Should WBC Heavyweight Champion Tyson Fury Be Stripped Of His Title?

Usyk's manager and Wilder's trainer both think so
17:00, 11 Jul 2023

Alex Krassyuk, manager of WBA, WBO and IBF heavyweight champion Oleksandr Usyk, says that WBC titleist Tyson Fury should be stripped of his belt. When the topic came up of Fury’s slated exhibition with former UFC heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou, Krassyuk dubbed it “a performance” saying that “from a pure sports point of view he has to be stripped because he stays inactive for so long and he’s cheating people”. 

Deontay Wilder’s trainer, Malik Scott, joined the lobby too. Speaking to ESNEWS, the ex-pro said “Now we’ve got to wait for Fury and Ngannou to fight. "Another year. All this s*** just holds up the heavyweight division, man.”


Fury offered a typically flamboyant response on social media, instructing Krassyuk “don’t hate the player, hate the game” and pointing out he doesn’t currently have a mandatory challenger. Fury is right on this score as he has not been ordered to fight anyone by his sanctioning body, the WBC. However, the fact he is deciding not to professionally fight at all, and instead facing an MMA star in an exhibition, rankles some.

So should Fury be stripped of his title? By the letter of the law, the answer is no. The WBC orders that a champion must face a mandatory challenger once a year. Fury technically has fallen outside of that. He beat WBC interim champion Dillian Whyte in April 2022, which counted as a mandatory. But despite threatening to anoint a new challenger in June, the WBC are yet to do so. Therefore Fury has done nothing wrong, on paper at least.

However, in a sporting sense it is not that simple. Fury’s last title defence took place in December, when he stopped Derek Chisora in the 10th round. That bout at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium is one almost nobody beyond the combatants craved. Fury had already defeated Chisora in two previous match-ups, once by stoppage. In the intervening years ‘The Gypsy King’ had risen to elite level. Chisora had regressed, losing three of his previous five fights going into the Fury clash.

Fans would have accepted this as a rust-loosening exercise on the way to something bigger. A money-spinning warm-up for the fights they crave, against Oleksandr Usyk and Anthony Joshua. But here we sit, 14 months since his last bout against a credible opponent in Dillian Whyte, being asked to shell out cash for a boxing match that isn’t really a boxing match at all. 

Fury is not going to risk lucrative potential fights with the likes of Usyk and ‘AJ’ by laying it all on the line against Ngannou. Similarly, it is hard to envisage ‘The Predator’ going hell-for-leather when he has just signed a historic deal with the Professional Fighters League. Matchroom chief Eddie Hearn may not have been a completely impartial observer when he revealed to Boxing Social he had heard there was a “no knockdown” rule in the contract. But given how these exhibitions often go it would not be a surprise to find such a safety-first clause in the deal.


However, undertaking this exhibition with Ngannou is not grounds enough to strip Fury. As we have found, he’s broken no WBC laws in accepting it and has no mandatory responsibilities. It doesn’t sit well from a competitive standpoint because, ideally, if the heavyweight champion of the world is going to train, you want him doing so for a legitimate fight. But this is no reason to unseat 'The Gypsy King' just yet. Not when the potential rewards of keeping him as champion far outweigh the negatives.

Ultimately, the end goal for all concerned should be the crowning of the first undisputed heavyweight champion since Lennox Lewis. Fighters have been born, grown up and become world champions in the years since Lewis beat Holyfield in 1999. That is no exaggeration. Jesse ‘Bam’ Rodriguez was two months away from being born the last time an undisputed heavyweight king was crowned. He is now a two-weight world champion preparing for a unification. There’s slow, there’s glacial and then there’s heavyweight boxing.

But we are agonisingly close to being able to crown a champion now, if the current belt-holders will get out of their own way. For what it’s worth, Fury seems to be doing more to disrupt talks than Usyk. But any roadblocks on either side should be ironed out. It is in the best interests of the sport. This is the biggest fight that could be presented today, a real mainstream event that would break boxing to a new generation. The young fans weaned on the Jake Paul circus could be crystallised into lifelong boxing aficionados with an event such as this.

There will never be a better chance to present an undisputed heavyweight title fight. Unlike in previous years, when the four heavyweight titles have been held by four different fighters, an undisputed title fight could feasibly take place. Usyk even holds The Ring title meaning the winner would truly and unquestionably be 'The Man'. 

Therefore Fury needs to keep his title for the time being. Sure, a bout for the vacant belt could take place. But it would be cheapened by the fact Fury is so obviously one of the two best heavyweights on the planet. Even if, say, Deontay Wilder or Andy Ruiz Jr emerged with the title, a fight between one of them and Usyk would not do the business a Fury fight could. It is in the public interest to keep Fury as the champion, at least for now. If he goes much longer without showing a real willingness to defend his title in legitimate fights, then the matter can be revisited in due course.

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