How the heavyweight calendar could look post-coronavirus lockdown
Anthony Joshua vs Kubrat Pulev in China? Dillian Whyte fighting in Eddie Hearn’s backyard? And two all-British blockbusters for the undisputed title… how the heavyweight calendar could look post-coronavirus lockdown
- The lockdown couldn’t have come at a worse time for the heavyweight division
- Tyson Fury had just sealed one of the most memorable comebacks in boxing
- Anthony Joshua, meanwhile, was set for a glorious return to these shores
- British fans could look forward to Whyte vs Povetkin and Chisora vs Usyk
- However, the heavyweight division is now up in the air following lockdown
- Here’s how to help people impacted by Covid-19
For boxing’s blue-riband division, the coronavirus lockdown could hardly have come at a worse time.
Tyson Fury had just battered Deontay Wilder to take his WBC title – and complete one of the most memorable comebacks in heavyweight history.
Anthony Joshua, meanwhile, was set for a glorious return to these shores. Fresh from winning his WBA, WBO and IBF belts back from Andy Ruiz Jnr in the Saudi desert, AJ was set to christen the new Tottenham stadium against Kubrat Pulev. The path was clear towards an all-British blockbuster to crown boxing’s undisputed king.
Elsewhere, British fans could look forward to the bruising clash between Dillian Whyte and Alexander Povetkin, as well as Derek Chisora’s battle with Oleksandr Usyk.
Now, though, the future of the division is up in the air. Only when lockdown passes will the dust begin to settle.
So how could the boxing calendar look over the next 12 months? Sportsmail has a look…
Tyson Fury sealed a remarkable comeback after beating heavyweight rival Deontay Wilder
Anthony Joshua was set for a glorious return to the UK after beating Andy Ruiz Jr
The hope among British boxing chiefs is that boxing can return – behind closed doors – from perhaps July, pending assurances that the health authorities will not be overburdened.
Initially, the plan is to stage slimline shows featuring boxers from the lower tiers to ease the logjam suffocating the sport.
But big fights must – and will – follow close behind. The first of these is likely to be Whyte vs Povetkin. The Brixton heavyweight has been out in Portugal and does not want a full training camp to go to waste, even if that means missing out on support from the Manchester Arena – where they were first due to meet on May 2.
The fight was pushed back to July 4 but whenever it falls, fans will almost certainly be barred.
Sportsmail reported on Friday that Hearn has revealed his extraordinary plan to bring elite boxing back to Britain – by staging championship fights in his back garden.
The stakes could hardly be higher for Dillian Whyte when he takes on Alexander Povetkin
Matchroom’s HQ in Brentwood, Essex, will be used to host four weeks of boxing from July – with plans to stage Whyte’s fight with Povetkin in the first or second Saturday in August
The promoter has exclusively disclosed to Sportsmail his intention to stage fight nights on four consecutive Saturdays in the 15-acre grounds of his Matchroom headquarters in Brentwood, Essex.
His £1million plan is to open with the all-Brit world title clash between Terri Harper and Natasha Jonas in mid-July, before closing with Whyte’s WBC interim heavyweight title fight against Povetkin in the first or second Saturday in August.
The stakes could hardly be higher for Whyte. He is the mandatory challenger to WBC champion Fury and is due his shot at the title by February 2021. Defeat by the ageing Povetkin could derail those plans – and delay his world title chances even further.
Usyk vs Chisora would likely be next. Should ‘WAR’ upset the brilliant Ukrainian, a former cruiserweight king, he will be the mandatory challenger to AJ’s WBO crown.
The fight was slated for May 23 at the O2 Arena but now, like Whyte, Chisora has said he is ready to fight without fans. Eddie Hearn said the fight could move abroad, with other countries keen to bring sport back this summer.
Should Dereck Chisora beat Oleksandr Usyk, he’d be mandatory challenger to AJ’s WBO crown
As reported by Sportsmail on Thursday, late 2020 is when the wheels on the heavyweight division should begin to gather pace.
Eddie Hearn has confirmed that AJ and Pulev’s heavyweight clash is likely to take place between October and December. Though AJ has previously said he would be willing to fight in an empty venue, doing so would cost everyone millions in lost revenue.
So, too, could paying Pulev to step aside and clear the path for a Battle of Britain with Fury.
For that to materialise, Wilder would need to do the same.
Recent reports suggested that the Bronze Bomber would accept £10million to side-step a third fight but Fury insisted this week: ‘I’m not paying him no money to step aside. I’d rather take his scalp again.’
The former WBC champion has already triggered his rematch clause following a first career defeat in February.
That third fight has been pushed back from the summer to the autumn. Now, it’s claimed November and December is most likely.
Where these fights take place remains up in the air.
Fury-Wilder III was headed for Vegas, Joshua-Pulev for London. There is obvious reluctance to hold these money spinners behind closed doors but the longer the ongoing shutdown drags on, the more likely that becomes.
Joshua is set to face Kubrat Pulev in a heavyweight clash between October and December
Pulev’s promoter Bob Arum recently talked down a fight in the UK, and Hearn confirmed that if crowds couldn’t return to UK venues this year ‘we will take the fight elsewhere.
‘We have had a number of approaches from the Middle East, China, and Croatia,’ he told Sky.
The extortionate site fees in somewhere like Saudi Arabia would certainly soften the financial blow of coronavirus.
Elsewhere, Whyte could take a second risky fight of 2020. Hearn playfully told the Brixton heavyweight this week that he wants a clash with Ruiz Jnr to follow (victory over) Povetkin. Then would come his long-awaited world title tilt.
Whyte and Ruiz have shared a war of words in recent months over a lucrative offer to the Mexican-American. But the Briton said: ‘I want Joshua or Tyson Fury after Povetkin. Forget Andy Ruiz. Andy Ruiz has got a big fight with diabetes at the minute.’
What of those further down the heavyweight ladder? Former WBO champion Joseph Parker, for example, will want to return to the mix, rather than just entertain Twitter with his acting skills.
Then there are Joe Joyce and Daniel Dubois – two British heavyweights scheduled to meet in London on July 11. Frank Warren has already said he does not want the fight to go behind closed doors, which may mean late 2020 or even 2021 is more likely.
Wilder has triggered his rematch with Fury clause following his first career defeat in February
Should all go to plan, early next year is when the truly mega fights should come into view.
The hope is big stadium fights will be back on the agenda, and both Fury and AJ will still be on course for an undisputed clash.
As Hearn suggested this week, preliminary talks over two unification fights have taken place between the two camps. One at either end of 2021? It’s the stuff of dreams. But boxing fans have been burnt too many times to count their chickens.
There are so many hurdles to overcome – will Hearn, Arum, Warren, Sky, BT, ESPN, DAZN and the two fighters be able to agree terms?
What about Whyte? The WBC have said they will not order any mandatory challenges until it is safe. Could this could see Whyte’s deadline of February 2021 pushed back?
Would the sanctioning body want to get in the way of the biggest fight in boxing?
What about the WBO’s challenger – the winner of Usyk-Chisora – what of Ruiz, Parker and the other contenders fighting for a piece of the pie?
So many questions. Only time will tell whether boxing has the answers.
Eddie Hearn suggested preliminary talks over two unification fights have taken place between Joshua and Fury’s camps
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