Tyson Fury may be 'the man' of the moment, but Deontay Wilder controls the immediate future
A rematch clause stands in the way of the fight everyone wants to see and all other options for Fury's future
This past Saturday's rematch between Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder was a titanic encounter, drawing massive attention and a record-breaking Las Vegas gate. The fight was, at its core, a perfect mix of undefeated heavyweight champions with big personalities mixing it up again after a compelling split draw in their first battle in December 2018. Fury made the rematch memorable by erasing any doubts over who was the better man when he dominated from the opening bell until Wilder's corner threw in the towel in the seventh round to save their fighter from taking any more punishment.
The logical conclusion in a sporting context is that things have been settled between the two towering heavyweights. If not permanently, at least in the short term. Fury took the WBC championship from Wilder and retained his own mythical status as lineal heavyweight champion and he did so in a way that left absolutely no questions.
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But boxing is a business as much as a sport far too often for its own interest, one of the myriad of reasons the sport has slipped in public profile outside of moments such as Floyd Mayweather vs. Manny Pacquiao or Fury vs. Wilder. And the answer to "What's next for the winner?" was likely set long before the the two set foot in the ring for their rematch.
Last weekend's fight came at a 50-50 purse split, with a clause guaranteeing the loser could initiate an immediate third fight and take the short end of a 60-40 split. So, while the most logical fight in the entire sport is to match Fury up with Anthony Joshua, the holder of the other three recognized world titles, it's likely Wilder will push the button and hope he can somehow solve the Fury puzzle after 19 rounds spent in the ring together already.
Joshua's promoter, Matchroom Boxing's Eddie Hearn, was quickly on Twitter after Fury's win, trying to fit his man into the puzzle sooner rather than later.
"No need for a third," Hearn tweeted. "Let's go straight to it in the Summer! #undisputed"
Crowning an undisputed, unified heavyweight champion would be big business -- especially in Fury and Joshua's native U.K. Hearn understands business in boxing and appeared on Sky Sports to explain the path to making the fight may involve a few additional stops.
"Everybody is very clear on this," Hearn said. "Everybody wants this fight -- Anthony Joshua, Tyson Fury, MTK, Top Rank, Frank Warren, Matchroom. There are some hurdles to overcome on the broadcasting, but nothing too much.
"I promise you this fight will happen. If we have to fight (Kubrat) Pulev, we've got to beat Pulev, and if he has to fight Wilder, he's got to beat Wilder again. Both of those things will happen. Fury will beat Wilder again and Joshua will knock Pulev clean out, despite Bob Arum telling us very differently."
At the post-fight press conference following the win over Wilder, Fury was clear that step one was for him to enjoy his victory -- but that he was expecting a third fight with Wilder to come next.
"Spoils of war have just happened and I need to enjoy this victory," Fury said. "Deontay will need time to recover from the fight but I'm almost sure that he'll take a rematch because he's dynamite puncher and at any time he can take somebody out and with that danger you're always in a fight. So I'm pretty sure we'll do it again, we'll run it back again if he wants to."
And it does appear that Wilder does "want to." Fury co-promoter Frank Warren told Metro that Wilder's manager called him Sunday to say they would likely invoke their rematch, mirroring what Jay Deas, Wilder's head trainer and co-manager, said at the post-fight press conference.
"Shelly Finkel rang me the morning after the fight to tell me they would probably invoke the immediate rematch," Warren said "So that's where we're at right now. I'm assuming that the trilogy fight is going ahead."
Wilder was clear he felt as though he had been robbed of the opportunity to "go out on his shield" when his corner threw in the towel. The combination of that sense of a sort of "incomplete loss" with talk of a leg injury after he lost, punches that may have landed to the back of the head and ultimate confidence in his historically proficient right hand power may mean Wilder can't let go of the idea that if he can get one more chance to land a bomb on Fury, he can return to champion status.
The options for Fury's future don't stop a probably Wilder and hopefully Joshua, though.
When Hearn started pushing for Fury vs. Joshua in the summer, another one of his fighters chimed in. Dillian Whyte, who holds a status as the WBC's mandatory challenger, stepped in to ask his promoter where his title shot was.
"How about doing what's right and forcing him to fight me first as the number 1 challenger?" Whyte tweeted.
While that may seem to be a bit of a left field option, but Fury ran into Dean Whyte, Dillian's brother, after his win and stated that he would fight Whyte if WIlder didn't initiate the rematch clause.
"Listen, if Wilder don't take his rematch I'll have to fight my mandatory, that's it," Fury said. "Listen, me and Dill go back, we go back a long time."
Whyte has continued to make his case in the media loudly and often. Speaking with Sky Sports, Whyte suggested what anyone wants to see does not matter as much as the status he earned in becoming mandatory challenger.
"Listen, he should be fighting me next, regardless of whatever he thinks, whatever AJ thinks," Whyte said. "I deserve it. I've worked hard for my title shot and I keep fighting and I keep risking my position. I've been No. 1 contender for ages now. They should fight no-one else, apart from me. I've done everything that is required of me, so now it's my turn."
So, probably a third fight with Wilder, hopefully a unification bout with Joshua, but maybe a mandatory defense against Whyte. Those are all the possible options for Fury's immediate future, right?
Well, unless we count the outlandish possibility of UFC heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic stepping into the ring with Fury. The two have teased a potential fight in the past, both in MMA and in boxing. Even on the pay-per-view broadcast for Fury vs. Wilder 2, there was a seemingly out of place statement from analyst Max Kellerman who said in passing that the boxing heavyweight champion is no longer considered the "baddest man on the planet," because the UFC and mixed martial arts provide a closer approximation to a "real fight" meant that honor now belonged to the Octagon's best.
And Miocic jumped in with a challenge in the moments after Fury's win.
"Congrats @Tyson_Fury," Miocic tweeted. "I'd love to sing Sweet Caroline in the ring. Let's do this."
The idea is ridiculous, of course, but so was the idea of Fury traveling to Saudi Arabia to wrestle in a WWE match mere months ahead of the Wilder rematch and after suffering multiple cuts against Otto Wallin. Ridiculous is, in fact, right up Fury's alley.
Options may feel endless for Fury, along with the idea that he holds all the cards in boxing's heavyweight future. But that one little clause in the contract means that, in fact, it is WIlder who has the power. If his team pulls the trigger on the rematch, it happens. Not Fury vs. Joshua or Fury vs. Whyte or Fury vs. Miocic -- as unlikely as that one would be. It also starts a chain reaction that leads to Joshua vs. Pulev and Whyte being stuck on the sidelines -- possibly for even longer if the Fury vs. Wilder 3 winner then fights Joshua in a unification bout. Or the very real possibility of Fury and Wilder needing to fight for a fourth time if Wilder wins the third fight and leaves them 1-1-1 after three battles.
In suffering a stunning one-sided defeat, Wilder grabbed the wheel because that's what the paperwork says. Ain't that just boxing?
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