Who will Tyson Fury fight next? Explaining the heavyweight merry-go-round

The WBC world heavyweight champion is deep in negotiations to face Dillian Whyte or unified world champion Oleksandr Usyk, who may be forced into a rematch with Anthony Joshua

Jack Rathborn
Thursday 27 January 2022 16:06

The heavyweight division in boxing is currently frozen amid politics surrounding its biggest stars.

Tyson Fury, the lineal and WBC world champion, is blocked from pursuing a fight to crown a first undisputed champion since Lennox Lewis in 2000. That’s because Oleksandr Usyk, despite recognised as a mandatory challenger to Anthony Joshua last September, conceded a rematch clause to the Briton in that fight.

And now AJ has the right to win back the WBA, WBO and IBF titles, while a fourth major player in the game, Dillian Whyte, holds mandatory status for that fourth belt, the WBC, that Fury possesses. With one hurdle, step aside money may be an option, but two looks to be too much to overcome with Whyte fighting so aggressively for his position to fight for a world title for the first time in his career.

We now appear to be heading towards purse bids on Friday with no agreement in sight after Fury confirmed on Thursday that he is primed to fight Whyte next: “I can’t wait to punch Dillian Whyte’s face right in. I’m going to give him the best hiding he’s ever had in his life. Train hard, sucker, because you’re getting annihilated, bum.”

Here is everything we know about the state of play ahead of the WBC purse bid on Friday:

What is a purse bid?

A purse bid serves to ensure boxing’s schedule keeps moving when fights are called as a result of the governing body’s world rankings and when a mandatory challenger is recognised to face the champion.

Both parties will be called to negotiate a deal to fight when said challenger is announced, with a deadline in place before a purse bid is organised.

So if Fury and Whyte’s camps cannot strike a deal, any promoter, not just Top Rank, who represent Fury, or Matchroom, who represent Whyte, will be handed the chance to bid to promote the fight.

Usually the two parties will push to make a deal beforehand, otherwise a third party may seize the rights for the fight and profit from two fighters they do not represent.

The highest blind bid will win the fight, with the sum divided by the split previously agreed upon by the governing body.

The WBC have previously stated that this split is worth 20 per cent to the challenger, Whyte, and 80 per cent to the champion, Fury, though their rules allow for as much as 45 per cent to the challenger, hence Whyte’s unhappiness and the protracted negotiations.

Why are talks for Fury vs Whyte dragging on so much?

The problem with this fight and the difficulty in agreeing to a deal before purse bids is that another fight, Usyk vs Joshua 2 is also holding up the division.

Three deadlines have come and gone, with the WBC close now to standing by a deadline and welcoming a third party to make an offer in a purse bid. Should nothing change then a fifth and quite probably final deadline will arrive on Friday after Wednesday’s deadline was extended.

“The WBC has received requests from both sides, Fury and Whyte, to extend the free negotiation period which has been granted,” a WBC statement read last week. “If there is no agreement a purse offer ceremony will take place on Wednesday January 26.”

Ultimately it all boils down to money, with Whyte furious at only being granted 20 per cent of the total pot, despite his mandatory status and position as interim champion.

WBC president Mauricio Sulaiman claims that number was determined by previous earnings, after Fury coined £20million to fight Wilder last October and Whyte appeared to earn around £4m for his win over Alexander Povetkin last year.

While purse bids are likely to come, Fury has flirted with the idea of fighting Usyk for all the marbles, which would require a second set of negotiations with Joshua to clear the way for that fight.

Could Fury fight Usyk instead to crown a first undisputed champion in more than two decades?

He could still do so, with this mega fight a possibility if the rumoured interest from the Middle East in hosting the fight materialises.

And after Joshua’s rematch with Andy Ruiz Jr in Saudi Arabia, the undisputed fight could generate upwards of nine figures.

But first Joshua and Whyte would have to agree to be compensated for waiting in line, which does now appear to be dead in the water following Fury’s announcement on Thursday.

The problem has always been that only one of them can have first shot at the undisputed champion, not to mention the potential for the winner to drop one or more of the belts to pursue another option, making Joshua and Whyte’s position far from secure unless they take matters into their own hands and fight the fights.

The Telegraph reported earlier this week that Joshua’s figure to step aside would be around £15m, and that the former champion was close to agreeing to take it.

His turn would then come later in the year, but Joshua pumped the breaks on the report, stating: “I’m the man in control of my destiny”, while crucially falling short of ruling out accepting an offer..

Usyk’s promoter Alexander Krassyuk maintains Joshua is still “the basic option” but that talks with Fury have been ongoing since November.

What have the fighters said?

Tyson Fury

“I can’t wait to punch Dillian Whyte’s face right in,” Fury said in a video released on Thursday morning. “I’m going to give him the best hiding he’s ever had in his life.

“Train hard, sucker, because you’re getting annihilated, bum.”

Dillian Whyte

“I just want f***ing war, that’s all I want is to go to war with the best. F*** all this he said she said bulls***”.

Anthony Joshua

“I’m hearing people say, ‘AJ accepts £15 million to step aside’. I haven’t signed a contract, I haven’t seen a contract. So as it stands, stop listening until it comes from me.

“I’m the man in control of my destiny, I’m the man that handles my business, I’m a smart individual and I make calculated decisions every step of the way. Don’t listen to other sources. If I tell you something then you know it’s real.”

What’s the most likely outcome?

The likeliest outcome now is that Fury fights Whyte, having confirmed on Thursday that he “can’t wait to punch Dillian Whyte’s face right in.”

Fury maintains he will “give him the best hiding he’s ever had in his life” and then wished the Londoner well and urged him to “train hard”.

The details still matter of course, with the winning purse bid likely to confirm the final financial figures each fighter will earn. The split will remain the same though, barring a late agreement, meaning Fury will take 80 per cent and Whyte will take 20 per cent of the pot.

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