Tyson Fury thought he'd put the saga with Deontay Wilder behind him when a third fight between the two failed to materialize through the second half of 2020. On Monday, an arbitrator ruled Fury has until Sept. 15 to grant Wilder his contractually guaranteed rematch. The news coming just days after Fury said his long awaited battle with Anthony Joshua to unify the four recognized heavyweight world titles was set for Aug. 14 in Saudi Arabia.
The news, first reported by Chris McKenna and confirmed by Mike Coppinger, puts one of the most anticipated fights of the era in jeopardy. Top Rank's Bob Arum called the decision "preposterous" in speaking with Sports Illustrated's Chris Mannix. Arum said that the plan is to go forward with the Joshua fight in August and to sell Wilder on facing the winner in November or December.
However, in a later interview with ESPN, Arum said that they will not be giving Wilder any step aside money to allow the Fury vs. Joshua fight to take place and that his team has already booked Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas for July 24 to make Fury vs. Wilder 3.
"We're not paying Wilder to step aside," Arum told ESPN on Monday. "It's better to get rid of him and go about our business. We can make the Fury-Joshua fight for November or December."
Joshua promoter Eddie Hearn said in an interview with Matchroom Boxing that Arum and Wilder's team have to notify him by the end of this week if things are going to change the plans for Fury vs. Joshua in August.
Fury dominated Wilder in their February 2020 rematch after the two battled to a draw in December 2018. After Wilder was knocked down multiple times, the fight was stopped in the seventh round, securing Fury the WBC heavyweight title. After the loss, Wilder blamed the elaborate costume he wore to the ring for burning his legs out before the fight even began. He then switched his focus to claims that his cornerman, Mark Breland, who threw in the towel had fixed the fight and accused Fury of doctoring his gloves.
When the contractually guaranteed third fight between the pair repeatedly failed to materialize during the COVID-19 pandemic, first being pushed from the summer to December before a Wilder request to push further into 2021, Fury and his team said the guarantee had expired and moved on to the mega-fight with the WBO, IBF and WBA champion Joshua. After several delays and back-and-forth statements on the status of the fight, the two parties have finally seemed to settle on a date and location.
All the while, Wilder and his camp have pursued the fight they feel they are owed, as the 2020 bout carried a clause allowing the loser to initiate a third fight while taking the short side of a 60-40 purse split.
Boxing has seen fighters take money to step aside in many guaranteed-bout situations, but Wilder taking step-aside money would potentially tank the value of a rematch with Fury should Joshua get the victory. Additionally, Fury and Joshua's deal calls for two fights between the champions, which would put Wilder in an even more uncertain position as to the timing of his chance to regain championship gold.
Now, the fight turns to the men who don't set foot in the ring, with legal teams and promoters trying to figure a way out of the kind of tangled mess so often created in boxing in the interest of salvaging one of the biggest sporting events on earth and a rare heavyweight championship unification.