Make no mistake it is now a golden time in the heavyweight paradise of fools, kings and idols. Tyson Fury won an epic fight for the ages last Saturday in Las Vegas and Anthony Joshua will have a rematch with Oleksandr Usyk.
Never before in the history of British boxing have we had 15 days like it, a time of mad records, vast sums of cash and raw emotions. Joshua lost his three belts, Fury retained his WBC version and the world went boxing crazy. What a time to be ringside.
Fury will take a brief break from his pool-party celebrations to view the terms for a mandatory defence of his WBC title against Dillian Whyte. The Mexico City-based sanctioning body has ordered the fight. Whyte was first named as the number one contender in late 2017.
The Brixton fighter was once Fury’s paid sparring partner, now he is a dangerous rival. Whyte is fearless, but he has to first overcome Otto Wallin later this month to get his fight. Wallin gave Fury twelve hard rounds two years ago and is a massive risk for Whyte. It is, trust me, a great but dumb fight. I mean that nicely.
Elsewhere on planet heavyweight, a dozen contenders, pretenders, ignored and dangerous big men are trying to plot a path to the riches. Fury will fight twice next year, twice the year after and his dance card, assuming he keeps winning, is packed. He is, in classic boxing terms, the most feared and most desired man in the world.
“Tyson Fury is unbeatable right now,” Frank Warren, the boxer’s British promoter, said. And Frank knows, he is right.
There will still be a lot of good men chasing a Fury fight and looking to make life-changing money if they win the lottery and get a fight with him. Fury is, right now, arguably boxing’s biggest ever cash cow. A fight with Usyk would unite all four of the recognised belts, the first time that has ever happened.
“If boxing was sensible,” said Bob Arum, the fight’s promoter. “We could make Fury against Usyk for all the belts. But, that can only happen if boxing was sensible.”
In the next few weeks, there will be claims and promises from former world champion, Andy Ruiz, and Joe Joyce, the leading WBO contender, and an American called Michael Hunter, and Whyte, Wallin, Del Boy Chisora and Joseph Parker. And, Wilder will be back after surgery on a broken finger. It’s a long list and by the end of next year, as today’s prospects find their feet, their fists and their chins, it will be even longer.
Let me make this crystal clear: boxing is crazy, and I mean that in the best possible way. In boxing, people get outraged about the lunacy that passes for governance and are then only too keen to exploit it when its suits their purpose. The “governance” is wonderfully pliable and the outraged are gloriously fickle.
For instance, let me explain the way a mandatory challenger is selected by the four recognised sanctioning bodies; one in Panama, one in Puerto Rico, one in America and the last one in Mexico.
It is really simple, to tell the truth. Managers and promoters and boxing insiders, fixers and faces, all lobby on behalf of their man for a shot at the title. Often, the boxer will have to face another boxer who has been at the centre of his own lobby group. The two men will then fight an eliminator to legitimise their mandatory status. However, the two men in the eliminator fight, which are generally very good, might have not met or beaten anybody from inside the top twelve of any decent set of independent rankings. They might be ranked ludicrously at number one by a sanctioning body, but that ranking is based on lobbying and promise. It’s modern horse trading.
Fury has to beat his mandatory, who is Whyte. It’s a good fight and Whyte has actually beaten two men in the top ten and lost to a third; in the modern game that is not bad. Usyk, incidentally, was also a mandatory but had only beaten two men in the top ten before beating Joshua. To highlight the great negotiating art of getting your boxer a world title fight, how about this: Joshua had not beaten anybody in the top ten when he won his world title for the first time. He did, however, show a lot of promise and had a powerful promoter in Eddie Hearn. It is, simply, the way my business works and is perhaps best summed up with this iconic axiom from Don King. “In boxing you don’t get what you deserve, you get what you negotiate.”
Still, nobody in world boxing deserves a shot at the world heavyweight title as much as Dillian Whyte. It is just time to stop pretending that the laws introduced by men and women running the sanctioning bodies from their ivory towers of contempt, really matter. Fury will, once he is rested, do the right thing.