When Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury step into the ring on Saturday for their highly-anticipated rematch for the WBC and lineal heavyweight championships, there will be few observers with more interest and investment in the outcome than Anthony Joshua. Joshua holds the other three recognized heavyweight world championships (WBA, WBO and IBF), and the idea of one true champion in boxing's glamour division has always held appeal.
Sadly, however, the boxing landscape often fails to allow the blatantly obvious fights to happen in the hopes of crowning that one true king of a weight division.
The Floyd Mayweather vs. Manny Pacquiao saga is a prime example. The two all-time greats eventually met one another in the ring, and while it was still the massive spectacle fans anticipated it to be, it came to fruition after Pacquiao's dominant run had come to an end at the judges' scorecards against Timothy Bradley and also at the right hand of Juan Manuel Marquez. If we want to touch on a more current example, a welterweight unification between Errol Spence Jr. and Terence Crawford is a potential showdown of pound-for-pound elite champions that remains unlikely, at best.
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Similar to both of those examples, all parties involved with a potential superfight between the winner of Fury vs. Wilder and Joshua talk a big game about making the fight happen -- but doubt hangs like a cloud over every juicy quote dropped by the charismatic stars.
Fury and Wilder battled to a controversial split draw in their first meeting in 2018, a fight in which Fury suffered knockdowns but still had done enough in the eyes of many to have earned a win on the scorecards. The close nature of the first fight and subsequent lucrative pay-per-view business has added an extra wrinkle into the rematch: Both fighters have a contractual guarantee in place where the loser of the Las Vegas showdown is able to initiate an immediate trilogy fight where they will be on the short end of a 60/40 purse split.
That the two fights have happened at all is a minor miracle in the current boxing climate. Fury is promoted by Top Rank while Wilder is a member of the Premier Boxing Champions stable of fighters. Not only did the two promotional entities need to work things out to strike a deal, their respective broadcast partners -- ESPN and FOX -- needed to also come together in the interest of big fight business. It's a rare cross-promotional event that managed to clear all the hurdles, which usually tank such fistic endeavors.
To secure a unification fight with Joshua, the Fury vs. Wilder winner and his team will next need to work with Eddie Hearn and his Matchroom Boxing promotion. The Joshua and Wilder camps have stumbled in prior talks with Hearn, leading to a chain of events where Wilder and Fury battled to their initial draw while Joshua suffered a shock knockout loss to Andy Ruiz Jr. in June 2019, a loss he avenged in December to regain his championships. But, at the same time, Fury and Wilder's highly publicized draw led to their own rematch and the aforementioned potential trilogy.
Hearn has promised to "pressure" Saturday's winner to make the unification bout but has also admitted that Fury may ultimately be their best path to getting a deal done. Though, he also accused Fury of "turning his back" on the U.K. for not fighting in the country recently and said that likely meant the potential fight would have to be held in a different country. Some interesting nuggets to point out here as we piece the puzzle together are that Joshua and Ruiz held their December rematch in Saudi Arabia while Fury also participated in a big event in Saudi Arabia at WWE's Crown Jewel pay-per-view in October. If location is an issue for a potential Fury vs. Joshua showdown, Saudi Arabia seems to fit as a middle ground.
"If Fury wins, we've got a straight line to Bob Arum and MTK," Hearn recently said. "If Wilder wins, it's much, much harder. It's going to take someone from their side to lose a bit of ego and make the call."
In December, Joshua went as far as to offer to train with Fury ahead of the rematch, which Fury -- at least through the media -- accepted. Now, days ahead of the fight, Fury has turned to dismissing any talk from Joshua or Hearn on a future fight.
'If they want me to win? Fantastic," Fury told Boxing Social. "If they want me to lose? Fantastic. I can only live my own life. But don't be too concerned by what I'm doing. Focus on your own careers and your own lives. Just think, boys, this could have been you. This could have been you in Las Vegas in the biggest fight for 50, 60 years. But it's not, unfortunately, so unlucky."
Fury and Wilder have both predicted they believe they'll eventually fight Joshua one day. For Fury, he has recently claimed looking forward to a third fight with Wilder in Vegas. And Wilder has pointed out a desire to make the unification fight "for legacy and history," but has also accused the Joshua team of choosing business over "entertainment and thrill."before retirement. Of course, Fury is notorious for changing answers and plans in any given interview, and recently said he's already
"It'll be crazy for the history of boxing 1,000 years from now -- when everyone's not here -- for them to look back like them two never fought, it just doesn't make sense," Wilder said on the "In the Duffel Bag" podcast. "For legacy and history, the fight will definitely happen."
Hearn, expressing a similar impatience to the one felt by many boxing fans toward putting his fighter in the ring with this weekend's winner, may have best summed up where Joshua sits currently when he said, "We will have a conversation [with the Wilder vs. Fury winner] and say, 'Are you doing a third fight? If so, can you do it quickly please?'"
Joshua is the man on the outside. He's the champion with the least control over the future, and the one who is left hoping that he fits in somewhere in the future.
Who will win Wilder vs. Fury 2, how long will the fight last, and which best bet pays 9-2? Visit SportsLine now to see Peter Kahn's best bets, all from the fight game insider who called Wilder knocking out Dominic Breazeale in the first round at 22-1.