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The future of heavyweight boxing amid doubts over Fury-Wilder showdown

Lingering contractual issues and coronavirus are still set to play a decisive factor in the months ahead.

A heavyweight super-fight between Tyson Fury and Anthony Joshua appears closer than ever after reports that Fury's projected third meeting with Deontay Wilder, scheduled for December, has been called off for good.

But nothing is ever quite so clear when boxing politics comes into play, with a host of reasons why tickets for the hoped-for all British showdown are far from being printed.

Here, the PA news agency examines the current state of play in the heavyweight division, and why lingering contractual issues and coronavirus are still set to play a decisive factor in the months ahead.

Has Fury-Wilder III been cancelled?

Deontay Wilder v Tyson Fury II – MGM Grand
Reports claim Deontay Wilder's rematch clause has expired (Bradley Collyer/PA)

Widespread reports claim Fury is no longer under obligation to face Wilder for a third time due to Wilder's rematch clause expiring. Wilder's team have denied this, and say the fight is still set to happen in December. However, in a further complication, the scheduled date of December 19 in Las Vegas has been ruled out due to television and venue issues relating to NFL matches, and with time running out, a new date for the bout has yet to be finalised.

If it's off, will Fury fight Joshua instead?

Andy Ruiz Jr v Anthony Joshua – Diriyah Arena
Anthony Joshua is set to fight Kubrat Pulev in December (Nick Potts/PA)

In a word, no. Joshua is duty-bound to defend his titles against Bulgarian Kubrat Pulev, a fight which is scheduled for December 12. Conceivably Joshua could offer Pulev significant step-aside money in order to go straight into a bout with Fury, but there seems little sense in rushing a fight whose significant promotional build-up is estimated to potentially earn both fighters nine-figure pay-days. If the Wilder fight is cancelled, Fury would look to take on a relatively low-risk warm-up bout instead.

Will Fury and Joshua fight next year?

Tyson Fury
Tyson Fury has reportedly agreed a two-fight deal with Anthony Joshua (Bradley Collyer/PA)

The pair's promoters have agreed to two bouts in principle, with only defeat for either in December, and issues relating to the pandemic, now likely to scupper those plans. Wembley has been mooted for the massive all-British showdown, but the reality is that unless the stadium is able to be filled to capacity, economics will ensure that the fight takes place elsewhere – more than likely back in Saudi Arabia, where Joshua regained his title over Andy Ruiz Jr. earlier this year, and where Fury also has connections.

Will the undisputed titles be on the line?

Oleksandr Usyk v Tony Bellew – Manchester Arena
Oleksandr Usyk could scupper hopes of a unification bout (Nick Potts/PA)

Beyond its promotional pull, the phrase "undisputed" is more meaningless than ever, given the prevalence of so-called "super" and "regular" champions in the sport, not to mention the plethora of obscure sanctioning bodies. All five major belts should be on the line, although Oleksandr Usyk could conceivably complicate things by demanding his mandatory shot at the WBO crown if he beats Dereck Chisora this month, forcing Joshua to either pay a step-aside fee or vacate the title. In reality, few boxing fans would care for such inconvenient technicalities.

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Barry Hearn pictured in April 2019
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