Andy Ruiz Jr. and Robert Helenius are frontrunners to be next, plus analysis of what this means for the heavyweight division in 2022
Tyson Fury’s US promoter Bob Arum has disclosed Andy Ruiz Jr. and Robert Helenius are now the frontrunners to be his next opponent in March after failing to reach agreement with Dillian Whyte on a purse split.
Fury had been ordered earlier this month to defend the World Boxing Council heavyweight title against fellow Briton Whyte, who is interim champion and mandatory challenger.
However, Arum stated on Tuesday that Team Whyte’s demands of $10 million dollars [£7.5 million] is “too greedy”, with the team representing the ‘Gypsy King’ having offered Whyte a 75/25 split, likely to earn him closer to £4 million.
Frank Warren, Fury’s UK promoter, previously told Telegraph Sport: “Tyson won’t be defending his WBC title [in his next fight]. There is a problem there, not of his making or our making.
“We can’t [leave Fury] inactive because of the problems caused by this arbitration between the WBC and Whyte.”
There have even been discussions for Fury to defend the ‘Ring Magazine’ title instead.
The complication in negotiations revolves around Whyte’s outstanding legal arbitration case with the World Boxing Council sanctioning body, with an outcome not expected until March.
Whyte’s team brought a case against the WBC for failing to make him a mandatory challenger during the period Fury fought Deontay Wilder three times, from December 2018 up to October, during which time Whyte has lost and then regained his WBC ranking position after a defeat followed by a victory against Russian Alexander Povetkin.
The dispute has rendered the sanctioning body unable, legally, according to a WBC spokesperson, to intervene in a closed period for negotiation.
Arum told Telegraph Sport that Fury’s next contest would “100 per cent be in the UK”, Manchester having become the most likely venue.
Arum insisted Fury needs a fight in early March and that they are moving on, with no opposition from the WBC: “It’s unfortunate because Dillian Whyte can have that fight and we would do that fight, but in our view, they’re being very greedy in what they’re asking.
“Particularly in the age of the pandemic where you don’t know the kind of spectators you’re going to get like in the last Tyson Fury fight where we did the event and did a great gate.
“It would have been even bigger if we had the UK fans there, which they couldn’t go because of the travel ban in the United States.
“We’ve offered them [Team Whyte] a good deal, a purse deal, far more than they’ve ever gotten in any fighting and that hasn’t moved them.”
“We’ve talked to the head of the WBC, Mauricio Sulaiman and he said, ‘Look, it breaks my heart, but go find another opponent, fight without the WBC title, and we’re not going to take it away from you and go about your business,” Arum told IFLTV.
“Dillian Whyte and his people should come to the table and make a deal to fight Tyson Fury, period end of the story. But that’s not likely to happen, so they’re going to play out the arbitration.
“Frank Warren and I are looking for another opponent to do Fury’s fight in Manchester or in Las Vegas, depending on who the opponent is. So, we’re looking at Andy Ruiz, he’s a possibility, he’s available. This big Finnish kid that looked good on the Fury-Wilder card, Helenius. He’s a big kid, who can really fight, and those are the two principal guys.”
Analysis of the heavyweight division going into 2022
As the heavyweight division goes, so goes boxing, as the saying goes, and the state of the heavyweight division entering 2022 sees itself in a veritable tangle: no deal between the respective promoters of Tyson Fury and Dillian Whyte, respectively the WBC champion and his mandated challenger.
The sticking point remains the purse splits, with the WBC hamstrung over intervening in the negotiations, over legal restrictions owing to an outstanding arbitration case between Whyte and the WBC over his mandatory status, dating back over two years.
Why those have not been dropped, in order to pursue the Fury-Whyte fight with more clarity, makes little sense, yet betrays the distrust within the industry over major, huge money fights.
But it has ever been thus in boxing.
There is also no rematch deal concluded between Oleksandr Usyk and Anthony Joshua [IBF, WBA, WBO titles] for the first third of the year, with promoter Eddie Hearn revealing in the past few days.
Assuming Fury’s team goes ahead and matches the unbeaten heavyweight No 1 against either Andy Ruiz Jr – potentially in the UK, or even Las Vegas – or Robert Helenius of Finland, likely in Manchester, promoters Bob Arum and Frank Warren will push for a pathway to fight the winner of Joshua vs. Usyk 2 for the undisputed heavyweight championship in the second half of 2022.