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(SPORTS MAX) Anthony Joshua and Tyson Fury have signed a two-fight deal to face each other for the undisputed heavyweight championship, promoter Eddie Hearn has announced.
British rivals Joshua and Fury have been in negotiations for several months to agree showdowns for the four major belts in boxing’s glamour division.
Joshua (24-1, 22 KOs) holds the WBA, WBO and IBF belts, having successfully defended his title with a ninth-round stoppage of Kubrat Pulev at Wembley Arena in December.
Fury (30-0-1, 21 KOs) sensationally dethroned Deontay Wilder to claim the WBC crown in February last year but has not boxed since.
A date and venue for the initial encounter are yet to be confirmed, although Hearn – who promotes Joshua under his Matchroom Sport banner – told ESPN on Monday that both parties put pen to paper over the weekend.
“We’d like to get a site deal confirmed in the next month,” Hearn said.
“The hard part is always getting everybody to put pen to paper. But this was a major effort from all parties to get this over the line.
“You had rival promoters, rival networks and rival fighters.”
The hurdles to overcome in getting to this point were not inconsiderable, with Fury working under a co-promotional deal with Frank Warren and Bob Arum’s Top Rank, both of whom have rival broadcasting agreements to Hearn’s contracts with Sky Sports in the UK and DAZN globally.
Fury’s most recent bouts have been aired by BT Sport in his homeland and via ESPN in the United States.
The expectation of ongoing coronavirus restrictions makes the prospect of at least the first fight taking place on British soil feel far-fetched, with a return of heavyweight title boxing to the Middle East – where Joshua avenged his only career defeat against Andy Ruiz Jr with a December 2019 points win in Saudi Arabia – appearing most likely.
“I actually feel we’ve done the hard part,” Hearn said. “Speaking for myself, Anthony and his team at 258 management, I know how hard we’ve worked hard these last couple of months and I just feel that this fight is so big it’s not a difficult sell.
“We’ve already had approaches from eight or nine sites. The offers have come from multiple countries in the Middle East, from Asia, eastern Europe and America.
“This is the biggest fight in boxing and one of the biggest sporting events in the world. It will be a major, major win for a country that wants to showcase itself.”
Some typically idiosyncratic interviews from Fury over recent days, where he stated he had no interest in boxing in the UK again, while claiming to have stopped training in favour of “concentrating on getting me 10 pints of Stella”, appeared to cast some doubt upon the Joshua fights getting over the line – especially considering the 32-year-old’s previously well-documented struggles with alcohol and depression.
“You never really know with Tyson,” Hearn said. “It could be mind games. He could be having a bad day. He could be a little p***** off. Or he could be having a joke.
“One of the fascinations about this fight will be the build-up because they’re two totally different characters, two totally different personalities. The mind games will be on another level for this fight. Tyson is very good at that.
“Anthony is excited by that. He’s so pumped, so focused, he hasn’t stopped training since the Pulev fight. He’s like a caged lion. The build-up is going to be epic.”