A hot summer ahead for boxing’s heavyweight division
Boxing’s heavyweight division will be heating up even further this summer, highlighted by a third fight between Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder and Anthony Joshua defending his belts against Kubrat Pulev in London.
Joshua and Pulev will go first, meeting June 20 in the first boxing bouts at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. Joshua, who reclaimed his piece of the heavyweight title in December against Andy Ruiz Jr., will be fighting at home in England for the first time in two years.
The date for Fury and Wilder is more fluid, though promoter Bob Arum said he is looking at July 18 at the MGM Grand hotel in Las Vegas. That’s where Fury stopped Wilder in the seventh round last month of their title rematch in a dominating performance that cemented his status on top of the heavyweight division.
“Nothing is set in stone but that’s certainly the date we’re talking about,’’ Arum said Monday. “We have to meet with the Wilder camp and everybody else and zero in on it, but right now that’s the date we’re looking at.’’
Promoter Eddie Hearn announced the Joshua-Pulev fight on Monday, with Joshua meeting the once-beaten Bulgarian before what is expected to be 70,000 fans at the new stadium.
“A spectacular stadium has been built in north London and I’m honored to bring the boxing community from all over the world to witness us make history with the stadium’s first heavyweight world title fight,’’ Joshua said. “The belts go back up in the air and nothing will stop me from being victorious.’’
Joshua will defend his piece of the heavyweight title against Pulev, whose only loss was to former champion Wladimir Klitschko nearly 5 1-2 six years ago. It will be the second try at a world title by Pulev, who has won eight straight since being stopped by Klitschko.
Arum, who promotes Pulev as well as Fury, said the two fights could lead to a heavyweight unification fight by the end of the year.
“What we’re trying to do is by the end of the year in some manner, shape or form, have a unified heavyweight champion,’’ Arum said. “One champion for the entire division. It would certainly help the image of boxing.’’
Fury, who is unbeaten in 31 fights, staked his claim to being the best heavyweight around when he knocked down Wilder twice before stopping him in the seventh round in Las Vegas. The fight was a rematch of their first meeting in December 2018 that ended in a draw.
Wilder had 30 days under the contract between the two boxers to formally ask for a third fight with Fury. Wilder blamed the weight of a costume he wore into the ring for taking away his legs in that fight and said his corner should have never thrown in the towel in the seventh round to end the bout.
Wilder told The Associated Press last week that he had no intention of delaying a third fight and wanted it as soon as possible.
“I’m a warrior and I’m ready to go again, but we’re going to change a lot of things in camp,’’ Wilder said.
Arum said the economics of a third fight make sense, even if some in boxing believe the second fight under-performed in pay-per-view sales. The fight drew a record heavyweight title gate of $17.9 million and Arum said he believes the pay-per-view sales will hit 1.1 million when all are tallied up.
“A lot of people say a third fight won’t do as well and a lot of people say it will be bigger,’’ Arum said. “Who really knows?’’
Joshua, meanwhile, returns home after losing his titles in a huge upset last June to Ruiz. He won them back by out-boxing Ruiz in their rematch in December in Saudi Arabia.
Pulev was originally supposed to fight Joshua in October 2017 but was forced to withdraw because of injury.