It is all set to be an enthralling fight build-up with both men on separate career trajectories, but how does the timing work out for the two fighters?
Tyson Fury is still riding high off the back of a blockbuster trilogy with Deontay Wilder, drawing once with The Bronze Bomber before knocking him out in fights two and three. Following this, he stopped the mandatory challenger for his WBC title, Dillian Whyte, in round six of a comfortable bout, before surprisingly announcing his retirement from the sport.
Since then there has been plenty of teasing from The Gypsy King. He claimed he wouldn’t accept another fight for less than half a billion pounds, then gave Usyk an unrealistic deadline to accept a sub-par contract for their unification fight, all while continuing to insist he would never return to boxing. Therefore, the public have a reason to be sceptical of this fight going ahead.
Anthony Joshua, on the other hand, has endured a more difficult period, with three defeats in his last five. Since June 2019 when he lost his belts to Andy Ruiz Jr in a bout that stunned the world, Joshua has improved his technical ability. He has since put on an improved display in the rematch to regain the belts, prior to a win against Kubrat Pulev by KO in the ninth, which never looked in doubt.
Usyk’s boxing prowess proved to be a step too far for Joshua however, with Joshua losing all of his titles to the Ukrainian in September 2021. Many critics and members of the boxing world had high praise for Usyk’s performance; Chris Eubank Jr labelled it as one of the “biggest statements in boxing history”. However, it was also a hapless display from Joshua, and within 3 weeks of the bout, he had activated his rematch clause. The stage was set for the ‘Rage on the Red Sea’ on August 20th 2022.
Again, Usyk out-boxed Joshua on his way to a split decision win that probably should’ve been unanimous. The Ukrainian’s ring craft and technical ability proved to be the difference once more, in spite of the fact that it was a much better performance from the Brit. Joshua had clearly been working on his boxing ability instead of relying on his strength and knockout power, although it still wasn’t enough. In Joshua’s defence, his Ukrainian opponent would be a match for anyone in the heavyweight division due to his speed and awkward fighting style.
Looking ahead to this all-British heavyweight clash, there is a lot of speculation surrounding the likelihood of it actually happening and this is no surprise. As far back as 2017, when Fury was waiting to hear back from the British Boxing Board of Control, he was insisting that his first fight back would be against Joshua. Then in December 2018, he accepted terms for a fight with his fellow Brit, a 60/40 split in Joshua’s favour with his permission to bill the fight as Joshua vs Fury. Fury ended up fighting Wilder for the WBC title though, in a bid to make the fight with Joshua a more glamorous prospect with another belt on the line.
It didn’t end there though. Following The Gypsy King’s first two fights with Deontay Wilder, the two Britons agreed a deal yet again, a bout with a rematch clause; a £110m site fee was agreed in Saudi Arabia with only TV rights left to sort out. That is until an American court ruled that Fury and Wilder had to have their trilogy battle. Fury couldn’t avoid it despite the rematch clause expiring during the Coronavirus pandemic.
So while it appears we might finally be getting this clash, any scepticism is very understandable, although the timing does seem right for both men.
Anthony Joshua is out in the dark now with his recent record. There were questions surrounding his future in the sport and whether he would be happy to be on the periphery of the heavyweight division or not. In steps Tyson Fury, perhaps the one man left in the division who would give AJ the drive to return and fight again. His eyes must’ve lit up at the video Fury posted on his Twitter.
From Fury’s perspective, the fight makes perfect sense for this December. It’s clear he can smell blood, and with a unification fight against Usyk not set to happen until next year, there is a chance to put to bed all speculation around whether he really is the best heavyweight in the world. If he can put Joshua away (twice, if the rumoured rematch clause is to be believed) and follow it up by unifying the belts against Usyk, then the debate is put to bed. He would arguably join the list of the best heavyweights ever, certainly from this country.
I believe the Gypsy King would finally step back from boxing if he put Joshua and Usyk away, although he isn’t one to stay away. There are rumours of him taking a few exhibition fights; Francis Ngannou has been discussed, alongside Hafthor Julius Bjornsson (Thor). Another option for him is the WWE, he has appeared on their shows and PPVs a few times now and his charisma and star power would fit the bill there perfectly. One thing is for sure - he will remain right in the public eye.
As for his opponent, who knows what AJ would do next. The question remains of how much he loves the sport and the pressure that comes with it. We saw him struggling visibly last time out, when he dumped Usyk’s belts out of the ring and reeled off his own monologue. He was also reduced to tears in the ensuing press conference. Will he continue when the pinnacle of the division is unobtainable, or will he retire and follow another path? If he didn’t have enough money to retire before this clash, he certainly will afterwards, especially with his business ventures outside of the sport.