The talk of a possible clash between WBC heavyweight title holder Deontay Wilder 40-0 (39) and returning ex-champ Tyson Fury 26-0 (19) seems to be gaining momentum. With Fury about to fight for only the second time after a nearly two and a half year hiatus, your first thought is it doesn’t make much sense for him to meet Wilder this soon. But if he were to beat Wilder it would be one of the most rewarding gambles any elite fighter has ever taken.
In a perfect world Fury would get some more rounds under his belt and then try to go ahead with a title bout against WBA/WBO/IBF champ Anthony Joshua late next year. Fighting Joshua first is no doubt the way to go because he’d be an underdog to both AJ and Wilder, but he’d make a lot more money facing Joshua. And beating Joshua would elevate him to a much higher plateau than beating Wilder. Facing Wilder first and losing would kill the gate for a fight with Joshua unless Wilder’s win was razor close or controversial.
Fury, like Wilder, lacks the pull to demand anything resembling a 50/50 purse split versus Joshua, and AJ can string them along because he has so many potential opponents he can fight and make upwards of 15 million dollars and that may even be lowballing it. Joshua can fight a rematch with Dillian Whyte, or face Dereck Chisora, Jarrell Miller or even Oleksandr Usyk, and be paid handsomely. He may want to be the first to knock off Wilder and Fury but he’s certainly not going to lose any money waiting for them to adhere to his demands regarding the purse percentage in his favor.
The upside to Fury fighting Wilder first — and it applies to Wilder just the same — is that the winner would have some real juice going up against Eddie Hearn and Joshua at the negotiation table. If Fury and Wilder agree to fight, it says a lot for both and in essence they’re both confident in winning and are willing to bet on themselves to nail down the most lucrative fight of their careers to date. In actuality, neither Tyson nor Deontay has made outrageous money, but the winner between them would be sitting in a great spot for sure. And if it’s Fury, that applies two-fold because of his personality and ability and willingness to hype a big fight that he’s part of.
Beating Luis Ortiz in his last fight did a lot for Wilder, and Ortiz’s recent second round knockout over former title challenger Razvan Cojanu enhanced Wilder’s legitimacy. But he was seconds away from losing to Ortiz and fighting Wilder isn’t considered winning the lottery as is the case with Joshua. Due to Joshua’s higher profile, holding three legit titles and exhibiting much better form and technical superiority, AJ has all the options and the only way Fury or Wilder can take away some of his advantage is to do something big – and whoever emerges between them would have some major bragging rights.
Joshua’s stoppage of Klitschko stands as his signature career victory, but the winner between Fury and Wilder would have a signature victory that is even more impressive (not that I would necessarily agree as Klitschko was a better overall fighter and a bigger two-handed puncher than Deontay Wilder…if Fury and Klitschko had fought a rematch, I would have favored Wladimir, although I’m not as sure about this as I was initially). So if Fury beats Wilder his stock really goes up, especially when coupled with the fact that he defeated Klitschko for the title before AJ got to him.
Now flip the script and assume that Wilder beats Fury who won’t be at his best. With Fury’s win over Klitschko, Deontay beating even a compromised version of Fury trumps Joshua beating Klitschko, at least on paper, applying the triangle formula. Under that scenario you know Wilder will claim he’s the authentic champ and that Joshua is just a belt holder.
Granted, the Joshua faction will do all they can to minimize Wilder’s triumph, stating that Fury had been inactive, addicted to food, alcohol and drugs and was only a relic of the fighter that fought Wladimir Klitschko. And although there will be a ring of truth to what they say, the bottom line will be that Wilder was the first fighter to beat Fury who like Muhammad Ali of the 1960s had never lost his title in the ring. This will carry a lot of weight with boxing fans and if Joshua or Eddie Hearn balk at the demand for purse parity, the pendulum of public opinion will have swung against them.
When first hearing that Wilder-Fury was in the works I thought it was ill-advised, and it will certainly look that way for the loser under any scenario. However, if Wilder and Fury are that confident in themselves that they are willing to roll the dice, it really is their only play when it comes to taking away some of the leverage Team Joshua currently holds. Whoever wins would surely escalate his profile and brand.
Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com
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