“It’s a game changer for the sport,” said Frank Warren regarding Tyson Fury’s upcoming fight promised to be announced within the next two weeks.
A fight with unified champion, Oleksandr Usyk, could be considered game-changing given the heavyweight division hasn’t seen one sole champion since Lennox Lewis over two decades ago. That will not be Fury’s next fight, though. Warren confirmed it won’t even take place in December in line with all the recent talk, but the first quarter of 2024.
So who then?
During the TalkSPORT interview, the promoter refused to be drawn into naming names, but his choice of words in describing the contest for whom most regard to be the best heavyweight in the world could be telling.
It certainly seems to rule people out. The hosts mentioned Martin Bakole – an albeit dangerous fighter who has fresh attention off the back of good wins and claims to have given the top dogs hell in sparring sessions. But game-changing it is not.
The same goes for any other of the ranked contenders for Fury’s WBC belt. Deontay Wilder and Andy Ruiz Jr are number one and number two, and are in potentially doomed talks to have a fight of their own. Should it not be made, could a rarely seen quadrilogy with ‘The Bronze Bomber’ deliver what Warren has promised? Unlikely.
Anthony Joshua – perhaps the only boxer in the world outside of Usyk who could be considered game-changing for Fury given their domestic rivalry and combined star power – is number three. It’s well know he’s deep in negotiations to face Dillian Whyte in August before signing to face Wilder should all go as planned. He also recently turned down an adhoc offer to face Fury.
Frank Sanchez and Arslanbek Makhmudov follow in the rankings. Again, potentially solid fights, but regular fights nonetheless.
For the game to be changed as promised, fans are best to look outside of it. MMA stars and rivals, Francis Ngannou and Jon Jones, seem to be the most likely. Warren said Fury was up for either in a separate segment, and Ngannou has made no secret of the fact he wants to dip his toe into the lucrative boxing pool before returning to his sport as part of a new organisation.
There’s no doubt the fight would sell worldwide. Combining the top two combat sports has a proven track record, beginning with Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor and trickling down into Jake Paul’s first outings.
Whether or not it will please boxing fans who want their heavyweight champion tested is another question entirely. Ngannou – should the fight be traditional boxing rules and not some ‘game-changing’ hybrid – will step through the ropes a clear underdog.
He has power in spades, but so did Wilder – a boxing world champion for half a decade – and Fury won clearly, twice.
After a 2022 that saw a mandatory challenge versus Dillian Whyte and then a run-out against Derek Chisora, the WBC have not been proactive in helping the division along by naming Fury’s next challenger. If the Ngannou or Jones (less likely) theories hold weight, it seems those eligible boxers will be kept watching from the sidelines.