Editorial: Tyson Fury’s (and fight fans’) fortune, fancy and fate

Saturday night in Las Vegas, Tyson Fury affirmed his status as the best heavyweight boxer in the world, blowing out previously unbeaten Deontay Wilder…

By: Jordan Breen | 4 years ago
Editorial: Tyson Fury’s (and fight fans’) fortune, fancy and fate
Bloody Elbow 2.0 | Anton Tabuena

Saturday night in Las Vegas, Tyson Fury affirmed his status as the best heavyweight boxer in the world, blowing out previously unbeaten Deontay Wilder for the better part of seven rounds en route to a merciful corner stoppage. Fury gave us everything we could have hoped for and more with a virtuoso performance. Now, can boxing’s powers that be follow suit?

“The Gypsy King” erased any doubts that onlookers might have had as to who the heavyweight boss was, following his December 2018 split draw with Wilder, where he amassed an early lead, but needed to pick himself off the mat twice late in order to hold onto the stalemate. For the rematch, Fury dumped long-time trainer Ben Davison in favor of Javan “Sugarhill” Steward, nephew of Hall of Fame trainer Emmanuel Steward. Fury told the media ahead of the bout that the switch in trainers was because he “needed a knockout.” His comments proved prescient and wise, as Fury was much more aggressive, generating two knockdowns of his own, battering Wilder to the point blood was flowing from his ear, eventually prompting Wilder’s trainer Mark Breland to throw in the towel.

Despite closing as a +115 underdog, and with no ill will toward a fantastic fighter in Wilder, it seems fans got what they wanted. On a personal level, Fury is not without hit warts. His past issues with addiction and spurious retirement are troubling, but not nearly to the extent of his claims that homosexuality is proof of the End of Days, and comparing transsexuality to bestiality. Regardless of some of his reprehensible personal beliefs, his unique combination of slick, true boxing in the body of a 6-foot-9 behemoth, his gypsy persona and ridiculous ex tempore post-fight singing constitute an undeniable charisma for an unlikely heavyweight ruler. For better or worse, fans can’t quit Fury – and the very concept of Fury as champion – and so I doubt Saturday night’s result truly upset too many folks.

And of course, it goes without saying, Fury got exactly what he wanted. But what does he want next? What do any of us want next, and will we get it?

As has been covered exhaustively in the lead up to and especially the aftermath of the rematch, Wilder has 30 days to exercise a rematch clause. After five years as a heavyweight champion and just having suffered his first career loss, it’s not as though a third bout between Fury and Wilder would be illegitimate. However, the rematch was such a lopsided wipeout that many simply feel the outcome was conclusive and an immediate third bout is pointless. I would dispute whether or not it’s pointless; Wilder is still unquestionably one of the three best heavyweights on the planet and the biggest puncher of them all, offering him a one-of-a-kind equalizer in any bout. You’ll note, however, I just said “one of the three best heavyweights on the planet,” and we’ve only mentioned two fighters thus far.

Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

Hello, Anthony Joshua.

For a variety of reasons, it seems the will of the boxing public – fighters and promoters included – is to witness a full-blown, all-British heavyweight title unification bout between Fury and Joshua, who regained his WBA, WBO, IBF and IBO titles from Andy Ruiz Jr. in Saudi Arabia in December, following his shocking upset defeat at the hands of the American last June. Joshua’s promoter Eddie Hearn has been vocal about Joshua’s desire to square off with Fury to crown an undisputed heavyweight king for the first time since another Brit, Lennox Lewis, did it two decades ago. While he never mentioned him by name, Fury also appears to be laying the groundwork for a Joshua showdown: for the Wilder rematch, Fury sported a mouthguard that simply read “Nigeria” with the country’s flag printed on it. Maybe you think Fury simply loves geography – he did name one of his daughters “Venezuela” after all – but it’s clearly a tongue-in-cheek bit of mind gaming, a tacit call out of Joshua by harkening to his heritage.

More than the fact that a Fury-Joshua clash would be for all the heavyweight marbles, a truly historic event, their passports figure in just as heavily. The United Kingdom has always been and remains a fertile ground for big ticket boxing and an undisputed heavyweight unification bout between two well-known, celebrated sportsmen would not just mean the biggest fight in British boxing history, but a massive amount of money. While it wouldn’t top, say, the estimated $600 million-plus in revenue that Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao did in 2015, there’s no way a Fury-Joshua bout doesn’t generate at least $250 million or so in total revenue, with massive purses for both fighters. Something new and fresh, a milestone in both heavyweight and British boxing history and money for everybody, save those who shell out for exorbitantly priced tickets or pay-per-view purchases. It certainly seems to be what the boxing world now craves.

It’s complicated, though. Obviously, Wilder still has the ability to exercise his rematch clause, though I would argue he would be best served to pass on that opportunity. No matter what the title ramifications are, he will always have a third Fury fight in his back pocket for a major spectacle and payday. On the flipside, he may be wise to enact the clause now, given that Fury constantly has the boxing world in a Sword of Damocles situation, in which, despite only being 31 years old and in the prime of his career, he constantly teases retirement before and after every major bout. It’s hard to gauge the authenticity and sincerity of those claims, but if Fury is to be taken at face value that he is genuinely thinking about hanging the gloves up, it may behoove Wilder to look out for his best interests and make the trilogy happen sooner rather than later.

Then, there’s Joshua. Assuming Fury wants all the belts in the world and the historic, undisputed status that would come with a win over Joshua, there are still hurdles to clear. First of all, despite his promoter Eddie Hearn publicly stating a 50-50 purse split would likely be necessary in order to finalize a Fury-Joshua showdown, Joshua has openly balked at the idea of an even purse split following his rematch victory over Ruiz, which netted him a purse in the nine-figure neighborhood and broke domestic pay-per-view records in the UK, generating 1.6 million buys. Even with the Ruiz gaffe last June and having to gain revenge, it’s clear Joshua seems himself as the A-side of a unification bout with Fury.

Furthermore, owing to his trove of alphabet soup titles, Joshua is “obligated” to make two mandatory title defenses, first against Kubrat Pulev in June and another against former undisputed cruiserweight world champion Oleksandr Usyk later this year. Of course, Joshua could easily opt to go ahead with a Fury fight and vacate some of his hardware, but that raises another interesting question. By and large, the boxing populace knows that modern titles are simply bargaining chips for fighters and promoters, and duplicitous tools that sanctioning bodies use to skim the pockets of athletes to fill their own coffers. Even if Joshua dumped a few of his titles in favor of the much more spectacular fight, any onlooker with two brain cells would know that a bout with Fury would still be for the lineal championship and supreme heavyweight status. Nonetheless, moreso than in other situations where fighters jettison belts in order to follow cash or glory, much of the allure of Fury-Joshua is predicated on creating the first truly undisputed heavyweight champion in nearly 20 years, which may pale in importance to the true significance of the fight, but remains an intangible piece of what makes a hypothetical fight so alluring.

This is boxing, the heavyweight division, no less. No one ever expects things to go smoothly, let alone satisfactorily. We are at the mercy of Tyson Fury’s mercurial career plans, Anthony Joshua’s list of demands and questions about Deontay Wilder’s competitive future, but I say, we’ve got a damn healthy triad of heavyweights at the top of the game, grabbing eyeballs and dollars on both sides of the Atlantic, for the first time in a long time. It’s not exactly Ali, Foreman and Frazier, but no matter what hurdles and hiccups may await us, we ought to be thankful for the moment.

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Jordan Breen
Jordan Breen

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