THE TRANSATLANTIC MAGAZINE
It is a long and winding road to the top of the world of professional boxing. Even then, with so many different organizing bodies that have splintered off, each claiming to be the best in their weight categories, it’s difficult to see exactly who has claim to be the very best.
The prizefighter’s ultimate dream is to climb to the top of that excessively big hill, hold the belt high or casually drape it over one shoulder, and be announced as overall world champion. But with so many different bodies arguing that their belt is superior, the opportunity to unify them all does not come around often. The money men behind each boxer make sure that when contracts are signed there are many clauses that protect their fighters, win or lose. This often leads to guaranteed rematches, and even trilogies. And just like with the movies, sequels rarely live up the original. An anti-climax is often the result as the outcome is often a repeat, or revenge easily sought from a shock win.
The biggest prize, and often the biggest purse in terms of money made, is in the heavyweight class. And the heavyweight boxing division has one fight that the world wants to see. A first, not a rematch. Arguably the best heavyweight in the world right now is Britain’s Tyson Fury, and he wants a showdown with his countryman Anthony Joshua, not only to unify all the belts and stand top of the heap, but to give the fans what they want. The deal looked set to be done and a fight was tentatively arranged for late this summer. As always though, contracts were gone over, and those pesky stipulations were found.
Step forward, Deontay 'The Bronze Bomber' Wilder, and his team of lawyers.
After two previous fights, there will now be a Wilder-Fury trilogy fight. The first bout resulted in a tie, which many thought Fury won, and then Fury did win the second fight, doing pretty much what he said he would do during the build-up. So, with the lawyers going to the US courts, it was verified that the third instalment should take place before September 15.
The legal situation is binding. "Even Fury’s own team seem to accept that it’s binding," Joel Leigh, a partner at Howard Kennedy law firm, told i news. In fact, the only way to get around this, from Fury’s point of view, would be to get Wilder to agree to a financial settlement. But when money is not really a factor to these multimillionaires the sport takes precedence, and why would Wilder want to be paid off when he can get another shot at the belts and right the wrongs of his past defeat to Fury? "We know it’s a technicality, under terms of contract, that fight (the third) needed to be activated within a specific period of time and it wasn’t. Of course, the reason for that was Covid." Leigh went on to explain.
According to Frank Warren, Fury’s promoter, Wilder had suggested he would step aside if he were paid $20m, which Fury laughed off, calling Wilder a "joker". More importantly the WBC have given their backing to the third fight. That has dealt a heavy blow to the idea of a Fury-Joshua fight this year, which may even be two years away as the fighters must see off the mandatory challengers to their belts.
Wilder will feel he has his best chance of beating Fury now, as the current champion would have had his focus on Joshua. Wilder knows his opponent better than ever now, and any weaknesses will be found on video tape and practised on endlessly. Fury signed the contract this past weekend and, always good for a soundbite or three, started talking the talk: "Shall we do it, and put him out of his misery? Crack the other side of his skull? Give him another shoulder injury?" and with the ink still wet, "I have got your soul, your mojo, everything. I own you."
The last time Wilder set foot in a ring to fight was way back in February 2020, when he lost by a seventh round knockout to Fury. The world has changed a lot since then, and yet Wilder has not spoken out about the fight. A mellowing maybe? That will have to change by the time he stands toe-to-toe with the Brit again on July 24. This time it’s in Los Angeles’ Allegiant Stadium, the 65,000 capacity home of the NFL’s Los Angeles Raiders.
This could well be Wilder’s last roll of the dice, so in the coming weeks he will need to retrieve the mojo that Fury claims to own, and prove that he will not be the forgotten man of the heavyweight division.