibility that the “Gypsy King” is out to wind up fans and the media. That has been his modus operandi over the last five months, since claiming to be retired after his knockout of Dillian Whyte.

Hearn has his own theory.

Fury claimed last week that Usyk does not want to fight – after the Ukrainian suggested that the Briton’s desired December date would come too soon for him – and proceeded to announce that he would reveal a new opponent this week. Then came Fury’s sudden offer to Joshua.

Tyson Fury (left) knocked out Dillian Whyte last time out, at Wembley Stadium (Nick Potts/PA)

“For me and the cynic in boxing,” Hearn said on Talksport on Tuesday, “this smells of, ‘Oh, we couldn’t agree the AJ deal so I’m fighting this bloke you’ve never heard of instead.’”

Maybe Hearn is right. It is difficult to determine who Fury could face before the end of this year, if not Usyk or Joshua, though he was recently in talks to fight Derek Chisora – as reported by The Independent. Perhaps an underwhelming fight is approaching and Fury is simply out to save face ahead of time.

And so, the only answer remaining relates to the biggest question of all: Will Fury and Joshua actually fight this time?

The elements explored above suggest not.

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That does not mean that the fight will forever elude Fury, Joshua, and the boxing fandom, but the timing is not right, and a contest of this magnitude cannot be forced.

In Joshua’s case, certainly, it must also be earned.

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