A lot of interesting developments came at the weekend in the world of boxing. British Heavyweight boxing specifically may be nearing the crest of one of the biggest waves it has experienced in almost 20 years. Before going into more detail, we will outline the situation for clarity.
- Kubrat Pulev said he might accept a step-aside offer from Anthony Joshua if it was good enough
- This would free up AJ to fight Tyson Fury
- Fury would still need to get Wilder to agree to a similar offer
- If Wilder and Fury were able to come to an agreement, AJ and Fury unification fight could finally happen
- It would arguably be the biggest fight in British Heavyweight Boxing History
- The first time a Heavyweight Undisputed boxer would be crowned under the new rules that included the WBO belt in 2007
- It could set up either Pulev or Wilder, depending on their step-aside deals, to have their own shot at the new Unified Champion.
Over the weekend Kubrat Pulev announced he would be willing to accept a step-aside offer from the AJ team, in order to let Fury and Joshua fight for Heavyweight unification. Pulev, of course, will have more than a few stipulations, expect these to include a very sizeable fee for AJ to break their current contractual obligations, as well as stipulations in the contract to allow Pulev to fight AJ very soon afterward if AJ wins the fight.
Pulev after all still wants to win the IBF title he couldn’t take from Klitschko in 2014, which Joshua subsequently took further out of his grasp. As a mandatory IBF challenger, he still holds leverage of AJ’s future until they fight.
If AJ and Pulev can figure out the step-aside agreement, rest assured AJ’s team will be working overtime on the terms, this allows AJ to fight Tyson Fury next. Even if AJ had to pay Pulev a huge sum just to get out of the contract, it would be worth it to set up his shot at unification.
With AJ free from Pulev, Fury still needs to address his biggest obstacle to the fight, his rematch clause with Deontay Wilder. After his TKO loss to Fury, Wilder’s team immediately enacted their contractual right to an immediate rematch. With Wilder sour at losing to Fury in such a decisive fashion, he was quick to make excuses and was always going to go for Fury – Wilder III.
Fury will need to come up with a huge offer for Wilder if he is to accept. In what he sees as a shock loss to Fury, a sentiment not echoed elsewhere in the boxing world, Wilder will be much less willing to step aside than Kubrat Pulev is.
Having said that, it would be the easiest paycheck Wilder ever makes, with the potential of making millions without having to do anything, whilst still getting a shot at Fury further down the line.
The biggest fight in British Heavyweight history?
If AJ and Fury can manage to get themselves out of their current obligations, the final hurdle would be to agree on terms with each other and make the fight. Both have spoken openly about wanting to fight each other, both have expressed the desire to see British boxing thrust into the limelight, and both men know the fight would mean gigantic paydays.
The last Undisputed Heavyweight Champion was Lennox Lewis, from 1999 to 2000. Lewis was also the first-ever British Heavyweight to achieve unification. However, the rules have since changed with regard to what counts as unification.
As of February 2007, the WBO has been recognized by the other boxing organizations. This wasn’t the case before, prior to 2007 a boxer didn’t need to hold the WBO belt in order to be considered the undisputed champion.
If Fury or Joshua achieves unification, they will be the second British boxer ever to unify the Heavyweight division, they will be the first to unify under the new rules. The winner will also make it two British unified champions back to back, as no one has unified since Lennox Lewis did so in 1999.
The upside for Pulev and Wilder?
Pulev and Wilder really do have a lot to think about. If Pulev really believes AJ will beat Fury, it actually makes sense for him to step aside. With the first shot at AJ likely written into the step-aside contract, Pulev would see his chance at taking the IBF title turn into a shot at the WBA, WBC, and WBO belts too. That’s not a bad deal on top of being paid big money to let it happen.
For Wilder, the upsides are the same. If Wilder really believes he and Fury are the best Heavyweights, with AJ a distant third, it makes sense for him to allow Fury to fight. That way Wilder gets a huge payday for nothing, Fury goes and takes AJ’s belts, then Wilder gets the first crack at Fury and sees his shot at the WBC title turn into the WBO, WBA, and IBF too.
This is obviously a huge gamble, for both Pulev and Wilder. Either one could see their man lose, and with it, their route back to a title shot becomes murkier. If AJ wins, Wilder gets Wilder-Fury 3, but with no belts. He would then have to negotiate a fight with AJ to get his Heavyweight crown back. If Fury wins Pulev can fight AJ, but for what? Pulev loses his shot at the IBF and must negotiate separately with Fury.
It’s not an easy situation for the four men involved, but we hope that they find some way to grease everyone’s wheels.
Where will it be?
The final question is if the fight is somehow arranged, where will it take place? The best option for everyone would be the UK. Having an event that big taking place on home turf will be one of the biggest sporting events seen there since England hosted and won The World Cup in ’66. The great thing that we would be guaranteed to have a British winner too. However, with the current COVID-19 causing so many issues for the safety of the British public, it seems unlikely that if the fight were to happen in 2020 it would take place in England.
There was more news at the weekend that negotiations have already started which would pave the way for the fight to happen in Saudi Arabia. Observing the current reality that a fight in 2020 in Britain would be a closed-doors event, it makes sense that the promoters would look abroad. Saudi Arabia has a reputation for paying huge fees to promote tourism and host events, which is obviously a big draw for the fight’s promoters and fighters. While it would be a huge shame to see a historic event in British sporting history happen abroad, it seems to be that we need the hospitality of a foreign host if we’re to see it happen at all.
What do you think about the future of Joshua – Fury? Do you see Wilder and Pulev stepping aside to let this go ahead?
Let us know in the comments below.