By Kieran Hinphey – It’s 2018, Anthony Joshua and Deontay Wilder are at the pinnacle of the heavyweight division posturing for position on the negotiation table. All roads lead to the most anticipated world heavyweight title fight since Lennox Lewis vs Evander Holyfield over 20 years earlier.
It would also have been a fight to be undisputed heavyweight king for all of the belts and was building up to be a gargantuan occasion. Joshua had been packing 90,000 people into Wembley Stadium amid incredible scenes and he and his dynamic promoter Eddie Hearn were on the crest of a wave, the envy and admiration of the world boxing.
Huge offers were made from Wilders team and his international boxing hall of fame manager Shelly Finkel to make it happen. An incredible offer of $50 million being one of the figures extended but rejected by Matchroom and Joshua. The opportunity to be undisputed champion and ranked up with the all-time greats, egotistically swerved like a cheap prostitute in the Chelsea Cloisters, Ten Floors of Whores.
“We feel, if you are a champion, you want to fight the best out there. Deontay has always wanted to fight the best,” Finkel said to iFL TV. “Contrary to what some other people said, he always wanted the fight with Joshua and I think with time it proved what Deontay is.”
He added: “I read where Joshua went out and said ‘it took me seven rounds to knock out [Dominic] Breazeale and if Deontay takes eight it shows who is the better fighter’. And then Deontay destroyed him in one and after that, Joshua said publicly ‘I am shocked how he did it’ and it played on him. So, I don’t know if he really wanted to [fight Wilder], because we offered $50 million and he didn’t take it.”
Eddie Hearn thought he had control of the game with the biggest draw and most marketable product in world boxing in his stable. The cards of boxing politics were stacked in his and Joshua’s favour in what looked like an impenetrable position. Perhaps, if he had more faith in AJ and the blueprint on how to beat Wilder, which was provided by the Gypsy King’s genius performance last weekend, they would have accepted that $50m a little more quickly?
Enter the stage Tyson Fury, Bob Arum and Frank Warren. In contrast to Hearn wanting the Joshua-Wilder fight to marinate and wrap their man in cotton wool for a little bit longer, allied to strong rumours circulating that AJ’s trainer Robert McCracken, also wanted no part of the most devastating puncher in the history of boxing. Fury after nearly three years inactivity was ready step straight in against Wilder.
At the press conference for Fury-Wilder I Fury said “I am doing this for the UK, as no other fighter from here would step up. Once I knew that I was going to box again, I knew that I would be heavyweight champion of the world again. I know that it’s destiny. I’m showing up on Saturday night, beating Wilder up and becoming WBC champion.”
The rest as they say is history as Fury excelled once again against all odds on the biggest stage while Joshua’s attempt to conquer America bombed. AJ conceded that the magnitude of his US debut and fighting at the mecca of boxing, Madison Square Garden may have affected him.
Joshua of course returned and admirably reclaimed his crown in an immediate rematch against Ruiz which was a brave move and decision on his part. Outrageous pay day days for all and sundry from the Saudi royal family along with the less pressurized environment of the Kingdom did, however, making his decision a little easier.
In truth though, the US of A is where legends are made and where better than the show business capital of the world, viva Las Vegas, for the most charismatic and biggest entertainer in the sport to rise back to the top. The self-described “not only am I big, I’m tall, dark, handsome, cool, calm, collected and super sexy” along with the backing and guidance of wise old sages Bob Arum and Frank Warren, the journey to plot his way back to the top had begun.
Warren took a punt on what in 2017-2018 was a 28 stone mess but navigated his winning back the love and respect of the British fans, starting with a hero’s return to a sold out M.E.N. arena in his hometown Manchester. Next stop was another packed-out outdoor stadium show at Windsor Park in Belfast. The stages were perfect, the opponents meant little, Fury was alive, back and the UK public were now behind him.
Next stop was the USA with Bob Arums Top Rank the biggest promotional company in world boxing behind Fury. Top Rank have a T.V. deal with the world’s biggest sports television network ESPN. After his introduction to the American audience, rising like a phoenix from the ashes from that Staples Centre L.A. canvas, the public’s imagination in the US had been captured.
The lesson in promotion continued with appearances on every major television, podcast, radio show and platform in America. Fury then headlined massively popular WWE wrestling events and Fury-Wilder II received never seen before exposure for boxing on commercials during the Superbowl. The Gypsy King is of course a promotional machine in himself and what his promotors served up he knocked out of the park.
‘Living in America’ and sombreros on Mexican Independence Day were outfits utilised for his ring walks. All from the legendary MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas with Jimmy Lennon Jnr making his introductions. The pièce de résistance, his wearing a king’s crown and robe while rolling into the MGM on a throne chariot culminating in Fury winning back his prestigious The Ring belt, the WBC world heavyweight title as well as keeping his lineal champion status.
Fury’s coup de grâce, destroying one the most frightening heavyweight world champions of all time with a 7th round knock-out. Now that’s entertainment. Fury’s performance in the ring a replication of the wizardry in promotion which took place on his behalf out the ring.
The biggest threat now, to Fury-Joshua not happening is of course Eddie’s ego along with his distain towards and rivalry with Frank Warren. The bitterness runs deep and Frank getting a piece of the extremely humungous Joshua financial pie will have been on Hearn’s highest of high priorities to not allow happen. Hearn knows how significant a boost it will be to Matchroom’s biggest UK rival Queensbury Promotions. Warren has outfoxed Hearn and put himself in a position where he won’t be able to get frozen out.
By the time Tyson Fury entered the ring last Saturday night, the MGM Grand Garden Arena was packed to capacity. Officials announced a sell-out crowd of 15,816 and an MGM Resorts International official confirmed that the live gate for Wilder-Fury II broke the Nevada record for a heavyweight fight. The live gate produced $16,916,440 in ticket revenue and PPV figures in the US are predicted to hit the 2 million buy mark.
Bob Arum told us at the Fury-Wallin presser conference “Eddie Hearn doesn’t belong in the United States, promoting fights. He doesn’t understand this market. He doesn’t know what he’s doing. All he can do is write checks, and stupid checks.” After Saturday the 22nd of February in Las Vegas and all that went before, it’s hard to disagree.
Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome, the undisputed biggest attraction and star in world boxing. The WBC heavyweight champion of the world, The Gypsy King, Tyson Fury.