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Thursday, June 24, 2021

Explained: The big dispute to decide the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world  

A day after Tyson Fury announced his fight against Anthony Joshua, a court ruled that Fury must take on former champion Deontay Wilder in a rematch first, putting off the long-awaited unification title bout again.

Written by Gaurav Bhatt , Edited by Explained Desk | New Delhi |
Updated: May 23, 2021 10:57:07 am
Anthony Joshua (left) and Tyson Fury. (Photos: Twitter)

The world was slated to get its one true, undisputed heavyweight champion with British boxer Anthony Joshua — the WBA (Super), IBF, WBO, and IBO champion — finally getting in the ring with compatriot Tyson Fury — the WBC and Ring Magazine titleholder. Last Sunday, Fury announced that the fight had been finalised to take place in Saudi Arabia on August 14.

The day after, however, a court ruled that Fury must take on former champion Deontay Wilder in a rematch first, putting off the long-awaited unification title bout again.

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Why is Wilder getting the rematch?

Last February, Wilder lost his WBC title to Fury in the pair’s second meeting. The boxers were scheduled to fight for a third time later in the year before the pandemic and an injury to The American foiled the plan.

In November, after staying silent for almost half a year after his defeat, Wilder asked Fury to “honor your agreement” and “give me my shot” on Twitter.

Top Rank’s Bob Arum, co-promoter of Fury, had said then that the rematch clause between the two had expired.

“The contract says Wilder’s rights ran out at the end of October and I really believe that contract displays clearly that Wilder does not have a claim for a third fight,” Arum told Betway Insider last December. “Wilder had some surgery but that was taken care of in the contract, a 90-day delay from the date of the proposed rematch in July — and that has run out.

“It’s one thing to bring a claim and it’s a second thing to be successful. I believe that Wilder has no rights any longer for a third fight and therefore his claim will be denied. But I can’t stop them from thinking otherwise and taking it to litigation.”

What happened after Fury announced the Joshua fight?

After Fury’s “massive announcement” video on Twitter, Wilder’s camp argued that their fighter had a contractual right to a third fight, taking the matter to an independent arbitrator. On Monday, ESPN reported that retired judge Daniel Weinstein upheld the claim lodged by Wilder that Fury must face him in a third fight by September 15.

On Thursday, The Athletic reported that Fury and Wilder have verbally agreed to fight again on July 24 in Las Vegas.

Fury accused Wilder of demanding $20m to step aside, telling The Athletic on Thursday: “I wouldn’t pay him 20 grand. I pay in ass whippings… I’m going to crack his skull wide open this time.”

Wilder’s camp has denied the accusations, with the American’s trainer Malik Scott saying his fighter is “fuelled by revenge”.

Arum too conceded that “there’s no chance (Wilder) will step aside.”

“Whatever it is, the judge said he had a right to the rematch and we are going to go ahead with it,” Arum, who has promoted the likes of Muhammad Ali and Manny Pacquiao, told Boxing Social. “It is what it is.”

How has Joshua responded?

By calling Fury “a fraud” on Twitter.

“If there was an arbitration going on, why announce to the world we are fighting!” Joshua posted on Twitter.

Fury meanwhile challenged Joshua to a “bare knuckles” fight.

“your more full of shit that Eddie (Hearn), Spouting absolute shite! your full team knew there was an Arbitration going on, it was out of my hands! but i tell you what if i’m a fraud let’s fight this weekend bare knuckles till 1 man quits? let’s put up 20 mill each!!!”

How did the fights between Fury and Wilder go?

Wilder — a devastating puncher with immense stopping power (42-1-1, 41 KOs), has simply been outclassed by the pressure and technique of Fury.

The first fight in 2018 was an epic draw where Fury dominated the proceedings but was sent to the canvas twice, including sensationally surviving a 12th-round knockdown.

The second meeting in February 2020 was even more one-sided as Fury ended Wilder’s unbeaten run with a seventh-round technical knockout, licking the blood off the American’s neck along the way.

In the following months, Wilder relentlessly reeled off reasons for his defeat. He alleged that his drinking water had been spiked before the fight, his elaborate ring-walk outfit affected his performance, and his trainer and the biased referee were at fault.

Wilder has been posting training videos on social media, with trainer Malik Scott trying to replicate Fury’s movement.

Where does Joshua go from here?

Joshua could now be forced to fight undefeated Oleksandr Usyk as a WBO mandatory title defence. The 31-year-old was given a 48-hour deadline by the WBO on Wednesday to save the title unification fight with Fury, which didn’t work out.

Usyk, a southpaw with an 18-0 record (13 knockouts), moved up to heavyweight division two years ago after conquering the cruiserweights and being the first cruiserweight in history to hold all four major world championships—the WBA (Super), WBC, IBF and WBO titles. Usyk won the heavyweight gold medal at the 2012 London Olympics, where Joshua won the super heavyweight gold.

“WBO has to issue the official enforcement for the mandatory today,” Usyk’s promoter Alexander Krassyuk told Sky Sports. “According to my knowledge, AJ is ready to take the challenge. It may happen anywhere including Wembley, but yet no serious venue commitments have been made.”

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