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With Tyson Fury confirming via a video on social media Sunday the news that he’ll fight Anthony Joshua for the undisputed heavyweight championship on Aug. 14 in Saudi Arabia, boxing will get its bi-annual opportunity to see how the other half lives.
It will present the best fight it can make in the sport’s most high-profile division and will, for a night, be the focus of the sports universe.
This is one of those rare fights that will capture the attention of folks who don’t even consider themselves boxing fans. It pits the two best heavyweights in the world, who have a combined record of 54-1-1 with 43 knockouts, against each other in an event that can only be described as a spectacle.
It will be the boxer versus the puncher, the brash, colorful Fury versus the private, measured Joshua.
We’ll also hear all the tropes about the demise of boxing and how the sport needs this fight to save it. That is, and has been for a long time, utter nonsense.
Boxing has plenty of problems and the most significant of them all stem from the fact that there is no single regulatory body that regulates it. But a lot of people — fighters, promoters, managers and trainers — make a lot of money from the sport.
This is not a sport that is dead, though, and no matter the commercial success of Fury-Joshua, this bout won’t save boxing.
Not, of course, that it needs to be saved. It most assuredly does not.
Now, it could use a collective kick in the pants. We should start with the utter garbage World Boxing Association (WBA), which has sold out to such a degree that there has been somewhat of a push from within the sport to ignore it. The WBA is the organization that has ranked a dead man and has more champions per division than Nick Saban has security guards on a football Saturday in Tuscaloosa.
Joshua holds the WBA belt, along with the IBF and WBO belts. But Trevor Bryan — ever heard of him? — owns a WBA heavyweight championship. So does Mahmoud Charr. And Robert Helenius is something called the WBA gold champion.
WBA president Gilberto Mendoza Jr. once promised to fix such issues, but he’s proven to be a hypocrite and utterly shameless. He’d sanction two homeless guys to fight for a version of the heavyweight title if they’ll cough up the proper fee.
But what the Fury-Joshua fight will do is allow those of us who love the sport to focus on boxing, for a change. It will be about who’s better and who will be able to come up with the best plan and then execute it.
It won’t be about the nonsense of which side of the street you’re on or which television network a fighter is aligned with or any of the similarly disturbing headlines we are forced to read almost daily in boxing.
Those of us who love the sport want to see it succeed, to return to the prominence it once had for much of the 20th century when boxing, baseball and horse racing were the three biggest sports in the U.S.
We defend it when it comes under attack and try to explain its quirks and oddities to our friends.
But now, we don’t need to do that. All we have to do is talk about the 6-foot-9, 270-pound giant with incredible feet and remarkable boxing skills facing the 6-6, 245-pound muscleman whose right hand is like a mule kick and debate their relative merits.
We’re getting the fight we deserve, that we wanted, and tens of millions of people around the globe will join with us and watch.
When it’s over — and they’re scheduled to fight twice — the sanctioning bodies will do their dirty work and begin to undo what Fury and Joshua do on Aug. 14. The fighters will unify, but shortly thereafter, the sanctioning bodies will begin to peel the titles apart, stripping the winner for not fighting an undeserved mandatory challenger.
Here’s what should happen if the sport were run by people who care about its long-term success and want to make a viable business of it:
Fury and Joshua will have their two fights and at the end of the year, one of them will essentially be the king of boxing, being the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world.
In the meantime, former WBC champion Deontay Wilder should fight former IBF-WBA-WBO champion Andy Ruiz Jr., with the winner to get the first crack at the survivor of the Fury-Joshua series.
Four of the other contenders out of Joe Parker, Oleksandr Usyk, Luis Ortiz and, say, Joe Joyce should fight each other.
You’re creating a recognizable champion and a series of logical contenders.
That almost certainly is a pipe dream, the wistful wishes of a lifelong fan who wants to see the right thing done but who has been burned enough to know not to expect it.
But this is a time for celebrating, not complaining, because the fight is on. It’s a long time until August and much could change between now and then, but the early pick here is Fury. He’s too smart and too good of a boxer. He fought 19 rounds with Wilder and was dropped twice, but finished both fights on his feet, going 1-0-1 with a knockout.
He’ll show the flaws that Ruiz exploited in Joshua and should win the bouts.
Joshua has the power to win the fight, without a doubt, and that’s the beauty of this. Let the debates begin.
For a few months, boxing is just like the other professional sports. It puts its best together and makes a high-profile championship event.
High five to all involved, but mostly the fighters, for hanging in through the many obstacles and finally getting this done.
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