Fury-Joshua deal in doubt after Wilder wins arbitration case
Just when it appeared as though all of the issues involved in making the long-anticipated Tyson Fury-Anthony Joshua undisputed heavyweight championship fight had finally been resolved, and the fight appeared on course to take place Aug. 14 in Saudi Arabia, a potentially fight-wrecking blow landed on Monday.
Arbitrator Daniel Weinstein, a retired judge with vast experience in boxing cases, ruled in favor of former titlist Deontay Wilder in his action against Fury in an effort to force a third fight he believed he was owed under the terms of their deal for a rematch that took place on Feb. 22, 2020, according to multiple sources with knowledge of the ruling. Their rematch contract called for mediation in the event of a dispute followed by binding arbitration if mediation could not solve any issues.
According to sources, rather than simply award Wilder monetary damages, Weinstein ruled that Fury must face Wilder by Sept. 15, although his opinion did allow for the prospect of an extension to the date if both sides agree to it.
If Fury and Wilder do agree to an extension — which would undoubtedly include a hefty seven-figure step-aside payment to Wilder — Fury would be allowed to face Joshua as planned. But it remains to be seen if Wilder will entertain a deal.
There also are other issues that need to be clarified, such as if Wilder agreed to step aside what would happen to a third Fury-Wilder fight in the event Fury lost to Joshua? Would Joshua agree to face Wilder next if he defeated Fury? What would become of the second fight of the two-fight deal Fury and Joshua have? Would Wilder fight an interim bout while allowing Fury-Joshua to move forward? Further, is Weinstein’s ruling even enforceable given that Fury is from England and intends to have his next fight in Saudi Arabia?
Weinstein issued his opinion one day after Fury made a 43-second video and posted it to social media proclaiming the fight with Joshua was finally set after months of negotiations with Joshua promoter Eddie Hearn, who had secured what would be a record $155 million site fee from the same Saudi Arabian group that paid a record $60 million site fee to bring Joshua’s rematch with Andy Ruiz Jr. to a temporary outdoor stadium built for the fight in Diriyah, Saudi Arabia in December 2019.
“Got some massive news for you guys,” Fury said in the video. “I’ve just got off the phone from Prince Khalid (Adbdulaziz Al Saud) of Saudi Arabia. He told me this fight is 100 percent on — Aug. 14, 2021, summertime. All eyes of the world will be on the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and I cannot wait — repeat, cannot wait — to smash Anthony Joshua on the biggest stage of all time.
“This is gonna be the biggest sporting event ever to grace the planet Earth. Do not miss it. All eyes on us. Peace out. God bless. See you all in Saudi! Yes!”
A day later, that promise potentially went up in smoke when Weinstein issued his ruling.
‘I find that Wilder, like (Lennox) Lewis, would be irreparably harmed if Wilder were denied the opportunity to regain the championship.’ — Arbitrator Daniel Weinstein in his ruling
According to a source who read the nine-page opinion, Weinstein “was not impressed by the arguments put forth by the Fury side.”
In the ruling, according the source, Weinstein cited the 2001 federal lawsuit brought by then-former heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis against Hasim Rahman, who had knocked him out in the fifth round in a massive upset to win the title in South Africa in April of that year.
Lewis exercised his contractual right to an immediate rematch but Rahman attempted to avoid the fight in order to try and make a more lucrative fight against former champion Mike Tyson.
Lewis sued Rahman in New York federal court in an attempt to force an immediate rematch and in June 2001 won the case, in part because he had testified that at age 35 his skills were in decline and he needed to fight Rahman again as soon as possible — within the 150 days stipulated in their contract.
The judge ruled that unless Rahman honored his contractual obligation to give Lewis an immediate rematch he would not be permitted to fight anyone for 18 months. Rather sit for 18 months, earn no money and risk being stripped of his two world title belts, Rahman gave Lewis the immediate rematch in November 2001 and got knocked out in the fourth round.
Weinstein invoked the case in his opinion, writing, according to the source, who quoted from the ruling, “I find that Wilder, like Lewis, would be irreparably harmed if Wilder were denied the opportunity to regain the championship.”
Wilder’s case stemmed from his belief that Fury owed him a third fight based on their contract for a February 2020 rematch, which Fury won by seventh-round knockout to retain the lineal title and take Wilder’s WBC belt when Wilder’s now-former co-trainer Mark Breland threw in the towel to end the one-sided fight.
The deal for the rematch of their 2018 draw was a two-fight deal with the loser having the contractual right to a third fight. Wilder exercised that right after the loss and the fight was being planned for July 2020 and later October and then December. But due to the coronavirus pandemic making it impossible to have a live gate and Wilder also having had surgery on an injured biceps, the date by which the bout was supposed to take place expired.
Fury decided to move on to another fight but Wilder’s team believed Fury still owed him the third bout based injury and extension language in their agreement, so he took Fury to mediation and then arbitration when no resolution was agreed to in mediation.
Neither Wilder (42-1-1, 41 KOs), 35, of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, nor England’s Fury (30-0-1, 21 KOs), 32, have fought since their rematch last year. Joshua (24-1, 22 KOs), 31, of England, knocked out mandatory challenger Kubrat Pulev in the ninth round on Dec. 12 and faces his own timing issues because if the Fury fight doesn’t happen next he will have to deal with other mandatory fights.
Top Rank chairman Bob Arum, Fury’s co-promoter, could not be reached for comment. Wilder manager Shelly Finkel declined comment as did Hearn when reached by Fight Freaks Unite.
Photo: Ryan Hafey / Premier Boxing Champions