But what about the fans?
Truth is, the world of top-tier boxing cares not for your dream match-ups.
That Deontay Wilder-Tyson Fury rematch was the mirage in heavyweight boxing’s 2019 desert, and things have only fallen further since we heard that one wasn’t going to happen.
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The current state of play among heavyweight boxing’s elite — Anthony Joshua, Wilder, and Fury — is frustratingly predictable. You’ve got all three guys calling each other out for ‘ducking’ big fights, while all three are set to take on sub-par opposition in the next month. If they’re all telling the truth, how did we get here?
After Wilder and Fury put on one of the greatest heavyweight fights in history, the obvious next step — at least for boxing fans — was a rematch.
A Fury-Top Rank/ESPN deal saw any hopes of an easy negotiation with Wilder and Showtime go out the door, and both guys instead decided to ride their fresh hype to big-money, relatively low-risk bouts.
Wilder will put his WBC belt on the line against Dominic Breazeale — who, to be fair to him, has only lost to Joshua — this weekend in New York. And, yes, the champ is still doing his bizarrely out of touch ‘I want to kill a guy’ schtick.
Meanwhile, Fury is preparing for a Vegas bout with undefeated (and unknown) Tim Schwarz in July as Bob Arum tries to sell him as the next George Foreman to the US public.
Joshua, the WBA, WBO, IBF and IBO champion, had been training for Jarrell ‘Big Baby’ Miller until his opponent somehow managed to fail every drugs test under the sun. Now, the undefeated Brit will make his US debut — another attempt at broadening his fan base — against Andy Ruiz Jr.; the only other guy in world boxing that might suit ‘Big Baby’ better than Miller.
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Joshua is understandably the overwhelming favourite ahead of his June 2 (AEST) Madison Square Garden bout, but Ruiz Jr. is no easy beat. The Mexican is 32-1 on his career; the only loss a tight decision defeat to Joseph Parker in a WBO title fight in Auckland.
Put Joshua and Ruiz Jr. next to each other and you’ve got the start of a mean-spirited joke, but casuals might be surprised by just how well the big man can move.
Joshua’s continental skip comes after failing to find an opponent for an April slot at Wembley; negotiations for a unification bout with Wilder and his team falling flat time and time again throughout 2019, while a Dillian Whyte rematch never came to fruition, if it was ever truly considered.
Wilder reportedly turned down big money to fight Joshua, but obviously won’t shoulder the blame as fight fans are left in a disappointing, if not familiar, position.
So, we have Joshua (29), Wilder (33), and Fury (30), who are all undefeated and all champions in their own right. If at very minimum each guy hasn’t fought the other at least twice in the next couple of years, we have failed. Failed to capitalise on the kind of stardom and match-ups that could genuinely take world boxing and give it the giant kick up the ass it needs. Again, it’s a predictable failure that has more to do with politics and money than any sport should realistically be dictated by.
Nevertheless, by July, all three will have fought, and barring something spectacular, all three will have won. Then the talking will start up again.
There’s chatter surrounding Fury that he could fight Whyte for a WBC diamond belt; a strap that doesn’t mean a whole lot, but sweetens the pot for both guys.
Whyte is in a tricky spot as he tries to climb into top-tier relevancy. The problem is he has nothing to offer but a genuinely tough fight for whoever takes him on.
Joshua dealt with the 2015 version of Whyte in seven rounds. But much like Joshua has gone from strength to strength, so has Whyte. He’s 9-0 since that loss, and could make it ten if he can get past Oscar Rivas in July.
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But in the high stakes world of heavyweight boxing, all three top dogs will be thinking the same: why risk everything for nothing? That’s especially the case for Joshua and Wilder, who actually have belts on the line.
Joshua, Eddie Hearn, and co. will be looking to lock down a Wilder unification bout again, you’d have to imagine. It’s a fight — maybe two if a rematch is worked into the deal — that offers the Brit the legacy and money benefits he’s looking for.
Whether that comes before 2020 (unlikely), or before a Fury-Wilder sequel is too hard to figure out at this point. Oh, and we also need to figure out what’s going to happen with Oleksandr Usyk.
Until then, I guess we’ll just have to watch heavyweight boxing’s three-headed monster do their thing.
Could be worse, huh?