WBC Heavyweight Champion Tyson Fury is set to face someone who has no professional or amateur boxing experience in a celebrity spectacle bout on October 28 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. While this event has garnered some attention, it has raised questions about Fury's commitment to the sport of boxing and the status of his WBC heavyweight title.
Fury's legacy in the heavyweight division was solidified by his epic trilogy with Deontay Wilder, culminating in an 11th-round knockout victory in October 2021. However, the emergence of Oleksandr Usyk, the undefeated Unified Heavyweight Champion who holds the WBA, IBF, and WBO titles, has created the obvious demand for a showdon and the first Undisputed Champion in over 20 years.
Negotiations between Fury and Usyk earlier this year broke down over the purse split, with Fury demanding the lion's share. When Usyk's team agreed to Fury's terms for the Undisputed Clash, they only asked that the terms be reversed (the details of the exact split are unclear) for the rematch if Fury were to lose. Fury, who considers himself far and away superior to Usyk rejected their offer. While it's understandable that Fury is the bigger draw, his reluctance to fight Usyk or other credible opponents for enormous purses is raising concerns. Even much more highly regarded Heavyweight Champions of the past frequently defended their title against against credible contenders who weren't household names. So based on boxing history Fury has no excuses and he offers none. He's even gone so far as to suggest that fellow Undefeated Heavyweight Champion Oleksandr Usyk and other Top Heavyweight Contenders, which he's never faced are somehow unworthy despite there credentials.
Fury's decision to instead engage in a celebrity spectacle bout against someone who is said to be making his professional boxing debut, adds to the speculation and concern. While the event may hold some intrigue from an entertainment perspective, few serious boxing experts expect a significant challenge for Fury unless the match is in some way scripted. This move, combined with Fury's reluctance to consider Usyk as a future opponent, suggests a priority of financial gain over actually defending his chosen sport's title.
Fury has voiced his preference for what he calls "high-profile events", which could include 'fights' against other celebrity 'athletes'. This raises doubts about his willingness to face qualified opposition in boxing's heavyweight division, which at present there is plenty.
The WBC's decision to create a special title for this spectacle is now complicit in the situation. However, if Fury continues to prioritize financial gain over defending his title against credible contenders, the WBC should consider stripping him of the heavyweight championship.
While Fury has every right to maximize his earnings, holding up the entire Heavyweight Division by avoiding legitimate challenges is not in the best interest of the sport of boxing on the whole. The WBC should act in the sport's integrity by stripping Fury if he refuses to face Usyk or a Top 10 WBC-ranked opponent in his next fight.
Ultimately, their decision will determine whether boxing's governing bodies prioritize financial gain or uphold the integrity of the sport and its current sanctioning titles.