Tyson Fury and Anthony Joshua’s proposed fight has been the biggest will they-won’t they story in boxing for the past twelve months. We’ve almost been at the point of seeing a fight between the two British titans in the past, but Joshua scuppered it at the time by unexpectedly losing his titles to Andy Ruiz jr. He’s since redeemed himself after that loss and holds every version of boxing’s world heavyweight championship except the one that Tyson Fury plucked from Deontay Wilder in early 2020. A fight against each other with all the belts on the line is the only thing left for both boxers, but will it happen?
For most of 2021, the answer to that question has been unclear. Both fighters claim to want the fight, and the promoters of both men claim to be willing to do a deal. Such is the nature of boxing at the highest level, though, that nothing is guaranteed unless it’s written on paper, and even then, there are sometimes doubts. Right now, there’s no signed agreement for Joshua and Fury to meet and unify the world heavyweight championship, but the fight seems closer to ever. Most “in the know” boxing insiders now believe that the match the world wants to see will happen in 2021 – but it won’t happen where most people expect to see it.
Anthony Joshua and Tyson Fury are both proudly British. Joshua has represented his country at the Olympic Games and came away with a gold medal. Fury routinely drapes himself in the British flag after his victories in the ring. An all-British fight for the unified heavyweight championship of the world would be the biggest fight in the history of the country that gave the world professional boxing. It would be guaranteed to sell out Wembley Stadium and would be hyped as the fight of the century. Both fighters would make tens of millions of dollars for their work, and it would likely be the biggest boxing pay-per-view draw of all time. More than that, it would be a sporting event that the United Kingdom could be proud of. None of that appears to matter because the fight looks set to go ahead in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
According to promoter Barry Hearn, the fight is tentatively scheduled to go ahead on 14th August and is not yet officially confirmed, but Saudi Arabia has gladly agreed to be the host nation. The official reason for the fight to go ahead so far from home is so international fans will be able to attend. The travel situation in the UK is uncertain, and it could be the case that some international flights are still off the cards by the time August arrives. Not many people buy that explanation. They feel that the more likely explanation is that it’s all to do with the almighty dollar. Saudi Arabia is reportedly prepared to pay $150m to host the fight and to build a new stadium for it to be staged in. It wouldn’t be conceivable to build a new stadium in most countries between now and August, but Saudi Arabia, with all its riches and its questionable record on working conditions, might be able to do it.
The idea of taking two British fighters to Saudi Arabia to stage an event that will doubtless be billed as “the battle of Britain” sounds ludicrous, but it would be more accurate to describe it as “lucrative.” The fight isn’t just about crowning an undisputed world heavyweight champion – it’s also about making as much money as possible. Like an online slots game, the aim is to take all the moving parts and make everything line up to deliver a jackpot. Mike Tyson knew that, which is why he has his own online slots game available at Rose Slots NZ. If we’re talking money and resources, though, Saudi Arabia isn’t comparable to an online slots website. It’s more like a whole working casino, where all the money made from every bet goes to them. They’re willing to gamble that people will still spend money to watch the fight no matter where it’s staged, and that British fans will fly to their country to see it in person. They’re probably right.
Saudi Arabia wouldn’t be new territory for either man. Anthony Joshua fought there in late 2019 when he beat Ruiz Jr in their rematch. Tyson Fury hasn’t boxed in Saudi Arabia before, but he did take part in a wrestling match for WWE against giant wrestler Braun Strowman. The plethora of sporting events that have taken place in the past in Saudi – and will take place in the future – are referred to by some critics as “sports washing.” The critics believe that Saudi Arabia is trying to mask its reputation for human rights abuses by distracting the media’s attention with major sporting events. That’s why WWE brings its pro wrestling shows to the country twice a year, why boxing events are staged there regularly, and why the first Saudi Arabian Formula 1 Grand Prix will be staged there later this year. Saudi Arabia understandably rejects any such claim and wishes to be seen as a country that’s breaking with the past and modernising itself as it opens for business with the rest of the world. Attracting world-class sports is just a part of that strategy.
Whatever the reasons for wanting to stage this match in Saudi Arabia, it feels like a loss for British fans. There are undoubtedly boxing fans in Saudi Arabia, but they don’t feel for this pair of fighters in the same way their fans at home do. Fury and Joshua are both wildly popular in the United States of America, where several venues would have loved to have the chance to stage this contest. Nevertheless, it seems as if Saudi is going to get the seal of approval. If that’s the only way this fight can take place, so be it. The world of boxing has waited for long enough to see this super fight, and boxing is set to have an undisputed world champion for the first time since the days of Lennox Lewis. It will likely be the start of the war between Joshua rather than the end of it – because both men will have rematch clauses in their contracts – but it will still be the boxing highlight of the year when it happens.