Things may be progressing smoothly towards an undisputed heavyweight title fight between Tyson Fury and Anthony Joshua, but it has still not been agreed as to who will have their name first on the poster.
Contracts for the fight have been sent by Eddie Hearn, Joshua’s promoter, to Fury’s promoters, Bob Arum and Frank Warren, and returned with alterations. But even though the deal seems to be straightforward, whether the fight will be officially #FuryJoshua or #JoshuaFury has not yet been agreed.
“Still to be discussed,” Hearn said. “I’m looking forward to that one. I suppose you have whose name is first, who goes to the ring first, who has the first changing room, who will weigh in first.
“Jokes aside, that’s not something that will necessarily be solved in one phone call. But it will be a discussion point over the next week or so.”
With no meetings taking place in person at the moment, it is not something that will be agreed by the toss of a coin.
“I can’t imagine a Zoom coin flip,” Hearn said. “It’s better to paper it and discuss it and come to an amicable agreement. For me AJ is the bigger draw globally. But again, we are not interested in a debate where the fight falls apart because of things like that.
“We just need to box that off. In any unification fight this is always a conversation that can be arduous.”
The matter could be a matter of egos for Joshua, the WBA, WBO, IBO and IBF champion, and Fury, the WBC champion. However, Joshua has good form when it comes to such matters. When Hearn tried to arrange a coin toss to decide who would walk last to the ring when he boxed Dillian Whyte for the vacant British heavyweight title, Joshua said he was happy to walk first.
For the moment, Hearn is picking through the suggested alterations to the contracts that have been returned to him.
“Nothing major, just some minor bits and pieces that have to be discussed with both parties,” Hearn said. “All moving in the right direction. When we put the contract together it took time because we were trying to work to a contract that wouldn’t come back with hundreds of comments and it didn’t.
“There are still minor details to iron out but we have Top Rank’s comments and are working through those now.
“There’s no deadline. We expect the fight to take place in June, I wouldn’t rule out early July but June is where we want to be.”
With London effectively ruled out got a June fight, the Middle East remains favourite to stage the biggest fight in the history of British boxing. Hearn says that four offers have been received from the region, which are likely to be from Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Dubai and Abu Dhabi, or possibly Bahrain. There has also been interest from further afield, including Singapore.
“Our plan is to start to go to various sites and close the deal.” Hearn said. “We have offers coming in every day from loads of places.
“We don’t want to waste our time seeing what is real and isn’t real until the fight is signed. End of February is a good marker to get it done and finalise a venue.
“We have actually had four offers from the Middle East now so you’d have to say there’s a very good chance of the fight taking place there.”
Wembley would be most people’s first choice of venue, but the chances of getting a large crowd by June is remote, while there will be no government money to add to the pot.
“The only way we can bring it to the UK, and even then, it’s a difficult conversation because of the money, is to fill up Wembley,” Hearn said. “We can’t say we will get 100,000 people in Wembley in June – it’s just a pipe dream. So, we have to go somewhere that isn’t gate dependent.
“The offers from Saudi aren’t in the hope they can generate X million at the gate. It’s government backed to bring the biggest fight in the world to their territory. If it was difficult to do in England before, now it is impossible for the first fight without the certainty of fans.
“We hope we can get 5,000 or 10,000 by June but 100,000 I can’t see at all so that rules that out.”
Ron Lewis is a senior writer for Boxing Scene. He was Boxing Correspondent for The Times, where he worked from 2001-2019 – covering four Olympic Games and numerous world title fights across the globe. He has written about boxing for a wide variety of publications worldwide since the 1980s.