The heavyweight unification clash between Anthony Joshua and Tyson Fury is teetering on the edge of collapse and boxing fans are in real danger of seeing the biggest bout in British history evaporating mere days after the fight was seemingly all but done and dusted.
Deontay Wilder's team forced an arbitration hearing which concluded that he had a contractual right to face Fury for a third time by September 15, meaning that the Gypsy King’s clash with Joshua is in serious doubt for August 14 in Saudi Arabia.
With AJ now likely to fight WBO mandatory Oleksandr Usyk in July, we might not see the two Brits face each other until the year’s end and even then, should disaster strike for either fighter, it might not be for all the belts.
For the millions of fight fans, not just on these shores, but across the world, it is an absolute travesty that the negotiations for this fight would have dragged on for as long as they did with Wilder’s arbitration hearing lurking in the background - an outcome that would have huge ramifications for AJ and Fury, but was treated with a blasé ‘out of sight, out of mind’ mentality.
Some consideration has to be given to the current climate we live in - the ongoing pandemic certainly won’t have made creating a bona fide superfight any easier - but, let’s be honest, the putting together of this fight, which has seemingly been going on for a millenia, has been nothing short of a clusterf*ck from day one.
In a ‘will they-won’t they?’ more nauseating than Ross and Rachel, fingers will be pointed and there are a number of figures behind-the-scenes, be they fighters or promoters, that will take the brunt of abuse and derision from boxing fans as the situation develops but one man who has dropped the ball more than anyone is Bob Arum.
Arum, for all his faults, is boxing royalty and of that there is no question. Beginning his journey in the sweet science in the mid-60s and going on to promote everyone from Muhammad Ali to Sugar Ray Leonard, Manny Pacquiao to Oscar De La Hoya, the 89-year-old has seen everything there is to see in the sport.
But therein lies the problem; he’s nearly 90 and the ageing promoter has shown signs throughout the build-up to this one that his ability to put together the biggest fights in the world has slipped drastically. The promoter insisted that Wilder’s contract would not be an issue and was thus ignored and low and behold, it came back to bite him.
Anthony Joshua’s promoter Eddie Hearn has had the unenviable task of working with Arum in getting this fight over the line and on several occasions has lamented his fractious and temperamental working relationship with the American.
Last month Hearn told Betfred’s Boxing Show in April that getting the fight completed was so difficult that he didn’t even believe Arum wanted it to go ahead at times.
“We work as fast as we can but when he [Arum] says, ‘Eddie Hearn’s run out of time,’ what’s it got to do with me? We’re supposed to be in this together. Why am I the one running out of time? I’m the only one doing any work!
“So, if you don’t want to get involved, you don’t want to do anything, don’t want to lift a finger, and you just want to rely on me... wait, because everybody’s told, we’ve had it in writing that [we all accepted] the site offer, they’ve signed the contract, the contracts have come in, this fight is on, but if you listen to Bob, part of me thinks they don’t want to do the fight."
Having promoted Pacquiao when the Filipino and Floyd Mayweather Jr were in their primes, and having seen that fight happen at least five years too late, you’d think Arum would be desperate to avoid seeing another era-defining showdown go to waste but he’s been pivotal in this one’s downfall.
Anthony Joshua and Tyson Fury WILL happen eventually, there’s too much pressure on them to let this one die like an Amir Khan vs Kell Brook but when, and with how many belts on the line, no one knows for sure. Whatever happens though, Arum needs to get his house in order - it’s what the fans deserve.