Will Anthony Joshua vs Tyson Fury Fight Finally Happen in 2021?

Many believe that Anthony Joshua’s emphatic 9th round knockout win over Kubrat Pulev on Saturday night has aligned the stars to finally make the fight boxing fans have been dreaming of a reality.

A showdown between the 2012 Olympic gold medallist against fellow countryman Tyson Fury promises to be one - or two, if they fight twice - of the sporting events of the century so far, and would see the first-ever. But those familiar with the sport will remain skeptical until the ink is dried on the contract. Who can forget the fiasco surrounding Floyd Mayweather Jr and Manny Pacquiao?

The fighters are represented by different - and competing - promoters in Eddie Hearn and Frank Warren, and have contracts with different TV companies. And there are some other potential hiccups provided courtesy of Oleksandar Usyk and Deontay Wilder. So will AJ face the Gypsy King in 2021? Let’s take a look.

A fight long in the making

Joshua and Fury have been circling each other for years now. Since Fury’s astonishing comeback from a 30-month layoff in which he battled depression as well as alcohol and drug problems, he, alongside Joshua and Wilder, represent a new golden age for heavyweight boxing, with all three fighters keen to face off against each other.

Fury has fought Wilder twice, most recently defeating him emphatically via 7th round KO for the WBC strap.

Now that Joshua has dispatched his mandatory challenger for the IBF belt, Kubrat Pulev, AJ’s promoter Eddie Hearn stated that he could get the fight with Fury signed in days. The reality isn’t quite so simple.

Promoters and TV rights

Hearn and Fury’s promoter Frank Warren are rivals for dominance in the UK boxing scene and are not on good terms. However, for a fight of this magnitude, it would make sense to cooperate, as the financial rewards would be astronomical - rumors are that a deal has been struck. They also know that putting the contest off will be extremely unpopular with boxing fans.

But adding to the complexity is the presence of veteran promoter Bob Arum, who represents Fury stateside. As far as TV goes, Fury works with BT Sport in the UK and has a deal with ESPN while Joshua has a relationship with Sky Sports in the UK and DAZN in the US.

However the rights are divided up, bettors interested in placing a wager on the fight will have plenty of choices, with bookmakers offering competitive odds across Europe, the US, Asia, and even the Middle East. We all remember when boxing bets got popular in the MENA region in August 2019, when, as reported by ArabianBetting boxing section, Saudi Arabia hit the headlines when Matchroom Boxing confirmed heavyweight rematch Joshua vs Ruiz Jr. That time Joshua won the battle for the unified WBA (Super), IBF, WBO, and IBO heavyweight world titles via unanimous decision. Now fight coverage in MENA ranges any of the sport’s 17 weight divisions.

Other fighters

Oleksandar Usyk - undisputed cruiserweight champion who has recently started campaigning at heavyweight - is now the mandatory challenger for Joshua’s WBO belt, and looks set to push for his shot at the champ. While Joshua could sidestep this challenge, it could mean relinquishing the title, meaning that the fight with Fury wouldn’t be for the unified heavyweight championship of the world. While this in itself isn’t an obstacle to making the fight, Joshua will be hoping that the WBO overrules the challenge until after the fight(s) with Fury.

Meanwhile, Deontay Wilder, who drew and lost in his fights with Fury, provides another potential obstacle. He is trying to exercise a rematch clause in the contract for a trilogy fight with the Gypsy King. Fury looked set to honor this until Wilder began making spurious claims about loaded gloves and ‘scratching’ in their second fight, after which Fury stated that he would not grant a rematch.

Styles and tactics

Against Pulev, Joshua showed a combination of fluid boxing, heavy-hitting, and tactical nous. A younger AJ would have rushed for the finish after flooring Pulev in the third, but the champ learned from his shock defeat to Andy Ruiz and bided his time, breaking the Bulgarian down before a huge finish in the ninth. Meanwhile Fury, in his second fight against Wilder, abandoned the crisp and awkward style that has so far defined his career, coming into the ring much heavier than usual and pressuring his opponent from the first bell. Both have great boxing ability, and even if AJ has slightly heavier hands, Fury showed how good his chin is, rising from the canvas on the way to a memorable draw in his first fight against Wilder. Fury, with typical bluster, predicts an early finish - a knockout in the third or fourth round. AJ has remained cool so far, still basking in his victory last Saturday night.

Boxing fans are foaming at the mouth as the much-anticipated fight between Joshua and Fury edges towards reality. The fighters want it, the public wants it, so let’s hope the quagmire of boxing politics doesn’t knock it off course.

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