It’s time for the WBC to consider stripping Tyson Fury of the heavyweight championship.
The undefeated Fury is preparing to face MMA fighter Francis Ngannou on October 28 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. It’s an obvious money grab by Fury, who will welcome the hard-hitting Ngannou for his professional boxing debut in a fight that is more of a spectacle than a competitive bout.
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With a record of 33-0-1, Fury is arguably the best heavyweight boxer in the world. His phenomenal trilogy with Deontay Wilder concluded in October 2021 with an epic encounter that will go down as one of the greatest heavyweight fights in the history of the sport. But Fury reigned supreme with an 11th round knockout.
The victory secured his place in boxing’s heavyweight hierarchy as he is undoubtedly the premiere attraction of the division. However, he’s not the only champion as the undefeated Oleksandr Usyk holds the WBA (Super), IBF and WBO titles and has been angling for a fight with Fury to determine the first undisputed heavyweight champion of the four-belt era in boxing.
Unfortunately, Fury doesn’t seem interested in fighting the highly decorated Usyk and would rather collect cheques than collect titles.
“Has it ever been my priority?” Fury said when asked if fighting Usyk was something he was interested in. “Did I ever say I wanted undisputed? It’s always been some other little b——— dream.”
Fury and Usyk were in negotiations for an undisputed heavyweight championship fight earlier this year but talks reportedly broke down over the purse split with Fury wanting the lion’s share of the money. Fury is clearly the bigger attraction and is well within his rights to demand a higher percentage of the purse split. However, reports suggest that Usyk agreed to accept 25% of the purse in the first fight but would command more money in a rematch should he defeat Fury. “The Gypsy King” balked at that and moved on to Ngannou.
The fight in itself isn’t the worst thing Fury could do for his career. There will be genuine interest in seeing the heavyweight champion square off against the man who holds the record for the hardest punch in the world. But few expect Ngannou to present much of a challenge to Fury aside from the small possibility that he lands a massive right hand. Even then, Fury managed to get up from Wilder’s punch on several occasions so it’s not expected that Ngannou will fare much better.
As a one-off, the fight is fine. The boxing world would prefer to see him unify the titles against Usyk but as a pure spectacle, it’s understandable. But when he was asked about facing Usyk after Ngannou, Fury again shot down the idea and blamed the purse split as the reason.
“If (Usyk) takes a small percentage we might make it happen,” Fury said. “But if he wants a large bag I’m gonna say, ‘No, thank you.’ I think Francis Ngannou is gonna be a tougher challenge than these other guys. These other guys are just boxers, this guy’s more than that.”
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Fury has made it quite obvious that he isn’t interested in being a world champion and is far more concerned with making the most money. And that is fine, as long as he isn’t holding the WBC title hostage. Granted, the WBC is complicit in this by creating another version of the WBC title specifically for this fight. What Fury does after Ngannou will be telling but the Brit has his next target already in his crosshairs.
“I want to get this fight won, and I’m looking to fight big, big stars,” Fury said when he appeared on ESPN’s First Take. “Next on the list is Jon Jones. I’m gonna kick his ass! Another UFC fighter!”
There are plenty of hurdles in the way of a Fury-Jones fight and chief among them is that Jones is currently under contract with the UFC. However, his intentions are what is being brought into question and the reason why the WBC needs to think about what to do with their heavyweight title.
If Fury is to be believed that he only wants big names, that means that he won’t be defending his title against qualified opposition. Deontay Wilder, Andy Ruiz and Anthony Joshua are the top three ranked fighters by the WBC while Usyk is also obviously in line to challenge Fury. There are no MMA fighters ranked by the WBC — nor should there be — and Fury should be forced to defend his title after this. If he doesn’t intend to do so, the WBC should strip him and set up a fight to determine a new champion.
But it’s hard to believe that the WBC — who is allowing this fight to happen in the first place and has routinely created nonsensical titles to take advantage of the situation — would strip Fury as long as he continues to pay his sanctioning body fees.
Nobody should be telling Fury not to make money — it is called “prize fighting” after all — but holding up a division because he would prefer to seek out the best financial upside rather than defend his title against credible opponents simply isn’t good for the sport.
The WBC should make the right decision and strip Fury if he refuses to face Oleksandr Usyk or a fighter ranked by the WBC for his next fight. If they don’t, they are just proving that belts don’t really matter in the sport of boxing.