The biggest fight in boxing is reportedly one step closer to happening. Tyson Fury and Anthony Joshua have signed a two-fight contract to unify all four recognized heavyweight world championships, Matchroom Boxing promoter Eddie Hearn told ESPN. The sides are reportedly targeting both fights to happen in 2021, with the first taking place over the summer and the rematch in November or December. Top Rank president Bob Arum was not cited in the report.
There are still hurdles to be cleared, as a location and date for the fight still have to be determined -- and agreed to by all involved. But a signed contract would mean boxing has moved one step closer to crowning an undisputed heavyweight champion for the first time since Lennox Lewis won the WBC, WBA and IBF titles in 1999.
WBC champ Fury has grown increasingly frustrated in recent months over the complicated negotiation process, which involved the fighters, their promoters and rival networks all needing to get on the same page.
"We'd like to get a site deal confirmed in the next month," Joshua promoter Eddie Hearn told ESPN. "The hard part is always getting everybody to put pen to paper. But this was a major effort from all parties to get this over the line. You had rival promoters, rival networks and rival fighters."
Attending the MTK Global card in Bolton, England on Friday, Fury claimed he had stopped training for the fight and had taken up drinking while waiting to finally step in the ring with IBF, WBA and WBO champ Joshua.
"I'm not training anymore," Fury said during an interview at the event. "I'm not training no more. I've never stopped training since December 2017, and even after these world title fights, I trained the next day. I go running 10 miles, doing things. I'm in the gym sparring and messing around. I'm taking some time away from the game at the moment, because, like I say, I've been ready to fight since I beat Deontay Wilder last year. I've had no success in getting another fight, which is down to the COVID and a lot going on. At the moment I'm just concentrating on getting me 10 pints of Stella to 12 everyday.
"... Everyone in this building knows more about this fight than I do. Apparently, it's done, it's signed. We got a date, a venue. News to me. I don't know jack. I don't know anything. As far as I'm concerned, I'm not even training anymore. I've stopped training. [Trainer] Sugar Hill [Steward] has gone home. He went home in November, end of November. [Assistant trainer] Andy Lee's gone home. I'm burnt out, ya know? I need a rest, mentally and physically and emotionally."
The deal reportedly calls for a similar structure as Fury's planned second and third fights with Deontay Wilder, with an even purse split for the first fight and the winner receiving the larger side of a 60-40 split in the rematch.
Top Rank's Bob Arum, Fury's promoter, followed up on Fury's frustration on Friday and claimed that he had stopped training by blaming the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic for delays in the fight coming together.
"Look, everybody is stuck in the same thing, the coronavirus. Nobody is going to put up money while the virus will impact spectators and everything. All these athletes are unhappy but so am I unhappy. Just be patient and it will straighten out."
Just days after those comments, however, it appears the deal is done and almost every complication surrounding the titanic clash has been straightened out, at least according to Hearn.
"Speaking for myself, Anthony and his team at 258 management, I know how hard we've worked hard these last couple of months and I just feel that this fight is so big it's not a difficult sell," Hearn told ESPN. "We've already had approaches from eight or nine sites. The offers have come from multiple countries in the Middle East, from Asia, eastern Europe and America."