Out In The Cold: Tyson Fury Eyes McKean And Opetaia While Usyk Looks Elsewhere

'The Gypsy King' is missing out on big fights
17:00, 26 May 2023

The other day it was Demsey McKean’s management talking up a fight between their unbeaten but untested heavyweight and WBC world champion Tyson Fury. No sooner had Fury threatened violence against the Australian than talk turned to a possible meeting with IBF cruiserweight champion Jai Opetaia, another Aussie. The thing these touted fights have in common, apart from featuring fighters from Down Under, is that nobody really wants them. They are merely a symptom of the fact our heavyweight champion has fallen into a trap of his own design.

These aren’t the only dance partners who’ve been touted for Fury’s first outing since December’s foregone conclusion against Derek Chisora. At one stage talks were underway to get WBA, WBO, IBF and The Ring champion Oleksandr Usyk in the squared circle for an undisputed title fight. Arguments over a rematch clause saw Fury pull out of those negotiations, blaming the Ukrainian for scuppering the fight of course. Usyk’s team have now just won the purse bids for their man’s WBA mandatory defence against ‘regular’ champion Daniel Dubois. For now, fans will have to wait for Fury-Usyk.


Anthony Joshua is a long bally-hooed opponent for Fury. “The bodybuilder”, as the WBC champion calls him, has signed to fight “The Gypsy King” before only for Deontay Wilder’s mandatory status to scupper plans. Ironically, it is now Joshua who looks set to face the American, with Eddie Hearn talking up plans for him to face Wilder in Saudi Arabia this winter. While Jeddah is unseasonably hot at the end of the year, it looks like Fury will be left out in the cold.

Andy Ruiz Jr was being reported as close to nailed-on to fight Fury just a few short weeks ago. The former unified champion might not be a Usyk or Joshua level name but considering he defeated the latter in 2019 to win the unified heavyweight championship, it is still an intriguing fight. However, talk of that fight has quietened with the likeable Californian now being touted as a possible foe for Fury’s friend and training partner Joseph Parker.


The Joe Joyce ship sailed when Zhilei Zhang sank it last month. Zhang himself seems tied to a rematch with ‘Juggernaut’. Literally no one in the world wants to see Fury go back in with Dillian Whyte while a fourth fight with Chisora would be straining credibility to breaking point. IBF top contender Filip Hrgovic seems intent on pursuing the Usyk route, even if he has to wait out Daniel Dubois to do it. The fact the strongest links are Opetaia and McKean at this point is a damning indictment on Fury’s reluctance to genuinely negotiate with anyone.

Fury expects that his status as the WBC and lineal champion means opponents should jump through hoops for him. There is no doubting he is an unbelievable fighter but he is also far from the only option for heavyweights looking for money and glory. Names like Joshua and Wilder sell PPVs and tickets, while Usyk is carrying around a whole stack of world title belts. Fury’s aura has been eroded by taking a soft-touch scrap with Chisora last Christmas and the fact some viewed previous challenger Dillian Whyte as past his best too. While he views himself as the Muhammad Ali or Mike Tyson-esque be-all-end-all, his peers don’t see him that way. He probably is top of the tree still, but if he’s going to play hardball at the negotiating table then the likes of Usyk or Joshua provide equally-tempting options.

It is becoming a matter of legacy for Fury. Whyte-Chisora-McKean or Whyte-Chisora-Opetaia is not the sort of run an all-conquering Hall of Famer goes on. Imagine Fury’s own jibes if one of his rivals took on such meagre opposition. But Fury has done this to himself. He has waited too long and talked himself out of the big fights. Now he must wait for the big names to conclude their business elsewhere and manoeuvre his way back in. The time for talking is over. It’s time for Fury to take on the big fights he assures us he wants.

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