THE LONG, UNLIKELY ROAD TO ANTHONY JOSHUA VS TYSON FURY

Every time I mention just the notion of an all British heavyweight super-fight between Anthony Joshua and the currently in limbo Tyson Fury, the usual responses tend to be in the form shrugs and fat shaming remarks towards still Ring Magazine Heavyweight World Champion.

After nearly two years out of the ring, which have included; a failed drug test for the recreational use of cocaine and a highly publicised depression diagnosis and pulling out of the Wladimir Klitschko rematch twice. You can hardly blame the public’s response to the idea that Tyson Fury can get himself in anywhere near the shape to be involved in a championship fight with the current IBF, IBO and WBA World champion Anthony Joshua. Especially as Fury is currently walking around at 25 stone plus and that’s before even mentioning Fury has retired three times in two years.

Since the partial self-dismantlement of Tyson Fury, the heavyweight division has been blown wide open in comparison to years past due to Wladimir Klitschko’s grip on a historically (recently) weak division. Fury had barely got into the shower after his legendary win over Klitschko and had already lost IBF title, without ever having the chance to defend the red and gold belt. As we all know the IBF strap ended up on the waist of Anthony Joshua shortly after, by route of Charles Martin. Whilst Tyson Fury has tussled with depression, cocaine and UKAD, the media friendly Anthony Joshua has leap-frogged Tyson Fury to become arguably the hottest property in World boxing, after an enthralling encounter with Wladimir Klitschko in front of 90,000 people at Wembley stadium. Along with now boasting the WBA Super, IBF and IBO Heavyweight World titles.

As Anthony Joshua defended his titles on pay-per-view this past weekend against late substitute Carlos Takam, there has been an air of exasperation with not just hardcore boxing fans but also with those who like to watch a bit of boxing from time to time. The main attraction to Anthony Joshua and the bulk of the reason to his expansion into the mainstream, is that you are going to see a devastating knockout or at least a quick succession of brutal knockdowns in his fights. After watching a less explosive than usual Joshua against Takam, combined with the dodgy stoppage in the 10th round, I was left feeling Joshua needs a nemesis or nemeses and the champions need to start fighting each other in order for us to confidently say, the Heavyweight division is alive and well.

Despite getting between 70 and 80 thousand fans into the Welsh national stadium in Cardiff, Eddie Hearn was clearly feeling that the commercial potential of Anthony Joshua was a long way from fulfilled. He had the same sentiment as myself, to pit his prize asset against the biggest names in Heavyweight boxing, telling IFL TV in a post fight interview, “I want to see Tyson Fury come out of retirement and I can help him do that! I believe I can work with Tyson Fury and get him in a position for and Anthony Joshua fight. We need Tyson Fury in the mix!”

The road to Anthony Joshua v Tyson Fury is long, but appears to be getting less unlikely. The road is appearing to be more active for this potential record breaking fight to take place. Despite the majority of fans, writers and reporters having given up on the idea, some of the most influential figures in British boxing are much more open and optimistic regarding the prospect. Former World title challenger and founder of Mack The Knife Global, Matthew Macklin told IFL TV ahead Anthony Joshua v Calros Takam “a lot has to happen, but it can happen.”, head of boxing at Sky Sports, Adam Smith also spoke IFL TV in September making it clear his Sky Sports’s desire to get Tyson Fury in a position to fight Anthony Joshua, saying “We need Fury back!”. Along with Anthony Joshua announcing his desire to fight Fury to the 90,000 fans at Wembley after his victory over Wladimir Klitschko, it’s very safe to say that everybody in the AJBXNG camp does not want to miss the opportunity to be part of the biggest British fight of all time.

However, even with the offered help of Sky Sports and Eddie Hearn, Tyson Fury has multitude of hurdles to overcome to get anywhere near to achieving his media capabilities. Still on a suspension from the UKAD, which has been long and inclusive. Fury will have to wait on the National Anti Doping Panel to resolve his case. It has been widely reported that the involved parties surrounding Fury’s suspension are willing to drag the ruling out to two years for Fury’s contempt for the UKAD testing process due to Fury telling a UKAD official to “Fuck off” upon a random visit to his home. That would leave Fury out of the ring until the latter part of 2018.

The un-predictable nature and recent unfavourable publicised history of The Ring Magazine Champion does not fill many with hope. So what are the solutions? If Any? For Fury to align himself with Eddie Hearn it would greatly improve his chances of getting his suspension lifted. Tyson Fury’s rocky relationship with The British Boxing Board of Control is need of some serious work and rebuilding. Eddie Hearn’s influence and good standing with The BBBofC would be Fury’s best chance of getting the on going UKAD issue resolved, which could potentially get Fury back in the ring early for 2018. It’s a funny coincidence that today Robert Smith of The BBBofC had given some kind of blessing for Fury to return to the ring and get the UKAD hearing sown up, just two days after Eddie Hearn had publicly expressed the need for Fury to be active once more.

“It’s quite simple, Fury’s legal team need to agree a date” Smith told Sky Sports “At the present time, as I am standing here now, it hasn’t been agreed. We are ready to go. UKAD do all our anti-doping for us, they have an independent panel that is dealing with the case and we are trying to get a date finalised. But we are unable to do so because they [Fury’s legal team] haven’t confirmed one.” Smith continued:

“Of course we want it done. We are as frustrated as anybody else, because I get questions about Fury on a regular basis, but ultimately it is up to them. We are ready to go, UKAD are ready to go on our behalf, and the independent panel are waiting for a confirmed date. It’s up to them now.”

“We want Tyson Fury to come back fit and healthy, in the right circumstances,” Smith said. “At present time, he has a few things going on, so he needs those things resolved. Once they’re resolved and he is a position to do so, we want to make sure he’s healthy. There a lot of stories out there about his health, physically and mentally, but the most important thing is him. Boxing comes second. But if we are able to consider him boxing again, we want that to happen.”

Sadly, this is not the only hurdle for Fury to overcome. The Team Fury camp appears to be showing slight fractures. Tyson Fury was openly disappointed with his trainer and Uncle, Peter Fury after his cousin Hughie Fury went to spar Hayemaker heavyweight Joe Joyce. The partnership between Peter and Tyson Fury has gained many plaudits as Fury was a big underdog when fighting Klitschko, but Peter Fury’s tactics combined with the natural ability of Tyson produced a shut out performance against Klitschko in the Ukrainian’s adopted home of Germany. I personally believe Peter Fury is the best trainer for Tyson, as the results speak for themselves taking away a turbulent 2016 for Tyson Fury. Things do look promising for the relationship between the pair, Peter Fury telling BWTM “I’ll be sitting down with Tyson next week.”

Sadly for Team Fury and Tyson it’s not the only working relationship that needs addressed. Tyson Fury’s long time promoter Mick Hennessey has at times hindered the progress of Tyson Fury. Don’t get me wrong, the early stages of Tyson’s career, Mick has to be applauded and credited for his popular reputation. Fury having fought on terrestrial TV on Channel 5 and ITV for the large majority of his career, he has been well advertised to the general public. However, Fury’s loyalty to Mick Hennessey could be another hook holding Tyson back. The lack of strategist measures put in place following Tyson Fury’s historic win by Mick Hennessey has to be scrutinised. It appears Mick was completely unaware of the IBF rules and had nothing in place for Fury to get an exemption from his IBF mandatory knowing a Klitschko rematch was likely, in-fact there had been no discussion between Fury’s promoter and the IBF to discuss how to deal with the impending mandatory. Effectively telling the IBF they have no interest or even knowledge of the rules or procedure imposed by that particular governing body. The IBF being the strictest in imposing their specific laws, it doesn’t look good to me from a fighters stand point to say the least.

Maybe I am being too harsh on Mick as he did get Tyson in a mandatory position to fight Wladimir Klitschko. That is not actually the case as Frank Warren and his relationship with the WBO are the reasons behind Fury’s final eliminator with Dereck Chisora in 2015, even if Warren was in support of Chisora in the lead up to their fight.

The legal representation of Team Fury could be open for judgement also. From the comments of Robert Smith today, it could appear maybe some of legal advice could possibly be misguided. Tyson Fury recently tweeting “Be ready to fight in April 2018 in a great fight! & again in the summer in a mega fight! & again in back end of year. 3 big fights in 2018.” followed by Robert Smith stating “It’s up to them (Fury’s lawyers) now.”. The message being very mixed from either parties, It does not look too favourable on Fury’s lawyers.

The buck has to stop with Tyson Fury though! Yes, many contributing factors have attributed to the downfall of the outspoken Gypsy King. However, responsibility has to be taken for yourself in any situation and the open use of cocaine and other forms of gluttony are looked upon by most as clear message that Fury will never return.

As Matthew Macklin said “A lot has to happen” making the road extremely long and very unlikely. But there is some hope as all the right people in the sport want to make Fury’s return a reality.

By Adam Noble-Forcey
@Adam4cSports