However, there was finally some good news for the sport, or at least for British boxing fans hoping to see a showdown between its two brightest lights.
The pair are headed for a 2021 mega-fight for the undisputed heavyweight championship of the world after Sportsmail broke the news over the weekend that the Gypsy King’s trilogy battle against Wilder in December was abandoned.
Both British heavyweights have agreed in principle to fight twice next year. However there are still plenty of details to be sorted before confirmation of perhaps the biggest fight in boxing history takes place.
Fury (left) confirmed that his fightwith Deontay Wilder was off, which has opened up the prospect of a heavyweight unification fight against Anthony Joshua (right)
Tyson Fury’s third fight with Deontay Wilder will not go ahead after negotiations were ended
Anthony Joshua is still going to face Kubrat Pulev on December 12 even without fans present
‘I was looking forward to smashing Wilder again. A quick and easy fight,’ Fury has since told The Athletic, confirming Jeff Powell’s story.
‘But Wilder and his team were messing around with the date. They don’t really want to fight the lineal heavyweight champion. They know how it ends. The world knows how it will end: with Wilder on his ass again.
‘Then they asked me if I would agree to push it to December. I agreed to December 19. Then they tried to change the date again into next year. I’ve been training. I’m ready. When they tried moving off December 19 and pushing to next year, enough was enough. I’ve moved on.’
After foregoing the series of dates for the trilogy fight, it is believed that Wilder’s team missed a deadline to suggest a new date for the fight and now negotiations are off and Fury is looking elsewhere. The issue of finding a date had been complicated by coronavirus and the potential lack of crowds because of the pandemic, and also with Wilder undergoing surgery and physio for a bicep he injured in the loss to Fury in February this year.
Fury has agreed a deal in principle to take on British rival Joshua in two fights next year
Eddie Hearn said that he had had ‘a bit of success’ in lockdown with those negotiations
For what it is worth, Wilder’s co-manager Shelly Finkel has denied the fight is off. While it remains a possibility that Fury/Wilder III could still happen down the line, it won’t be until at least two Fury v Joshua showdowns have taken place.
Both heavyweights have given their blessing for a two-fight deal, the first being a 50-50 split and the second 60-40 in favour of the winner of the first.
Now, AJ needs to come through through his fight with Kubrat Pulev on December 12 unscathed. Fury will also have a warm-up fight in the near future before the potential huge showdown.
Kubrat Pulev is Joshua’s mandatory IBF challenger and could upset the apple cart in December
A slight spanner in the works could be the IBF insisting Joshua takes on mandatory challenger Oleksandr Usyk, should the Ukrainian come through his bout with Derek Chisora on October 31.
There is a feeling, however, that the fight could be delayed or moved in order to facilitate Fury v Joshua for the good of the sport. Indeed, there is probably a greater likelihood that Joshua would vacate his IBF belt rather than face the dangerous former cruiserweight in order to keep a money-spinning bout with Fury on the cards.
That would be a shame as it would rob fans of the chance to see the first ever fully unified heavyweight champion, but that’s better that than no fight at all.
And Fury will have mandatory challengers of his own too. The Gypsy King could be required to face the winner of Dillian Whyte’s rematch with Alexander Povetkin in November, but again there is optimism that an arrangement could be made there.
Oleksandr Usyk of Ukraine is in line to face AJ after Pulev and does not want to step aside
There is a chance the situation could be resolved between the various federations but boxing politics is notoriously fraught and complicated so there are no guarantees a resolution would be found.
Another significant obstacle for both Frank Warren and Eddie Hearn to overcome is negotiating the specifics of date and location. Nailing down a compromise may not be straightforward.
The issue of broadcasting is also high up on the agenda with both fighters under contracts with rival networks either side of the atlantic.
Covid-19 has caused havoc with sport but AJ and Fury have at least agreed to fight
It would be a magnificent return to normality if AJ vs Fury took place with fans at Wembley
Fury works with BT Sport and ESPN while AJ is with Sky Sports and DAZN. These major players would also have to come to the table and strike a deal for how, where and when the event is to be televised.
Then there is the issue of venue. Wembley, the Middle East and even China have been mooted. What’s clear is that for the fight to work financially, it will either have to take place in front of crowds or for someone to cough up a site fee, like the £50million put forward by Saudi Arabia to host Joshua’s rematch with Andy Ruiz Jnr in 2019.
Hosting the event at a full stadium or arena would be an incredible spectacle, particularly after such a prolonged absence for fans. Perhaps by the summer of 2021 this could be a possibility and mark the return to normality in spectacular style.
But, despite the recent good news, there remains an enormous amount of work to be done and challenges both globally and at the negotiating table to overcome.