Tyson Fury and Oleksandr Usyk appear to be on a collision course for early next year in a much-anticipated showdown that could see all four world heavyweight titles on the line.
Bob Arum, Fury’s co-promoter, revealed the WBC champion and Usyk, the WBA, IBF and WBO titlist, have agreed to fight each other next with the UK and the Middle East possible destinations.
Here, we look at the state of play.
So Fury-Usyk is a lock?
No, boxing is far too fickle for anything to be guaranteed until the fighters are actually in the ring. No contracts have been signed, a date is yet to be agreed and the venue is still up in the air. This was the most anticipated contest for boxing fans 12 months ago but mandatories, contractual rematches and schedules – as well as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine – have intervened.
What are the reasons for hope, then?
It has been a frustrating year for UK fight fans but Arum seems positive about the ongoing situation. His relationship with Fury is well-publicised but he is fond of Usyk, too, and promotes the Ukrainian’s close friend and fellow boxer Vasyl Lomachenko. Negotiations between the camps are progressing with March dates mooted. One obstacle, though, has been removed as Fury will not go under the knife on his right elbow that troubled him in a routine win over Derek Chisora earlier this month.
Are there any stumbling blocks on the horizon?
Earlier this month the WBA ordered Usyk to defend his ‘super’ title against ‘regular’ belt holder Daniel Dubois. However, given Frank Warren’s promotion stable includes Fury and Dubois, this hurdle should not prove too problematic. It may well be that Dubois has first dibs at whoever prevails between Fury and Usyk but Filip Hrgovic is the IBF mandatory so there is already a backlog building up.
So all roads lead to Fury-Usyk?
Both fighters will be acutely aware their legacy may hinge on being able to thrash out a deal but the devil is always in the detail. It is worth remembering Fury and Anthony Joshua were close to finalising a blockbuster bout but talks there ultimately fizzled out with much finger-pointing from both sides. While there is a will to get this fight in the books, there may be more twists and turns to come.
Is there any indication of where the fight will take place?
There is no clear favourite currently. The lure of filling Wembley Stadium again will be enticing for Fury while Usyk has fond memories of London, having won Olympic gold there in 2012 before dethroning Joshua as world champion at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium last year. However, both fighters will expect to be handsomely rewarded for their endeavours so expect Saudi Arabia, which staged Usyk-Joshua II, the United Arab Emirates and maybe even 2022 FIFA World Cup hosts Qatar to come into the reckoning.
So upbeat vibes but nothing concrete?
Precisely. Crucially, boxing needs this fight between two unbeaten combatants to take place in 2023 and there can be no excuses. Fury, in particular, would see his reputation suffer if another high-profile bout were to fall through. Fury has the upper hand in height, reach and weight which marks him out as the favourite but Usyk made light of similar disadvantages to beat Joshua twice. While Fury is a superior boxer to his British counterpart, Usyk might be the most gifted fighter of his generation.