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Notebook: Fury-Usyk deal drama as sides work to finalize big fight
Broner signs with Don King; Ugas-Barrios on tap for interim belt; Miller, Browne not expecting long fight; WBA strawweight title update; Eifert upsets Pascal; Quick hits; Show and tell
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Will they or won’t they? That’s the question surrounding the ongoing problems finalizing a fight to determine the undisputed heavyweight champion between lineal/WBC champion Tyson Fury and Oleksandr Usyk, who holds the other three belts.
Even after they finally agreed to a 70-30 purse split in Fury’s favor last Friday and began putting the deal to paper — in part to hold off the WBA from ordering Usyk’s mandatory defense by the 5 p.m. ET deadline, which would have thrown a big wrench into all the belts being at stake — there are still issues. One was Fury’s insistence on Monday that they remove any rematch language that Usyk said was Fury’s idea in the first place.
While England’s Fury (33-0-1, 24 KOs), 34, and Ukraine’s Usyk (20-0, 13 KOs), 36, the former undisputed cruiserweight champion, have exchanged social media videos about the deal-making process, one thing that has not changed, which is the goal of both sides to have the pay-per-view fight take place April 29 at Wembley Stadium in London.
That has put major urgency into getting the deal done with the fight date in less than 45 days, which is an extremely tight schedule for a fight of this magnitude.
Why are they married to April 29, a date that holds no particular magic?
“It’s the only thing forcing everyone to shit or get off the pot on their decisions,” one person involved in the deal told Fight Freaks Unite on Thursday.
While Fury co-promoter Frank Warren has been insisting everything is on course and will get squared away, the source involved was not as confident.
“Not sure if it will get done or not,” the source said. “Going down to the wire. We shall see. Any nonsense could derail it at this stage. Everyone is frustrated. Not a lot of time on the clock.”
If the fight happens, the winner would become the first undisputed heavyweight champion of the four-belt era and the first since Lennox Lewis outpointed Evander Holyfield in their 1999 rematch to unify all the titles during the three-belt era.
King signs Broner
It’s apparently last chance saloon for former four-division titlist Adrien Broner and his new promoter, 91-year-old Don King, whose stable had been devoid of a name fighter or titleholder.
Broner signed with King on Thursday weeks after he parted ways with BLK Prime without having had a fight on three-fight deal they had announced with fanfare. Broner was supposed to headline a BLK Prime pay-per-view on Feb. 25 but after three opponents dropped out of the welterweight fight for various reasons — not to mention soft ticket sales and little buzz — the card was canceled and soon after Broner announced they had split.
Broner (34-4-1, 24 KOs), 33, of Cincinnati, had previously left PBC’s Al Haymon, who had him fighting on Showtime, though Broner has not been a top fighter for years.
He is 1-2-1 in his last four fights, has not fought since February 2021 and has had legal and mental health issues. Broner was scheduled to face Omar Figueroa Jr. on Showtime last Aug. 20 but pulled out five days beforehand, claiming mental health issues.
Now he is King’s reclamation project.
“Adrien is ready and excited to show his championship skills once again for the delight of the great boxing fans,” said King, who referred to Broner as the “bad boy of boxing.”
Broner seemed to have gotten himself in good shape for the canceled Feb. 25 event based on training videos posted to social media. He was training with Kevin Cunningham in South Florida, near King’s Deerfield Beach offices.
“I have a fantastic camp with Kevin Cunningham, and I can hardly wait to get back into the ring again,” Broner said. “Winning a world title and constantly defending or unifying the titles is what I am aiming to do.”
WBC approves Ugas-Barrios
The WBC has approved an interim welterweight title bout between Yordenis Ugas and Mario Barrios, WBC president Mauricio Sulaiman told Fight Freaks Unite on Thursday.
Errol Spence Jr., the three-belt unified titlist, is supposed to be back in the coming months versus Keith Thurman but at junior middleweight. It remains to be seen if he will fight at welterweight again. If he doesn’t, the Ugas-Barrios winner would be elevated to full titlist.
Sulaiman said the winner would be ordered to face the Cody Crowley-Abel Ramos winner. They meet in an eliminator March 25 (Showtime PPV and PPV.com) on the David Benavidez-Caleb Plant undercard.
Miami-based Cuban Ugas (27-5, 12 KOs), 36, has been idle since Spence stopped him in the 10th round last April to take his WBA belt in a unification fight. Ugas suffered broken right orbital bone.
San Antonio’s Barrios (27-2, 18 KOs), 27, stopped Jovanie Santiago in the eighth round Feb. 11 to end a two-fight losing streak to Thurman, who outpointed him in February 2022, and an 11th-round knockout to Gervonta Davis, who took his secondary 140-pound belt in June 2021.
Miller, Browne expect shootout
Heavyweight Jarrell “Big Baby” Miller insists he will stop Lucas Browne early when they meet on Saturday (ProBox TV, 11 a.m. ET) at Agenda Arena in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
“I’m thinking it will go four rounds or less,” Miller said. “I’m not trying to play with him and I’m not going to give him an opportunity to land that right hand. He fought Junior Fa and Junior didn’t realize what he walked into. I see him as a slow starter who gets beat up a lot and then in seven or eight rounds, he lands a right hand that gets guys out of there. My goal is to not let it go 10 rounds. I got head movement and a good, stiff jab.
“Once I get him hurt, I will go in there and send him home. I’m definitely going to knock him out in the early rounds of the fight. It could be a combination or just one punch, but I know I’m going to stop him.”
Browne also believes the fight won’t last long.
“I believe he will come out fast,” Browne said. “I was expecting that, so I’m thinking I will do the same. I’m come with a straight right and start lifting his head up and see where it goes. I’ve also been working a lot on the body, so I want to work his body if I get the chance and just bang, basically.”
Miller (25-0-1, 20 KOs), 34, of Brooklyn, New York, and Australia’s Browne (31-3, 27 KOs), 43, have both had major issues with positive drug tests for banned substances but Miller has won two fights in a row since returning from a 3½-year layoff due to his assortment of positive drug tests. Browne rejuvenated his career with an upset first-round knockout of Fa in June on the George Kambosos-Devin Haney I undercard.
Miller’s first set of positive tests caused his shot at then unified heavyweight titlist Anthony Joshua to be canceled. It’s a fight he still wants.
“My main thing right now is I want to punch Anthony Joshua in the face,” Miller said. “That fight needs to still happen. I’m hoping he gets past Jermaine (Franklin on April 1). Hopefully, we can get it on after this fight. I want to retire him. I want to break his will and his heart, his brain, his eye socket. And I still want to break his nose.”
Strawweight title update
The WBA on Thursday scheduled a new purse bid with tighter rules than it previously had for the delayed mandatory bout between strawweight titlist Knockout CP Freshmart (24-0, 9 KOs), 32, of Thailand, and secondary titlist Erick Rosa (5-0, 1 KO), 22, of the Dominican Republic.
The purse bid is scheduled for March 28 at WBA headquarters in Panama City, Panama. Minimum bid is $80,000 with the split 75-25 in CP Freshmart’s favor.
The fight was slated to take place March 1 in Nakhon Sawan, Thailand after CP Freshmart’s team won a previous purse bid. However, when Rosa arrived in Thailand he was detained for more than a day because he did not have the proper visa, which Rosa’s team blamed on the Thai promoter. There was also an issue because he had a soon-to-expire passport.
The new purse bid will be conducted with stricter rules, including the WBA saying there will be no extensions and that the sides have to submit signed contracts no later than 20 days after the bid. Further, “the bout must occur between 45 and 60 days from the date of the purse bid with no exceptions or extensions,” the WBA wrote in outlining the rules.
As for potential visa issues, the WBA ruled, “At least 30 days prior to the scheduled date of the bout, all required visas must be in the possession of the fighter with proof of such visa, which shows that he is able to travel to the bout, submitted to the WBA.” The promoter that wins the purse bid is responsible for the visas, the WBA said.
The WBA also said, “An injury, disease, illness, or legal issue, which causes a fighter to not participate in the bout, shall be considered a default. The non-defaulting fighter will fight the next leading available contender.”
Germany’s Michael Eifert traveled to the hometown of Jean Pascal (36-7-1, 20 KOs), 40, and pulled the upset decision Thursday night at Place Bell in Laval, Canada. Eifert (12-1, 4 KOs), 25, soundly outboxed the former light heavyweight champion in their IBF final eliminator to earn a mandatory shot at three-belt champion Artur Beterbiev. The judges had it 118-110, 117-111 and 115-113 for Eifert, who was fighting outside of Germany for the second time. He beat the slow, wild-swinging Pascal to the punch round after round and cruised to the victory.
Junior middleweight prospect Callum Walsh (6-0, 5 KOs), 22, an Ireland native based in Los Angeles, knocked out fellow southpaw Wesley Tucker (15-5, 9 KOs), 35, of Toledo, Ohio, before a partisan Irish crowd on St. Patrick’s Day eve Thursday night in the main event of the 360 Promotions card on UFC Fight Pass at Agganis Arena in Boston. Walsh scored three knockdowns in the second round of the scheduled 10-rounder and the fight was halted at 2 minutes, 59 seconds. Walsh’s next bout is slated for June 9 at a Southern California venue to be determined.
The WBA notified featherweight Otabek Kholmatov (11-0, 10 KOs), 24, of Uzbekistan, that he is now officially the organization’s mandatory challenger for newly crowned titleholder Mauricio Lara (26-2-1, 19 KOs), 25, of Mexico, who stopped Leigh Wood in the seventh round to win the title Feb. 18. Kholmatov impressively dismantled and knocked out Thomas Patrick Ward in a final eliminator in Newcastle, England on March 4. In the letter the WBA sent Kholmatov to notify him of his official position, it said it will issue a letter April 18 ordering a 30-day negotiating period.
Show and tell
If the fight happened today it would undoubtedly be a $75 pay-per-view, but when Julio Cesar Chavez, 68-0 at the time, and Meldrick Taylor, who was 24-0-1, met to unify junior welterweight titles at the Las Vegas Hilton they were live on HBO in a hugely anticipated fight that matched the straight ahead banger in Chavez against the dazzling and insanely fast Taylor, who was a great boxer but loved to fight. It was a dream match and it became an instant classic. It was the fight of the year and picked as The Ring magazine fight of the decade. It is one of the most memorable fights ever. It also is notorious for having the single most controversial stoppage in boxing history.
There was tons of back-and-forth action but Taylor was clearly winning round after round and on his way to a decision win. But Chavez’s thudding punches were taking an enormous toll. Taylor’s face was swelling and he was fading in the late rounds. Finally, Chavez nailed him with a right hand and he went down in a neutral corner with 15 seconds left in the 12th round. He beat the count, but did not respond the way referee Richard Steele wanted and he waved off the fight with two seconds left. From Taylor’s perspective, he was deprived of a historic victory. From Chavez’s perspective, it was one of the greatest, most dramatic comebacks of all time. Fight fans still argue about the stoppage. The unforgettable fight took place on March 17, 1990 — 33 years ago on Friday.
Here are two items from the legendary fight in my collection. First up is a program, which is very tough to find, especially in nice condition because the black cover so easily shows wear and blemishes. I searched for one for many years and finally found a copy that is as nice as probably exists. Second is a press kit, which is much scarcer than the program. It’s a fight-branded four-pocket folder filled with original news releases and information on the card and fighters. It also contains glossy photos of the participants.
Usyk photo: Mark Robinson Matchroom Boxing; King/Broner photo: DKP; Ugas photo: Ryan Hafey/PBC; Miller-Browne photo: Hardcore Boxing; Pascal-Eifert: Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press
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