Fury-Joshua hog the headlines but the real crisis is occurring at amateur level, writes Matt Christie
THE Tyson Fury-Anthony Joshua saga that’s dominated the sport’s headlines in recent weeks continues at pace. A full-scale implosion looks the likeliest outcome but nobody can say for sure at the time of writing.
If the contest is not made at this juncture, however, it will create a stink. A completely unnecessary and avoidable one, too. Though Fury’s initial desire to make the fight was to be admired, the decision to air every little twist and turn on social media was not. Whether Joshua is indeed a ‘shithouse’, as Fury so eloquently claims, or there are just too many details to resolve in a short space of time, it nonetheless heightens the impression that boxing is incapable of making the most appealing fights.
What can’t be denied, whether the contest actually goes ahead or not, is that the amount of television outlets, promoters, agents, managers, sponsors and egos jostling for position makes negotiations at the top level a tiresome process. Furthermore, without any overriding governance in place to get a grip and instil strict scheduling and procedures, it’s little more than a free-for-all. Instead of order, we have chaos, each and every time a big fight is in the offing.
It’s worth remembering, however, that Fury-Joshua wasn’t exactly being clamoured for when it suddenly became a possibility. Unlike the previous long and winding attempts to get them in the ring, the latest round was a whirlwind. Back in 2020-2021, before Joshua lost to Oleksandr Usyk, Fury-Joshua was the most marketable and intriguing fight the sport could make. Today, with Joshua nursing a hangover from two gruelling nights out with Usyk, it did not have the same appeal but would still have been a gargantuan contest in the eyes of the public.
Keeping everything under wraps would surely have been a better idea, particularly when discussing a bout – essentially one plucked from nowhere – that was always going to be difficult to agree in a matter of weeks. Perhaps advising the respective teams to do their jobs in private would have prevented the whole thing essentially overshadowing every boxing event that’s occurred in the meantime. That is not the fault of Frank and George Warren, or Eddie Hearn, by the way. We can only imagine their private reaction when they realise Fury has been busy on his social media channels again.
Now we have Average Joes up and down the country, after believing the fight was a done deal, scratching their heads in disbelief. Social media is a terrific tool for marketing fights that are already signed and sealed but it’s a precarious platform to get them signed in the first place.
Fury began proceedings very politely. “Just in case,” he said to Joshua via social media, “I would like to give you an opportunity to fight me.” It escalated quickly. On Monday this week, Fury was in all-out attack, blaming Joshua for not signing a contract that was sent 10 days ago while teasing the prospect of a contest with Mahmoud Charr, a 37-year-old heavyweight who has never beaten a leading contender.
Despite Fury’s own deadline for Joshua negotiations not being met, and him again reaching for his phone to tell the world the fight is definitely not happening, we’re told that the promoters and broadcasters continue with their efforts to get the contest over the line.
If it doesn’t get there, don’t get too downbeat. Four weeks ago, it was not a fight anyone was expecting or pushing for.
JOE JOYCE is now arguably the most deserving of any heavyweight not holding a belt. That was the main discussion among members of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board this week as the decision was made to elevate Joyce to number one contender.
The logic for that is simple. Joyce, unlike Joshua and Deontay Wilder, has not lost his last two bouts. His recent wins over Daniel Dubois and Joseph Parker should bring greater reward than consecutive defeats to Usyk and Fury.
Personally, I would rather have seen Joyce move up to No.3, just behind Joshua and Wilder, but I was mightily impressed with his savage beatdown of Parker last weekend. It’s difficult to recall a heavyweight capable of doing what he does. He again proved he’s a much better boxer than he’s been given credit for, he has an insanely good engine, unfathomable durability and he hits tremendously hard. What a nightmarish proposition he must be, particularly when you land your biggest shot, flush and on the button, and he doesn’t even blink. Credit, and lots of it, to Parker for both his willingness to fight Joyce and his efforts while doing so.
Usyk and Fury – unranked due to his umpteen retirements (another decision I wasn’t completely on board with) – would start as favourite against Joyce but if Joe gets the chance to fight either, and he most certainly should, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him emerge victorious.
Joshua and Wilder, though their overall CVs remain superior, might have a terrible time with ‘The Juggernaut’. What is not up for debate is that Joyce is a welcome addition to the upper echelons of the heavyweight rankings.
IT IS looking increasingly likely that the 2024 Olympic Games, in Paris, will be the last time we’ll see boxing at the world’s greatest and most illustrious sporting tournament. It is not hyperbolic to describe such a scenario as catastrophic.
The reasons are deep and complex but, to put it as succinctly as possible, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) do not believe the International Boxing Association (IBA) is a trustworthy organisation. They will not be allowed to administer the qualification process for the 2024 Games nor the tournament itself. An IOC taskforce will do that, just as they did at the Tokyo Games, staged last year. They’re not prepared to do it again in 2028.
The IBA have been bullish in their belief that they will convince the IOC to reinstate boxing for the 2028 Games in Los Angeles. Yet accusations about corrupt judging, bad governance and questionable finances loom. A glimmer of hope seemed to be removed this week when IBA voted emphatically against a leadership challenge to incumbent president, Umar Kremlev of Russia.
Afterwards, in a concerning statement, Kremlev said: “We shouldn’t say Olympic boxing, we should say IBA boxing.” It seemed to indicate they do not need the Olympics and will create their own tournaments should they fail to persuade the IOC.
Yet the young boxers need the Olympics. They need the exposure, the dreams and the education that the prestigious tournament delivers. For the funding of amateur programmes to remain in this country, those which has played a huge part in boxing’s growth over the last decade, boxing surely needs to retain its place at the Olympics, too. The worst case scenario, though now likely, remains unthinkable when assessing the sport’s future without Olympic boxing.
Warning signs are getting louder and louder. Yet again the message coming back from a sport drunk on its own self-importance is a mixture of arrogance and ignorance, but not action.