AJ and The Gypsy King agreed in principle to bat seven bells out of each other. However, a domain of events is depriving this occasion of being finalised. Tyson and Anthony are both contracted to win other fights before they step into the ring for the first time with each other. AJ needs to beat Pulev while Fury must defeat the Bronze Bomber for the second time round in their trilogy. Plus, there is currently no venue, date or broadcasting agreements confirmed yet which aren’t so simple to pursue. This blog will explore what operational challenges are stopping this bout from being finalised and what these challenges demonstrate about boxings traditional event model.
On Jun 11, Anthony Joshua and Tyson Fury principally agreed on a two-fight deal to take place in 2021. Boxing fans have wanted to see this fight for years, but this opportunity has been deprived considering both Brits are at different points in their careers. Tyson is back in the game after 2-years after his serious mental health struggles while Anthony has established himself as the two-time unified heavyweight champion of the world. Now calls as the perfect time to let the battle commence between these two, following Fury’s 7-round annihilation of Alabama boxer Deontay Wilder in February and Anthony Joshua seeking redemption against Mexico’s Andy Ruiz last year.
There’s plenty of fighters that could throw a spanner in the works before AJ vs Fury happens. Including Deontay Wilder, Bulgaria’s Kubrat Pulev, and the bodysnatcher Dillian Whyte. The Gypsy King must win against Deontay in a trilogy before pursuing a final agreement with AJ, likewise with AJ needing to beat Pulev before he fights Fury. WBC mandatory Dillian Whyte has also wanted a world title shot for a long time. The World Boxing Council has recently announced the Brixton brawler will face the winner of Fury vs Wilder 3 on Feb 22 if he beats Russian powerhouse Alexander Povetkin tonight. Despite Dillian having the right to contest this fight, it delays the creation of Anthony Joshua vs Tyson Fury, adding increased frustration to the global boxing audience.
What are other obstacles yet to conquer? A venue, this issue will spark the most extensive debate across the boxing community. Matchroom Boxing promoter Eddie Hearn has openly admitted in an ‘ideal world’, Matchroom Boxing and the UK boxing audience would be delighted to bring this fight to home soil. However, it’s not always simple to follow the fans best interests in the commercialised world of sport, mainly as Tyson Fury doesn’t hold a UK boxing licence. Tyson’s exclusive fighting contract with global broadcaster ESPN restricts him from boxing anywhere else but the US. If The Gypsy King were to reapply for a non-US licence, this would further delay the bout with AJ. Fury vs AJ is likely to be one of the biggest PPV buys in heavyweight boxing, meaning it increases the overseas commercial appeal. The Middle East and the US will be keen to battle out hosting the event considering their successful reputation in sport event management. Organising a venue for this event could polarise the boxing audience depending on where its held.
Outside the ring, another battle is fermenting, the bout of the broadcasters! AJ’s contract with Sky Sports and Tyson Fury’s joint-relationship with ESPN and BT Sport will complicate matters considering the volume of rivalry between the firms. Every global broadcaster will want a piece of this content to ensure they provide value to their consumers. It will be challenging as each firm will likely get greedy around TV media rights, exclusive fight-content and other broadcasting access. The politics behind rights and TV licensing could be a barrier to delay the British heavyweight bout.
There’s a long road ahead before this fight is officially confirmed. But due to boxing politics, broadcasting matters and current fight agreements, boxing fans may have to wait for longer than initially anticipated. COVID19 doesn’t provide any favours either, but focusing on the bigger picture, boxing is identified to utilise a ‘consumer-stalling’ tactic to tease its audience for building up an event.
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