In this corner with Russ Anber: The collapse of Fury-Joshua and the future of the heavyweight division

In his latest column, Russ Anber examines the collapse of the Fury vs Joshua fight and ponders the prospects for the division moving forward…

With the collapse of the Tyson Fury vs Anthony Joshua fight boxing has taken a massive blow!

Of course, boxing has suffered bad blows in the past and come back swinging so I’m sure the sport will lick its wounds and get back up again. Nevertheless, it’s such a shame that we’re not going to get a fight for the undisputed heavyweight crown that the world would have been privileged and eager to see.

Financially, there was an argument that Fury-Joshua would have been perhaps one of the biggest fights of all-time, and likely the biggest ever in the history of the heavyweight division.

It’s especially disappointing because everyone’s appetites had been whetted. People were already booking flights and hotels and were convinced it was happening.

As well, every indication from what Fury was saying, from what Joshua was saying, and certainly from what Eddie Hearn was saying was that the fight was happening. Eddie is a credible figure – I think he really wanted to get the fight done and worked hard to get it done.

So what has transpired must have come as a shock to everybody. The fact the fight has fallen apart has cost a lot of people a lot of money, a lot of time, a lot of phone calls and a fair amount of reputations, too.

It can’t have been easy to convince the Saudis to put up all that money, to convince all the parties that the money was in place and then to also get both parties to agree to terms and conditions. That all would have taken a lot of time.

I wish I was privy to more behind the scenes information about how everything unfolded because something seems amiss, something seems wrong. But even those people who have been privy to all the inside information aren’t talking.

That’s often the way things are in life, even more so in boxing. Everyone has their own truth – this isn’t a case of Moses on the mountaintop with the truth inscribed in stone – but to me something definitely feels wrong about it all.

When the parties entered negotiations for the fight, knowing it was possibly one of the biggest fights of all-time, they knew there was an arbitration process going on in the background. Surely there was legal advice coming through about this process? Surely they had some indication about whether the chances were good, bad or indifferent about Wilder winning the arbitration?

It’s really hard to believe that everyone was fully convinced that everything would be okay with the arbitration. After all, when the ruling finally came through it was clear that the arbitrator had no doubt that Wilder would “suffer irreparable damage” if he didn’t get an immediate third fight with Fury.

Were Fury’s legal sources and legal advisors really so far off and so wrong in terms of how that arbitration would unfold? Clearly somebody didn’t do the right things or get the right advice somewhere along the line.

The other explanation of course is that Fury and his team were fully aware that this was going to happen and were preparing to fight Wilder all along. His camp was already set up in Las Vegas and now the fight is going to be in Las Vegas, which lends credence to the theory he thought this is what was going to unfold.

Added to which, I found it strange that as soon as the arbitrator made their ruling there didn’t seem to be any appeal, or protest or argument or even disappointment expressed by Fury and his team. Quite the opposite – the fight was signed, sealed and delivered within hours! I mean, has there ever been a heavyweight championship fight which has been signed quicker than that? I know they had a deal in place with a rematch clause but even so it still seems a little strange to me.

Looking at things from another angle, I also think it’s a very risky move for Wilder to go into this third fight against Fury without any fight in the interim. If I was advising Wilder, I would look at the fact he’s got a new trainer in Malik Scott and I would want him to have the chance to gel with this new guy. To get to work, to get ready.

Let’s face it – if you look at the first two Fury-Wilder fights, Wilder lost the vast majority of those rounds and will need to do something exceptional in the third fight to turn the tables on Fury.

With all that in mind, if I was Wilder, rather than face Fury straight off the bat, I would have wanted a guaranteed contract to fight the winner of Fury vs Joshua. That course of action would have made much more sense to me – because then Wilder would have got to fight for the undisputed title, rather than just the WBC title. He would have a shot at winning four belts – three more than he’s ever had before.

Now though, if Wilder beats Fury for the WBC title who knows what happens after that? Fury would probably want a fourth fight because they’d be one fight all with one draw, Joshua, or for that matter Oleksandr Usyk, would be under no obligation to fight Wilder, mandatories would start to get in the way and the chance for an undisputed champion may well slip away.

The whole process and the way it has unfolded has sadly caused a massive loss of faith in boxing and in the ability of the sport to deliver the big fights that the fans want to see. I’d say the loss of faith in boxing has reached epidemic proportions. It’s all a bit sad and a bit crazy.

Now attention turns to not only Wilder-Fury 3 but also to a possible Joshua-Usyk fight, which is what the WBO have mandated should happen for their title.

I’ve got a personal interest in that fight, of course, as someone who has worked in Usyk’s corner for several years and also trained him for his fight against Michael Hunter in 2017.

Obviously, I hope that Joshua doesn’t drop the WBO title and Usyk gets his shot. It will be a tough fight, of course. It’s never easy when you’re fighting for the heavyweight championship of the world – Usyk knew that when he entered the division.

But he’s a highly skilled guy with an incredible work-rate who knows how to go to work and has great heart as well.

Throughout his pro and amateur career, Usyk has consistently succeeded because he always manages to find a way to win.

In that respect, he kind of reminds me of Michael Spinks who – with the exception of the Mike Tyson fight – always found a way to win, too, whether it be at light-heavyweight or up at heavyweight. Michael came up from light-heavy to become the heavyweight champion of the world and I don’t see why Usyk can’t come up from cruiserweight to become heavyweight champion of the world.

Russ Anber was talking to Luke G. Williams.

Russ Anber is the founder/ CEO of Rival Boxing, as well as a highly respected trainer (of both pros and amateurs), a gym owner, a cut-man, an entrepreneur, a broadcaster and one of the best hand wrappers in the boxing business. Vasiliy Lomachenko, Oleksandr Usyk, Artur Beterbiev, Michael Conlan and Callum Smith are among the many top boxers Russ currently works with.