The prospect of Anthony Joshuaand Tyson Fury meeting in one of the richest showdowns in boxing history became more likely when Eddie Hearn confirmed on Monday that both world heavyweight champions have now signed a two-fight contract.
Hearn, who promotes Joshua and is the public voice of the plan to stage a contest which could generate as much as £200m, told ESPN: “I actually feel we’ve done the hard part. Speaking for myself, Anthony and his management team, I know how hard we’ve worked these last couple of months. I just feel that this fight is so big it’s not a difficult sell. We’ve already had approaches from eight or nine sites in the Middle East, Asia, eastern Europe and America.”
Hearn added: “We’d like to get a site deal confirmed in the next month. The hard part is always getting everybody to put pen to paper. But this was a major effort from all parties to get this over the line.”
Confirmation of a signed contract is a welcome step forward amid tortuous negotiations, but the fight is still some distance from being finalised. Hearn conceded to British reporters last week that Fury and Joshua could still walk away from their signed contracts if they are dissatisfied with the venue and size of their purse, which they will split on a 50-50 basis for the first fight.
“This is the biggest fight in boxing and one of the biggest sporting events in the world,” Hearn said. “It will be a major, major win for a country that wants to showcase itself.”
Saudi Arabia is expected to offer the kind of outrageous money needed to secure the fight as staging a sporting contest of this magnitude fits the idea that the country’s poor record on human rights can be smoothed by “sportswashing” – where staging a global event presents a more positive image to the world.
Last week Hearn told the British fight press that a counter offer might emerge from Las Vegas but, with no guarantee on the size of a crowd owing to the pandemic, it is hard to see how even the giant US casinos can match a bid from the Middle East. Hearn also admitted the only way the fight could be held in Britain was if a crowd of 100,000 could attend – “and that seems impossible”.
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Hearn’s announcement of the contract being signed comes just four days after Fury claimed that, as the fight against Joshua was “nowhere near” to being finalised, he had stopped training and was drinking heavily.
“Until I’ve got a date and a load of money in my pocket, there’s no fight,” Fury said in a bizarre video. “A lot of things behind the scenes can scupper a fight like that. We’re nowhere near at the moment. I’ve stopped training now, I’m on holiday. I’m doing anything between 10 to 12 pints of lager a day.”
Those close to Fury’s camp offer a very different view. They insist he is in training while last week Hearn said: “I don’t know whether Tyson was in a bad mood or pulling everyone’s plonker. What I do know is everyone has put a lot of work into this deal and he is on board.”
The fact that Fury and Joshua have at least signed the contract supports Hearn’s claim. It is another step forward in a tangled journey but further obstacles need to be cleared before the fight that boxing craves and needs can be formally announced.
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