Not one, but two. Two fights for the undisputed heavyweight championship of the world. That’s what British boxing fans have to look forward to in 2021 after Eddie Hearn confirmed on Monday that contracts have been signed for Tyson Fury and Anthony Joshua to meet in a pair of blockbuster showdowns.
In has taken months of negotiations, but the deal is finally done, with Joshua’s promoter Eddie Hearn telling ESPN that only a venue remains to be sorted: “We’d like to get a site deal confirmed in the next month. The hard part is always getting everybody to put pen to paper. But this was a major effort from all parties to get this over the line. You had rival promoters, rival networks and rival fighters.”
Informed sources in the fight game suggest that the Middle East remains the most likely venue for the fight after Hearn fixed up Joshua’s rematch with Andy Ruiz in Diriyah, Saudi Arabia in 2019. “This is the biggest fight in boxing and one of the biggest sporting events in the world,” said Hearn, the managing director of Matchroom Sport. “It will be a major, major win for a country that wants to showcase itself.”
The two Brits have appeared to be on a collision course for years, and with Fury having won the WBC belt from Deontay Wilder at the beginning of 2020, the chance to unify the heavyweight titles for the first time since Lennox Lewis beat Evander Holyfield in 1999 has been a massive pull for boxing fans and the fighters themselves.
But there appeared to be a hurdle to clear until recently, with Oleksandr Usyk insisting he would enforce his right to be Joshua’s mandatory challenger for the IBF, WBA and WBO belts. Yet the three organisations for whom AJ is champion have all cleared the way for the Watford native to fight Fury instead.
While many in the UK will have hoped to be in attendance for the fights, it would appear that potential restrictions due to Covid-19 could help to ensure that the bout will be fixed up abroad.
Hearn added: “Speaking for myself, Anthony and his team at 258 MGT, I know how hard we’ve worked these last couple of months and I just feel that this fight is so big that it’s not a difficult sell. We’ve already had approaches from eight or nine sites. The offers have come from multiple countries in the Middle East, from Asia, Eastern Europe and America.”
According to ESPN, the first fight will be subject to a 50/50 split, with the winner getting 60 per cent of the rematch purse. Both fights are planned for 2021, with the first likely to take place this summer and the follow-up coming at the end of the year.