Fightful Boxing Newsletter (6/13/2020) Table Of Contents:

  1. Anthony Joshua, Tyson Fury Agree To Fight In 2021, But What Does It Mean? (Page 1)
  2. Top Rank Returns With June Shows; June 9 & June 11 Show Reviews (Page 2)
  3. COVID-19 Protocols In The United States & Boxing (Page 3)
  4. Matchroom Boxing’s Schedule And Mansion Fights (page 4)
  5. Dominican Republic Card Canceled (Page 5)
  6. In-Depth Look At Boxing’s Weight Classes: Middleweight (Page 6)
  7. Philly Special Postponed, How It Represents A Larger Problem With Boxing's Return (Page 7)
  8. News And Notes From Around The World Of Boxing (Page 8)
  9. Results From Around The World Of Boxing June 6-12 (Page 9)
  10. Fightful Boxing Rankings (Pages 10-11)

Anthony Joshua, Tyson Fury Agree To Fight In 2021, But What Does It Mean?

Tyson Fury and Anthony Joshua could potentially meet in a massive heavyweight fight in 2021 after it was announced that financial terms have been agreed to.

However, for as much excitement this seems to have drawn from the mainstream media regarding the thought of an undisputed heavyweight champion being crowned in the next 18 months, the reality of it is that a lot of it is just lip service and there are many layers to this and some of them are not pretty.

On June 10, Joshua’s promoter Eddie Hearn told Sky Sports Boxing that the financial structure of a two-fight series between the two is in place, but noted that there are plenty of things to go over before any official announcement is made.

Both sides are currently hoping that the first fight is staged in the summer of 2021, but no venue or location has been determined yet. The fight would potentially pit Joshua, the WBA, WBO and IBF heavyweight champion, against Fury, the WBC champion, where the winner could become the first heavyweight to hold all four belts at the same time.

"We're making great progress. There is still a lot to overcome. We are looking at venues and dates. It's fair to say [Joshua and Fury] are in agreement regarding the financial terms of the fight. We've been talking to [Fury's management team] MTK, giving them the assurances from Joshua's side that all the details on the structure of the deal is approved from our side. And it is from Fury's side, as well. We're in a good place. It's fair to say that, in principle, both guys have agreed to that fight. Two fights," Hearn said.

Yet, even with the financial terms of the fight, which would crown an undisputed heavyweight champion, seemingly set, there’s still a lot of work to be done.

As explained in past newsletters, the road to an undisputed heavyweight champion isn’t as simple as simply getting both Joshua and Fury to agree to a deal and have them fight in the ring. Both champions also have to deal with mandatories and fights that they previously signed up to do.

Joshua had already signed up to defend his titles against IBF mandatory challenger Kubrat Pulev this summer in London, but that fight was postponed due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. By no means, does Hearn’s comments mean that Joshua vs. Pulev is off. Quite the contrary, the fight is still planned to move forward and the current goal is to make sure the fight stays in the United Kingdom, despite interest from countries outside the United Kingdom, such as Croatia and different places in the Middle East. However, with current government regulations to help combat the current coronavirus pandemic, putting that fight in a major football (soccer) stadium with max capacity in the coming months seems to be slowly moving away from being a feasible goal. Instead, the organizers for the fight are looking at small venues to stage the title bout instead of having it done in an empty arena or studio setting.

One would think that after Joshua beats Pulev (if it does happen), then he can focus on Fury, but there is still another mandatory challenger in Oleksandr Usyk, who has the right to challenge for the WBO belt. The timetable for a fight between Joshua and Usyk, something that Usyk was aiming for ever since he moved up to heavyweight, was always inconsistent at best and noncommittal from Joshua’s side at worst. Regardless, WBO President Francisco Valcarcel wrote on Twitter that Usyk should be next before a Joshua vs. Fury fight takes place.

“Love to see WBO unified champion Anthony Joshua fighting WBO former and current WBC champion Tyson Fury for the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world, but WBO mandatory should be next,” Valcarcel wrote on Twitter.

Whether or not he means that Usyk comes next right now or next after Pulev or even next after Joshua vs. Fury is unknown, but the WBO has remained adamant for quite some time that Joshua should eventually fight Usyk. The WBO, however, has yet to really enforce such a fight, perhaps believing that the Pulev fight was going to happen soon and then they could order that fight immediately. But with the pandemic going around and issues with travel still present in the United Kingdom and in Europe, it will be tough to secure a Joshua-Usyk fight at this moment.

Usyk is a part of the Matchroom Boxing stable and they could convince Usyk to take other fights in the interim to continue getting acclimated in the heavyweight division and perhaps build his profile some more for the eventual title challenge.

Fury, on the other hand, also has a tricky road up ahead before he can focus on Joshua. Fury still has to deal with the inevitable third fight against Deontay Wilder, something that both sides had also agreed on when the rematch was secured. The fight was originally set to take place this summer before quietly being moved to October, but the trilogy bout was never formally announced.

Despite plenty of people believing that Fury will easily beat Wilder in a similar manner that he did so in their second bout this past February, the fact of the matter is, Wilder is still arguably boxing’s most devastating puncher and is more than capable of knocking Fury out. Although Fury has shown to be capable of neutralizing Wilder’s right hand and expose his biggest flaw (the lack of technical boxing compared to Fury), all Wilder needs is one or two right hands and he could win the third fight.

Even if Fury can get past Wilder, there’s still the matter of the WBC’s mandatory challenger status. Going back to late last year, when the rematch between Wilder and Fury was first announced, there was a problem with what to do with Dillian Whyte, who had been sitting as the top contender to the WBC title for more than a year. The WBC sought to remedy this by both allowing the Wilder vs. Fury rematch happened and also promised Whyte that he will be named the mandatory challenger in February 2021, while giving him the opportunity to fight for the interim WBC title, which he won last summer. After a controversy that saw him fail a drug test and was later cleared of any wrongdoing, Whyte not only retained his interim belt, but also his status as the eventual mandatory challenger for the title.

The problem here is that Whyte is also promoted by Matchroom Boxing and Hearn has already publicly said he’s going to look at making that fight between Fury (or whoever is the WBC champion by next year) and Whyte.

So if we’re looking at the worst case scenario to the road for Joshua vs. Fury, we’re talking Pulev and Usyk as Joshua’s next opponents and for Fury, it’s Wilder and Whyte. To have those fights be made and expect Joshua vs. Fury to happen next summer is unlikely, but not impossible.

Of course, even painting that picture is still roaming in speculation. For as much as certain parties involved in the fight would like to talk about how it’s happening, it’s far from the truth and even those working on making that fight happen, such as Hearn and Frank Warren (Fury’s UK promoter) know that it is still a long road ahead.

"[There's] a lot to overcome in the meantime. We're moving in the right direction. I'm confident that both guys have given their blessing for the fight to go ahead. The point of Fury, Joshua and the teams agreeing to the structure of the deal? The first fight could happen next summer. It will be 2021. There is a big period of time where Whyte should get his shot at the title. That's important to us. The main positive news is that Joshua and Fury have agreed to a two-fight deal, in essence. The most difficult part of any deal is the financial element. I believe we're in a great place where both guys have agreed to what that should be. We have not signed contracts because there are still things to be worked out," Hearn said.

"There is nothing signed and nothing new agreed. We all know it’s going to be a two-fight deal if it happens, we’ve talked about that already. But that’s it! There’s nothing else. It’s a 50/50 deal and a rematch included. That’s been agreed all the way through, from the very start – that’s common sense. Everyone agrees that’s what it’s got to be. But the rest of it? Nothing is agreed. There’s no venue or date or anything. Eddie is just being a talking head. He’s talking about Dillian Whyte? Pick up the phone to Shelly Finkel [Deontay Wilder’s co-manager] and ask him if it’s a done deal. Tyson’s got a contract to fight someone else, so does AJ. Eddie just can’t help himself. We all know the basic terms of the deal. There’s no new information there at all. My reaction to Hearn’s comments is fantastic, we already knew the principle of the deal. We know it’s a 50/50 deal. We know it’ll be a two-fight package, but there’s been no offers made from anywhere – despite signing an NDA with one country. We’ve had no offers from anywhere," Warren said.

Financial terms being agreed to is fine and all, but for a fight like this, there are still a lot of issues still needed to be sorted out. Where is the fight taking place? What would happen if either man loses before they can official make the fight a reality? Would ESPN (which broadcasts shows from Top Rank, who promotes Fury) or DAZN (which Matchroom has a current broadcasting deal with and Joshua has had his last three fights on) handle the U.S. broadcasting duties? These and many more questions need to be answered and they can't be answered at this moment.

Fury went to social media to confirm that there is at least some type of agreement in place for 2021, but that he would have to go through Wilder once more. But the most noteworthy (and to many, most disappointing) part of Fury’s social media post was him mentioning Daniel Kinahan.

“I just got off the phone with Daniel Kinahan and he just informed me that the biggest boxing fight in British boxing history has just been agreed. Two-fight deal. Tyson Fury vs. Anthony Joshua next year. One problem: I got to smash Deontay Wilder’s face right in first and then we’ll go into the Joshua fight next year. The Gypsy King vs. AJ is set for next year,” Fury said.

For those unaware, Kinahan has emerged as a person of interest in the world of boxing in recent weeks, primarily due to notable boxing figures, the biggest one being Bob Arum, endorsing him. The “role” that some have bestowed upon him is that of Fury’s advisor and as someone who is looking to secure big fights in the Middle East.

The story of Kinahan and boxing is a long and troubled one. The High Court in Dublin, Ireland declared Kinahan as a senior figure in the Kinahan Organized Crime Group, an organization that is involved in drug and arms trafficking into Ireland and the United Kingdom.

However, their operations extend beyond the United Kingdom and most of Europe as the Kinaham Group has ties to criminal activity all over the world. The Irish branch of the "wider international" Kinahan Organized Crime Group is the Byrne Organized Crime Group, which is also heavily involved in drug smuggling and arms trafficking.

How does this relate to boxing? Kinahan was the co-founder of MGM (Macklin’s Gym Marbella) alongside former world title challenger and European champion Matthew Macklin. MGM is the group that would later be re-branded as MTK Global years ago.

Sandra Vaughan, CEO of MTK Global, bought out MGM in 2017, a year after a terrible shooting in Dublin, Ireland at the weigh-in before a boxing card. Irish gangsters who were disguised as police arrived at the weigh-ins with Kinahan being the target. In the end, three people were shot and one man died. That man was David Byrne and his brother Liam was actually named a high-ranking member of the Kinahan Organized Crime Group. The assassination attempt was reportedly in response to the 2015 murder of Gary Hutch, who is related to Gerry Hutch, another gangster. The Kinahan and Hutch groups have long been at odds with more than a dozen deaths relating to this blood feud.

After the 2016 shooting, MGM worked hard with its re-branding, quickly distancing themselves from Kinahan and his influence. At first, things didn’t go so well for MTK Global. MTK had a boycott of all media outlets in the Republic of Ireland beginning in February 2018, but that was soon lifted.

The entity then quickly became one of the biggest in the boxing world, managing a number of notable names in the sport, mainly focusing in the United Kingdom. That group includes Tyson Fury, Carl Frampton, Moruti Mthalane, Billy Joe Saunders, Liam Smith, Josh Taylor and more.

However, Kinahan emerged in recent weeks as he was appointed as special advisor to KHK Sports in Bahrain. KHK Sports was founded by Shaikh Khalid bin Hamad Al Khalifa, a member of the Bahraini royal family.

Shortly after Kinahan was announced as a special advisor to KHK, it was announced that MTK and KHK have entered a partnership which, according to both parties, “will not only focus on large scale events but will see KHK Sports further develop grassroots programmes, including educational academies, amateur programs and career progression opportunities for aspiring athletes in the greater region.”

Kinahan’s connection to both parties led many to rightly believe that he will have a hand in shaping boxing’s future in some way shape or form. This started with the announcement that a pioneering boxing summit will take place this fall with several of boxing’s biggest names outside the ring meeting to discuss the future of the sport.

When the summit was announced, many publicly reacted to the news and there was one common theme when the likes of Bob Arum, Frank Warren, Shelly Finkel, Kalle Sauerland, Badou Jack, Roy Jones Jr. and more discussed the topic: the praising of Kinahan for his work.

It didn’t stop there.

A video posted by MTK featuring Arum discussed how Kinahan was working behind the scenes on securing boxing shows taking place in the Middle East. MTK Global and Top Rank have a working relationship, which means MTK shows have been airing on ESPN platforms, mainly ESPN+, for some time.

“We have been working all year, the past year with MTK. [Due to] our connection with MTK, we have been able to get a whole host of events from MTK and televise them in the United States on ESPN+, which has more than eight million subscribers. That’s been a big success. Our relationship with MTK has been tremendous, particularly with Dan, who was the original founder of MTK and now is still an adviser to them. He is our adviser, in effect, regarding the [Middle] East. He’s lived in the [Middle] East and has very, very good connections. We [went] to Dan the authority to explore opportunities in the [Middle] East on behalf of Top Rank,” Arum said.

MTK, Top Rank and the sport in general has been slowly making its way to the Middle East since 2018. The World Boxing Super Series super middleweight finals took place in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia and the Anthony Joshua vs. Andy Ruiz Jr. rematch also took place in Saudi Arabia, so the region is no stranger to massive boxing events.

The story of Kinahan was largely not covered in the west at first. Perhaps it was lack of knowledge on the subject matter or willful ignorance that caused many to not even mention Kinahan. Jake Donovan of Boxing Scene wrote a tremendous piece on the subject and Kurt Emhoff of The Boxing Esq. Podcast recently had Kieran Cunningham and Ewan MacKenna on to discuss Kinahan that is a must-listen.

But regardless of how one feels, Kinahan’s past troubles and his present involvement with one of the biggest fights that can be made in boxing is worrisome. There was a time when the sport was controlled by the mob and corruption was rampant on seemingly every level imaginable.

While boxing has done a good job (for the most part) in straying away from its dark past, there’s always going to be some element of it that will rear its ugly head in some manner. The fact that Kinahan is being welcomed with such open arms and seemingly no push back should be a bigger deal than it is.

Bringing Kinahan back in this manner puts the sport’s global credibility at risk. This could end in complete disaster or it can end with a new chapter in boxing’s evolution, for better or worse.

Where does the line get drawn? Or has that line been crossed and there’s no going back? There are many questions about this that have yet to be answered and many more that have yet to be asked. It’s up to everyone in the sport to figure out what is best for its future.

If bringing Kinahan to help secure Joshua vs. Fury is worth the potential trouble it could bring, then everyone better hope it does not backfire horribly and if it does, then don’t say it was something that couldn’t have been prevented.

From The Web