Tyson Fury has announced that his highly-anticipated heavyweight showdown against British rival Anthony Joshua will go ahead on August 14 in Saudi Arabia although no official confirmation has been made yet.
Negotiations between the camps have been protracted – even painstaking – but Fury’s revelation indicates the finer details for a fight that would put all four major world titles on the line are closer than ever to being resolved.
Here, the PA news agency looks at the latest in a saga that has rumbled on for several months.
What has Fury said?
The WBC heavyweight champion whet the whistle of boxing fans everywhere when he uploaded a video to Twitter, in which he said: “I have got some massive news. I have just got off the phone with Prince Khalid of Saudi Arabia and he told me this fight is 100 per cent on, August 14. I cannot wait, I repeat, cannot wait to smash Anthony Joshua on the biggest stage of all time. This is going to be the biggest sporting event ever to grace the planet Earth. Do not miss it.” While Fury and Joshua, the WBA, IBF and WBO champion, have been goading each other on social media recently, this is the first time either fighter has stated unequivocally that the contest will go ahead.
When can I book my flight?
Steady on. Not only is it far too early to tell what the travel restrictions will be so many months in advance – although it is hoped fans from the UK will be able to travel to the Gulf state by then – the fight is yet to be rubber-stamped. Eddie Hearn, Joshua’s promoter, responded to one user on Twitter that Fury was “just telling you what I’ve already said”. There has been silence from Fury’s co-promoters Frank Warren and Bob Arum, who just three weeks ago said the blockbuster event was “dead in the water” – although Hearn rejected those suggestions at the time. The Matchroom chief divulged last week that the Joshua-Fury fight will happen in Saudi Arabia.
Why is a fight between two Britons taking place in Saudi Arabia?
Many in this country would relish this extravaganza occurring at Wembley Stadium, where Joshua has fought twice, including his enthralling win over Wladimir Klitschko four years ago. Joshua himself said recently Wembley would be the “ideal” venue but money talks. It has been reported that Saudi authorities are putting down around 150million US dollars (roughly £106million) to stage arguably the biggest fight in British boxing history. Going down that route will not be without criticism, not least because of the “sportswashing” accusations levelled at Saudi Arabia by human rights groups. Amnesty International UK director Kate Allen last week urged the fighters to “speak out” on the issue, while criticising Joshua for not doing so ahead of his rematch against Andy Ruiz Jr in Diriyah in 2019.
Will this fight be back in Diriyah?
Joshua regained his heavyweight belts with a points win over Ruiz Jr 18 months ago in Diriyah, on the outskirts of the Saudi capital Riyadh, as the London 2012 gold medallist avenged the only defeat of his professional career. Joshua would therefore perhaps welcome a return to the scene of one of his greatest triumphs, but Hearn told the BBC last week a purpose-built outdoor arena is likely to be in Riyadh or Jeddah. He added: “It’s 24 degrees at 11pm at night in August, which is not horrendous. They want to make it a spectacle.”
Is there anything else to know?
A date of August 14 – the week after this summer’s Olympic Games are set to wrap up – seems to remove a potential problem for Joshua’s trainer Rob McCracken, the long-serving performance director at GB Boxing. McCracken is expected to be in Tokyo for the duration of the Games and had the Joshua-Fury fight occurred during the Olympics, the coach faced a tricky dilemma. However, that issue looks to have been resolved.