Plus: How the biggest fight in boxing might not be dead just yet
Anthony Joshua believes his hopes of facing Tyson Fury are over, according to promoter Eddie Hearn.
Last month, plans for an all-British heavyweight showdown were dashed when a legal ruling in the United States wrecked a proposed fight in Saudi Arabia on August 14.
An arbitration hearing upheld claims from fellow heavyweight Deontay Wilder that he was contractually owed a third fight with WBC champion Fury, with Joshua then labelling his countryman a “fraud” on Twitter.
It means Joshua will now face Oleksandr Usyk in September while Fury will take on Wilder for their trilogy on July 24 and victory for both Britons would fuel more talk of a potential undisputed bout.
But Matchroom promoter Hearn said: “AJ never felt they wanted the fight, he never felt like Fury wanted it.
“He always doubted it and when it fell through he was like ‘I f****** knew it, you’re f****** jokers, all of you’ so I guess it was very strange to see him do the tweets and he fired a few out didn’t he. He usually does one and goes quiet.
“I think AJ, in his head, probably thinks the fight will never happen. I would like to be more hopeful and I think it will happen.
“If AJ knocks out Usyk and Fury knocks out Wilder then in four months we are talking about an even bigger fight. One could lose or look bad but I do get the feeling if they both win then the fight is huge. I am hoping it works out for the best.”
With the prospect of an all-British heavyweight contest over for now, Joshua has turned his focus to an expected meeting with Ukrainian boxer Usyk.
Talks between the two parties continue, but a date of either September 18 or 25 is expected to be finalised with the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium also likely to host the bout.
Fury has already suggested his fellow Briton will lose and Hearn admitted that talk is fuelling Joshua in the build-up to facing Usyk, who was undisputed cruiserweight champion before he made the step up in weight two years ago.
Speaking at Matchroom HQ in Brentwood, where alongside new partner DAZN plans for a three-week schedule of Fight Camp were unveiled, Hearn added: “AJ knows how good Usyk is but he wants to do a job on him because he also knows people are unsure about him winning the fight and I think he likes that.
“He has done four weeks of southpaw sparring up in Sheffield and he is gearing himself up for a big fight. We just hope that everywhere is open because we want to do 60-70,000 at Spurs.”
Prime Minster Boris Johnson announced on Monday a four-week delay to the end of England’s coronavirus restrictions due to a new Delta variant, but Hearn does not expect it to have any impact on Joshua’s fight with Usyk.
It will not affect Matchroom’s second instalment of Fight Camp, which begins on July 31 with Conor Benn putting his WBA continental title on the line against Mexico’s Adrian Granados.
Two further shows will take place in Brentwood on August 7 and August 14 which kicks off the new landmark partnership with DAZN, the leading sports streaming platform.
A limited number of spectators will be able to attend the shows with women’s world champion Shannon Courtenay and heavyweight Joshua Buatsi in action alongside a number of other fighters from the Matchroom stable.
Hearn is excited about the prospect of exposing his talent to a wider global audience after a five-year deal was struck with DAZN earlier this month to become Matchroom Boxing’s exclusive broadcast partner.
“We have mapped out a plan to take Conor Benn to the world title over five fights,” Hearn revealed.
“I think Granados is perfect. It is a bit tougher than Samuel Vargas, so I think he will go deeper into the fight and ask him a few questions.
“He still needs those type of fights and quite frankly when he is hitting the numbers he is hitting, we don’t want to see him in a 50-50 fight just yet. We want to see him prepared for that and he is someone who will benefit from the international schedule.
“I think he is perfect for the US shows, he is Spanish speaking so I would love to take him to Mexico and link him up with Canelo (Alvarez) and Eddie Reynoso on one of their shows.
“He can box in Spain, in Australia where his old man is based, so I really see him as a future global star. He is right up the top there in terms of ratings.”
There are also plans for two-weight world champion Katie Taylor, Buatsi and Lawrence Okolie to fight in America before the end of 2021.
Meanwhile Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez, who recently agreed a deal to be promoted by Hearn, is set to return to the ring on September 11 – the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks – in America with DAZN expected to broadcast the fight and a number of tributes planned to mark the occasion.
COMMENT: The biggest fight in the history of British boxing is not dead yet
By Gareth A Davies
It’s not hard to see why Anthony Joshua thinks the fight with Tyson Fury will never happen. He has spent the early part of this year preparing for the fight of his life that could have made him the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world. All year he would have been contemplating the contest, honing his moves and mentally preparing himself piece by piece.
Victory and the glory would also have earned him a career best £70 million, or more depending on the pay-per-view numbers. At the same time it would have given him the opportunity to silence many of the doubters, including The Ring Magazine, which places Fury as the No 1 heavyweight out there.
Joshua’s thoughts about this year would have been to settle the debate once and for all. So, following the arbitration ruling that Fury must face Deontay Wilder for a third time, it’s no great shock that Joshua took to Twitter to attack Fury. His ire had to be aimed somewhere, and it was directed towards the man he had been preparing for.
Conversely, though, there is no way that Fury would not want the fight with Joshua to go ahead. The promoters may be playing a overarching chess match here, but why would Fury not want to fight Joshua? Why would he not want the prospect of going in there as the favourite, with the opportunity to unify all the belts, and also have biggest pay day of his life?
The biggest fight in the history of British boxing is not dead yet. But Joshua must now defeat Ukrainian Oleksandr Usyk on September 25, at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, to retain his title belts, and Fury must defeat Wilder to retain the WBC title on July 24. Both British fighters will earn a third of the purse they might have expected in the now defunct Dust Up In the Dunes in Saudi Arabia.
Given the space of two months between the fights, the big question is how the teams fare in a re-negotiation if they both win. Money talks, though, and in spite of the war of words and insults going back and forth between Hearn and Fury’s US promoter Bob Arum there is hope the Joshua-Fury fight can happen. The trash talk from both camps can become insidious at times, but if the two fighters both claim the prizes in Las Vegas and London – both challenging fights – the merry go round will begin again.