Tyson Fury 'didn't fancy' fighting Anthony Joshua, says Barry Hearn, who claims egos got in way of Battle of Britain

BARRY HEARN has been one of the most colourful figures in British sport for half a century.

Here, in the second part of SunSport’s exclusive serialisation of his autobiography, Hearn opens up about the scrapped Anthony Joshua vs Tyson Fury fight – claiming the Gypsy King didn't fancy taking on the 2012 Olympic champion.

EVERY boxing fan has wondered or had an opinion about who was the better heavyweight, Anthony Joshua or Tyson Fury?

As a committed Joshua fan, I was biased, but I could understand some of the fans’ insistence that the Gypsy King was the main man.

Let us hope that the question will one day be answered.

But it’s surely exciting that a heavyweight merry-go-round to rival the great welterweight and middleweight contests of the 1980s has developed.


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Back in the day, we had Marvin Hagler, Sugar Ray Leonard, Thomas Hearns and Roberto Duran fighting for supremacy.

Today, we’ve Joshua, Fury, Deontay Wilder and Oleksandr Usyk, with Dillian Whyte and Joe Joyce in the wings.

Following the win against Kubrat Pulev (in December 2020), Joshua’s next contest was against mandatory challenger Usyk.

Actually, this wasn’t a fight anyone really wanted, except Usyk himself.

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The fight every fan wanted to see was Joshua versus Fury for the undisputed heavyweight title.

Negotiations for that showdown had been going on for ages.

The culmination of countless discussions came when my son Eddie negotiated a massive site fee from Saudi Arabia to host the fight.

That was when the complications really set in.

Fury was co-promoted by Bob Arum and Frank Warren but effectively controlled by his management company in Dubai.

All management decisions emanated from Dubai and basically Arum and Warren were told what to do by Fury's management.

I don’t believe Arum or Warren ever thought that Eddie could really deliver the fight the whole boxing world wanted to see.

But when he did they had to make a big decision: take the fight and risk everything while earning a life-changing amount of money, or look elsewhere.


That decision became irrelevant when Wilder applied for an injunction to compel Fury to honour a rematch clause in the contract for their second fight.

Wilder won his case and Fury was forced to box him for a third time.

I was intrigued that, despite the huge amounts of money available for the Joshua–Fury fight, no effort was made by the Fury camp to negotiate a step-aside payment for Wilder to allow that fight to happen.

Perhaps Fury didn’t fancy the fight or Wilder wouldn’t take any amount of money to step aside.

But I believe the real reason lay in the egos of Arum and Warren, who wanted to keep control rather than allow that young upstart, Eddie Hearn, to prove once again that he is the best operator in the business.

I know that if Fury’s management had asked us for a contribution towards a payoff for Wilder and asked the Saudis for a similar contribution, we’d definitely have paid up because the sums of money from the site fee were so enormous.

The fact that they didn’t ask and didn’t try to postpone the Wilder–Fury fight suggests that they didn’t fancy the Joshua fight in the first place.

Joshua was just beaten by a better boxer

Once that blockbuster fight was off the agenda, Joshua, the consummate professional, agreed to face Usyk, who was the undisputed world cruiserweight champion.

In my mind, he was one of the finest boxers of the modern era, although clearly lacking the punching power possessed by Joshua.

The fight, at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on September 25, 2021, was interesting but essentially technical, like a chess match.

Joshua seemed to be trying to out–box a boxer and that fell right into the hands of Usyk, a great technician.

Once again, there was an upset, with Usyk clearly winning on points, and once again the question had to be asked: did complacency do its deadly work?

I think not. Joshua was just beaten by a better boxer. AJ and his team got their tactics wrong.

Joshua was left with a chance of salvation, having exercised the rematch clause.

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Meanwhile, Fury cemented his claim to be the number-one heavyweight with a sensational 11th-round knockout of Wilder.

The soap opera of heavyweight boxing rolls on.

  • My Life: Knockouts, Snookers, Bullseyes, Tight Lines and Sweet Deals, by Barry Hearn, is out on April 28 and available to pre-order now (Hodder & Stoughton, £20).

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