The fight of the century between Tyson Fury and Anthony Joshua for all four heavyweight titles is agreed for a date “between July 24 and early August” but “will not be impacted by the Olympic Games in Tokyo”, the promoter Eddie Hearn has said.
Hearn, fresh from a meeting with Fury and his promoter Bob Arum in Las Vegas, said both sides have accepted “one specific proposal” for a £200 million mega-fight for the summer in the Middle East – believed to be Saudi Arabia – due to Covid-19 crowd restrictions.
A second fight is still expected to take place back in the UK later this year. Hearn disclosed that the expected venue for the first bout will have seating for “up to 20,000 fans” indoors; it will be held inside because of the extreme heat in the country at that time of the year.
The blockbuster contest pitches undefeated WBC heavyweight champion Fury against Joshua, who holds the IBF, WBA and WBO belts.
The Tokyo Games run from July 23 to August 8.
Hearn said: “We all know now that both sides have signed the contract, they have both accepted one specific proposal and we are finalising that with contracts going backwards and forwards and tiny, tiny points getting ironed out.
“We haven't finalised an exact date, July 24 is the rough date but it may leak into early August but no later than that. The Olympics will be a different timezone so it's not really in the mindset.”
Will Joshua have to fight without trainer Robert McCracken in his corner?
The proposed timing of the bout could leave Joshua’s trainer McCracken double-booked – as he is coach to the GB Olympic team boxing for Tokyo.
“We don't have a choice,” Hearn said. “There are too many people and things to fit around already with the fighters, trainers, countries, time zones, the Olympics. There is all this stuff around it, so whatever date we are given by the site is the date that we will go with. The plan is to go ahead accordingly.
“I know AJ and Rob have been talking around this, so I am sure they will work it out. So it will depend on timings, the date we get given is when the fight takes place and the guys know it will be around the Olympics. It could be inappropriate but it is the biggest fight in boxing and the biggest moment in AJ's career so we have to work it out.”
As for where McCracken’s decision lies, Hearn added: “I know Rob takes his position very seriously, he loves the job and the kids so it's not ideal but we can't move it a couple of weeks either side. Someone is spending a lot of money so we have to go whenever they say.”
Rarely, if ever, have major boxing events taken place during the Olympic Games in the last 20 years but Hearn believes this time its is different. “I know the Olympics is a huge event but I see them very differently. I know a lot of people won't agree with me but I personally see this bigger than the Olympics.
“I just feel it is bigger than the Olympics, for Britain, because the world will stop to watch and it's between two Brits. It's impossible to schedule anything without clashing with something, it's impossible so we will go on the date we are told to go on.”
What will the timings of the fight be and will there be a crowd?
“It will be peak time UK, middle of the night in Tokyo, there will not be a TV clash,” said Hearn. “There is going to be a crowd, indoors obviously, so up to 20,000.”
Who will walk in first, how will the poster be designed ?
“You will see. Maybe they will walk at the same time. It would be unique. From different sides of the arena. That would solve a problem,” Hearn said. “What I saw from the meeting with Fury – and I know this is the case with AJ – is that they both just want to get the fight on.
“In the world today, people are more willing to be accepting and understanding and rather than muck about with it, let's just get this done. So I don't think we will have any problems. The walk in at the same time is genuinely something I have thought about as a spectacle rather than a contractual issue.”
The poster is yet to be decided, but could be designed in different ways, explained Hearn. “That happened with Carl Frampton-Scott Quigg. It was Frampton-Quigg and then Quigg got his own posters done as Quigg-Frampton.
How did Hearn’s meetings with Fury and promoter Arum play out in Las Vegas ?
“Fury was good. I went to see Canelo [Alvarez] and then Billy Joe Saunders and then I got my phone book and arranged a load of meetings,” explained Hearn. “I DM'ed Fury on Instagram and asked if he fancied a cuppa. I ran round there and we just had 10 minutes in his suite but it was good to hear how dialled in he is for the fight.
“When I saw the comments from him and his dad [on social media], I wanted reassurance that, when I deliver it, they will want it. I have spoken to Fury's team and Top Rank and told them to hang in there, because I will get it done. Once they saw the offer, they felt a bit of positivity and believe the fight is happening and it makes for a better relationship. I think they are happy now because everyone has got what they wanted.”
So what’s the final hold-up to announcing the contest?
“There is no hold-up. You get a written offer come in, from there you accept the offer, which we have done, and then it is on to long form contracts for the site agreement,” Hearn said.
“That’s where we are now. It's a huge deal, so it is not something that requires just one draft. There have been drafts going backwards and forwards between our lawyers and Top Rank's lawyers. I have missed a couple of deadlines so I don't want to keep coming up with new ones. It's close. There is zero hold-up.”
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