We wrote last week about the possibility of an all-British Heavyweight Unification fight between Fury and Joshua. We spoke of the magnitude of such an event in regards to boxing history and of the effect it might have on the British boxing scene. We also wrote about the unlikeliness of it happening due to the two big hurdles, Deontay Wilder and Kubrat Pulev.
Kubrat Pulev spoke about his openness to a step-aside offer, if the conditions and price were right, but also mentioned he thought it unlikely that Wilder would accept a similar deal. Days later Pulev changed his mind in the press and gave a statement to the effect that he and Wilder would never step-aside to let the fight happen.
It turns out Wilder might be more swayed by the idea than we all thought. Deontay said he’d be willing to accept a deal as long as he receives $10million (£8.1m) and a guarantee that he would face the winner of Joshua-Fury next. So, that might open the door, but it’s complicated.
There are a few potential problems with that, not least of all being the money. Under normal circumstances, $10million to let the fight happen is probably a price Hearn and Warren would be happy with. Despite the fact that it would be a record-setting fee for a step-aside deal, a Joshua-Tyson unification fight would easily cover that in gate takings and PPV sales. But there is our first problem, ticket sales are no longer guaranteed, and the financial uncertainty of the British public has thrown traditional PPV predictions out the window.
We have never seen a modern-era fight being held in such an uncertain environment. The promoters have no way of predicting how many people will be able to attend, even if they do find a venue abroad. If the fight is held in Britain later in the year after social-restrictions are lifted, will local fans take the risk with their health and money to attend? With so many people out of work, not many can justify a luxury as expensive as a World-title boxing match. The same problem goes for the PPV sales in Britain.
If the fight is held in Saudi Arabia, will the richer international fans take the risk with their health, spending 10+ hours in an enclosed plane with strangers, just to see the fight?
There’s so much uncertainty surrounding the earning potential of sporting events held during a pandemic, that Wilder’s demand of $10million is much more, comparatively, than it would be normally.
The next problem is Wilder’s stipulation that he be next in line to face the winner. If the fight between AJ and Fury does go ahead, it won’t be until later this year, July-August at the very earliest. Following this fight, the winner will need time to physically recover, time to have a full camp, and time for their management and promotional teams to cover the logistics.
If AJ wins, he’ll have a contractual obligation to fight Wilder. But, he already has an obligation to the IBF to face Kubrat Pulev as their mandatory. Joshua is also obligated to fight Dillian Whyte before February 2021, as he’s the WBC mandatory. That would put Joshua in the situation to either break his contract with Wilder, for which he’d likely be sued for a ludicrous sum, vacate his WBC title if he chose Wilder over Whyte, or vacate his IBF title if he chose Whyte or Wilder over Pulev.
If Fury wins, as the new undisputed champion, he’d have the same contractual obligations with Wilder, and similar obligations to the IBF and WBC to face the mandatories. Of course, then he’d also have Pulev to deal with again as there will likely be a rematch clause written into the Fury-Joshua unification fight contract. Either way, the winner will have a minefield of contracts to maneuver afterward.
It’s an incredibly complicated situation, and that’s before we even consider what Pulev wants. With all the talk about Wilder coming into the open with his demands, Pulev still needs to step aside also. Pulev will surely want a hefty fee, although he’d likely accept less than Wilder, but he’ll probably also want the first crack at the winner. Both Wilder and Pulev can’t have contracts stating they are next, as one contract would render the other unenforceable.
So, the talk of Wilder’s demands being met relies not only on Fury and Joshua’s teams but on what Pulev demands. It’s a standoff that will take mountains of discussion between the four teams involved, everyone will have specific terms, many of them will conflict. Under normal circumstances, the best course of action would be to get the four men in a room together, but of course, that’s not possible or wise right now.
The possibility of this fight happening comes down to these main points:
- Do Fury and Joshua’s promoters think the $10million can be easily cleared by tickets and PPV during COVID-19?
- Will Wilder get his guaranteed first shot at the winner?
- If Wilder is given first shot, what will Pulev get?
- How much money does Pulev want, and will the fight still be deemed sufficiently profitable enough with this fee and Wilder’s fee on top?
- The fight needs to take place in 2020, with the fight with Wilder also in 2020, so that Dillian Whyte gets his WBC shot before Feb 2021. Or just forget Whyte and vacate the WBC title.
This is outside of all the logistical and political issues relating to the venue, safety precautions, public opinion, and most unpredictably, whatever direction COVID-19 takes us next.