It had been discussed for months. Ever since Oleksandr Usyk outpointed Anthony Joshua in August 2022 for a second time, the talk of a historic title unification bout with Tyson Fury to crown the first heavyweight undisputed champion of the four-belt era has been the hot topic of the division. It’s been the talk of boxing.
Fury had already completed a roller coaster 2022, retiring twice while also engaging in talks with Joshua and wrapping it all up with a comfortable victory in a trilogy fight with Derek Chisora. All the while, he traded regular barbs with Usyk. This year, it was time for the pair to finally turn those verbal jabs into a physical encounter.
Here’s a look at everything that’s happened and how we got here.
April 23, 2022: Fury knocks out Whyte and announces retirement
Fury entered 2022 with his status in boxing at an all-time high. His previous fight — a trilogy-sealing knockout victory over Wilder in October 2021 — meant he stood at the top of the heavyweight division. Oleksandr Usyk may have held more belts (WBA, WBO, IBF), but it was Fury that remained the ultimate trophy in the division.
It seems Fury knew it, too. In April, he took on Whyte at a packed Wembley Stadium, somewhat of a homecoming for Fury who had not fought in the UK since a pair of tuneup bouts in 2018. He wore a suit emblazoned with tiny crowns at a pre-fight news conference, he sat on a throne during his ring entrance, and at the end he delivered a majestic right uppercut in the fourth round to claim a TKO win. Whyte, who had slogged to earn the right to fight for the world title, looked like a clear second best.
However, it was after the bout that Fury made his most unexpected punch. He retired.
“I promised my wife, Paris, and I meant it,” he said. “I had the trilogy with Deontay Wilder and she wanted me to retire then.
“But then I was offered this, and I owed it to the fans and everyone at home in the U.K. I have to be a man of my word, so this might be the last fight.”
It was difficult to believe Fury. He hadn’t said he would definitely bow out, but then again, he said he had achieved everything he needed to. There was still unfinished business though: The victor between Usyk and Joshua would no doubt be waiting to face him in a fight to become the first undisputed heavyweight world champion since the four-belt era began in 2004. That was always tempting for Fury, who still regards himself as the best in the division. But his stance, publicly, remained the same.
During the same postfight interview, Fury brought in UFC champion Francis Ngannou into the ring and teased a fight between the two.
“Before we go, I want to bring in Francis Ngannou,” Fury said in that interview. “I’m boxing heavyweight champion. He is UFC heavyweight champion … It will be a very special fight, like never seen before in the history of our sport.
“It’s going to be an explosive fight when it happens.”
Suddenly, fans all began asking themselves a similar question: Had Fury really had enough?
July 20, 2022: Fury offers to fight Joshua for free
While “retired,” Fury sends a challenge to Joshua saying he will fight him for free if that’s what it takes.
“That’s how the fight happens, I’ll sign the contract today,” Fury, 33, said on his Instagram. “The fight’s got to be for free. Free-to-air television and all tickets go for free. No money is to be made out of this British historic fight if it happens. There’s the terms, I’m in the driving seat, take it or effing leave it. The ball is in your court, guys. … Either way, I don’t give a damn.”
Aug. 10, 2022: Fury announces Derek Chisora trilogy
Breaking news trainer selected for comeback fight with @DerekWarChisora @isaaclowe6 🥊 pic.twitter.com/hjNRv3k5J8
— TYSON FURY (@Tyson_Fury) August 9, 2022
Fury knows his audience perhaps more than any other fighter of his generation. He knows which buttons to push and the avenues to deliver his message. He has become somewhat of a frequent caller on British sports radio network TalkSport. One of his first calls came in April when he “confirmed” his decision to retire from the sport, this time reasoning he had nothing left to achieve.
“I’ve won every belt in the world that there is to win,” Fury said. “I’ve won every single belt there is to win in the sport and I’m getting out healthy, in one piece and undefeated.”
However, on Aug. 10, Fury announced that he would return to boxing and planned to face Chisora — a 38-year-old veteran British fighter whom Fury had already beaten twice in 2011 and 2014.
“I’ve decided to come back to boxing because I can be the first heavyweight champion in history to have two trilogies, one with Deontay Wilder, a second one with Derek Chisora,” Fury wrote on Twitter.
Aug. 12, 2022: Fury heads back into retirement
Just finished a touching video conference with @Tyson_Fury who has confirmed his official retirement from boxing . We fully support his decision which is a dream for anyone to retire undefeated and as WBC champion of the world.@WBCBoxing will prepare a special farewell event soon pic.twitter.com/2SgCRILldl
— Mauricio Sulaiman (@wbcmoro) August 12, 2022
It was all so short-lived. On Aug. 12, WBC president Mauricio Sulaiman tweeted to say he had just spoken to Fury and confirmed his retirement, even arranging plans for a farewell event.
“Just finished a touching video conference with Tyson Fury who has confirmed his official retirement from boxing,” Sulaiman wrote. “We fully support his decision which is a dream for anyone to retire undefeated and as WBC champion of the world. WBC boxing will prepare a special farewell event soon.”
He did not relinquish the WBC belt, though. The closest he came was two days later when he vacated the Ring magazine belt, although he later told Seconds Out he only did so to let others fight for it.
Aug. 20, 2022: Usyk wins rematch over Joshua
Sitting in a quiet room with a dozen reporters around a circular table at the Park Lane Hotel, Matchroom Boxing promoter Eddie Hearn did not mince his words when he talked about Joshua’s plans should he claw back his titles from Usyk in their rematch.
“If we win, then we will go fight Fury,” Hearn said. As it turned out, he was wrong. Kind of.
Not only did Usyk outpoint Joshua in another impressive showcase of his skill, but he also called out Fury in the ring after the fight.
“I’m sure that Tyson Fury is not retired yet,” Usyk said in the ring. “I’m sure. I’m convinced he wants to fight me. I want to fight him. And if I’m not fighting Tyson Fury, I’m not fighting at all.”
Meanwhile, Fury played it cool. First, he said he was not interested. But that was not true. In June, he had said he would only come out of retirement in a unification bout with Usyk but said reports of a £200 million purse would not interest him. Speaking to TalkSport, Fury said it would take “half a billi” — Gypsy King lingo for an astounding £500m — for him to take the fight. It was ridiculous talk, but the message was clear: He would be prepared to fight Usyk. Since then, his public stance has slowly softened, to the point that the fight seems inevitable.
Sept. 2, 2022: Usyk puts unification bout on hold
The worst-kept secret in boxing became clear soon enough: Fury was not really retired.
Usyk has continued to make no secret that the British heavyweight would be his next fight, one of the biggest in boxing history and the biggest fight of his career. The winner would be enshrined as the best of their generation, with little room to argue otherwise. Yet, that is all that would remain on hold.
Usyk said in September he is still highly interested in Fury — it’s one of three fights left on his bucket list before he retires — but said he is suffering from “old traumas.”
“I want the WBC title,” he told reporters at a news conference in Kyiv on Sept. 2. “Although many in the boxing world would like this fight, we don’t know what Tyson has in his head. Everyone knows that this is a very crazy guy.”
Usyk said promoters were working on the fight but made clear he would not fight again this year.
“Fighting Tyson Fury in December is impossible,” Usyk added. “For two reasons. First, I have old injuries that need to be treated. They made themselves known. Recovery will take a couple of months.
“Second, I just don’t want to box in December. I haven’t left the gym for half a year, I want to be with my children, my family, there are certain things to do at home. Boxing can wait a little. Next year, I think it will happen.”
Sept. 5, 2022: Fury calls out Joshua
Tyson Fury calls out Anthony Joshua for a title fight
Tyson Fury offers Anthony Joshua a chance at the WBC heavyweight championship.
Fury sent the British boxing community into a frenzy when he issued a public challenge to Joshua on Sept. 5, saying he would like to give his compatriot the “opportunity” to fight him in December. It is a fight that has been spoken of for half a decade, and which was almost made last year before a court ruling forced Fury to fight Wilder for a third time.
“You’re coming off a 12-round fight, so you’re match fit, you’re ready. I’m giving you a few months’ notice,” Fury said.
Joshua responded to say Fury was right: He was ready and said he should contact his team to figure out a deal.
Sept. 13, 2022: Joshua accepts Fury’s challenge
Joshua’s management team said in a statement it had accepted “all terms” for the fight which included a 60-40% revenue split in favor of Fury. There remained obstacles, such as agreeing on a tricky-to-make TV deal — Fury is aligned with ESPN in the U.S. and BT Sport in the U.K.; Joshua is with DAZN.
Sept. 26, 2022: Fury’s deadline on Joshua fight passes
Fury spent September making repeated call outs of Joshua, urging him to come to the table and agree a deal. Joshua’s camp maintained they were accepting terms, but the fight still remained a way off. All of this came to a head on Sept. 26 — a deadline, set by Fury, for a fight to be made.
When that came and went, he called it off, and has since urged Joshua to sign a contract, despite Matchroom boxing chief Eddie Hearn calling Fury’s deadline “unrealistic.”
Fury said: “Well, guys, it’s official. D-day has come and gone. It’s gone past 5 o’clock Monday. No contract has been signed.”
Hearn was not so finite, saying a deal could still happen.
“There were various positive calls today between promoters and broadcasters who are all working hard to finalize the fight,” Hearn told ESPN. “There has been no talk of a deadline between the parties, but we are moving at pace to try and conclude the deal.”
Fury said he would fight fringe German contender Manuel Charr should the Joshua fight not materialize, but immediately went back on his word and continued to snipe at Joshua.
Yet, boxing insiders were convinced the fight always looked unlikely — too many obstacles and not enough time.
Sept. 29 – Oct. 8, 2022: Fury fields calls from Joe Joyce, Andy Ruiz Jr.
If Fury and AJ aren’t fighting then I’ll step in. December 3rd is tight for me @Tyson_Fury, but @EddieHearn you can give your new best mate @frankwarren_tv a call and I’ll take the 17th slot with AJ.
Easy fight to make!
☎️ #THEJUGGERNAUT 👊🏾 https://t.co/GKK91DrCHQ
— Joe Joyce (@JoeJoyceBoxing) October 1, 2022
The clock was ticking. Fury posted a picture of himself with his team captioned “Day 1 of Camp” as he prepared for a fight in December, yet who he would face remained a mystery. The past month had seen Fury called out by both Joyce — the Olympic silver medallist at Rio 2016 who made shockwaves with an impressive knockout victory over Joseph Parker on Sept. 24 — and former champion Ruiz, who claimed a unanimous decision victory over Luis Ortiz on Sept. 4. Fury deferred both of those until at least next year, with Ruiz aiming to become Fury’s mandatory challenger by beating Deontay Wilder in a potential WBC title eliminator.
Lets make this happen 🇺🇸🇲🇽🇬🇧 pic.twitter.com/RSqMTrKhu1
— AndyRuizJr (@Andy_destroyer1) October 1, 2022
In the end, Fury was left with easier options. He did not continue talks with Charr, even though the German heavyweight grew angry at the sudden U-turn as he urged Fury to “take my challenge, I’m ready for you, man. No excuses.”
Yet Fury’s excuse is that he is no longer free in December.
Oct. 11, 2022: Fury finalizes deal with Chisora
Fury hinted at his hand in April, and despite all of his distractions, he revealed it earlier this month. ESPN reported on Oct. 11 that Fury was finalizing a deal with Chisora to make another defense of his WBC belt. He will face Chisora for a third time on Dec. 3, and Fury’s promoter Frank Warren said they intend to fight Usyk in February.
The fight lacks all of the drama and intrigue of a showdown between Fury and Joshua, which now seems a way off yet again.
Oct. 20, 2022: Fury confirms trilogy fight with Chisora
“Someone’s getting knocked out.”@Tyson_Fury | #FuryChisora pic.twitter.com/ukdS9myCyk
— Top Rank Boxing (@trboxing) October 20, 2022
Fury and Chisora will meet at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London on Dec. 3. The fight will be for Fury’s WBC world title, and it will be streamed in the U.S. on ESPN+.
If he lands a punch on me, a big swing, I’m getting knocked out,” Fury said during Thursday’s news conference in London to announce the fight. “If I land a punch on him, a big swing, he’s getting knocked out.”
Chisora agreed, saying “Physically and mentally, I want to come and take it. I don’t want it; I want to physically take it off him.”
Fury and Chisora met for the first time in 2011, a unanimous decision victory at Wembley Arena in London. Both fighters were 14-0 at the time. They met again in 2014, an eighth-round TKO victory for Fury at the ExCel Arena in London.
Dec. 3, 2022: Fury stops Chisora, faces off with Usyk after the fight
Tyson Fury defeats Derek Chisora by TKO to defend his titles
Tyson Fury defends his heavyweight title by defeating Derek Chisora in their trilogy bout by way of technical knockout.
Fury had to wait to fight Usyk, who delayed any talk of a showdown with the “Gypsy King” until this year, citing an injury. In the meantime, Fury looked to a mega fight with Joshua in a short-lived saga played out through social media, although talks broke down before a fight ever looked on.
Instead, Fury stepped in for a trilogy bout on Dec. 3 with Chisora, who he comfortably dispatched. At the end of the fight, a grinning Usyk met Fury at the edge of the ring at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium along with heavyweight contender Joe Joyce.
“Usyk is up for the challenge,” Fury said that night. “He came over tonight, so fair play to him. He’s not an easy boxer to figure out. He’s a slick southpaw mover with very good skills. … Sometimes the big fights don’t happen for whatever reason, but I have a good feeling this one is going to happen.
“But if it doesn’t for XYZ reasons, then we’ll have Joe Joyce at Wembley next year as well. But providing the Usyk one does happen, I’ll do him then I’ll have Joyce at Wembley, why not? … I’m back on top of the world ruling the division with an iron fist.”
Usyk vs. Fury is the biggest fight boxing can produce this year. It would be one of the biggest of all time.
February 2023: Saudi Arabia plan A
Even before the Chisora fight, negotiations had begun between Usyk and Fury’s camps over a bout in Saudi Arabia, ESPN’s Mike Coppinger reported in October.
Saudi Arabia has been a frequent destination for the sport’s biggest fights, and the initial plan had been to land Usyk-Fury there on March 3 with a huge purse promised for both fighters. It didn’t pan out that way though. Usyk closed his deal with the Saudis, but Fury’s financial demands were too rich for the kingdom.
That meant talks turned to London — meaning a home crowd for England-born Fury, and the site where Usyk captured both his 2012 Olympic crown and where he claimed Joshua’s three heavyweight titles. It also meant Fury and Usyk needed to hammer out a deal — and purse split — with each other rather than negotiate with the Saudis separately.
March 2023: London plan B
Talks went on and on, with a date for the fight constantly pushed back. The issue with placing the fight in London, rather than the Middle East, is that the purse becomes much smaller. That brought friction around the revenue split: Although both fighters are undefeated, Fury’s side believed he deserves a larger share given his significant profile.
Fury’s father, John, told ID Boxing: “Treat Tyson as the great champion he is. Stop trying to be the A-side. Usyk is not Tyson’s equal. Fall in line and you’ll get the fight done.”
Usyk’s team accused Fury of being “greedy.” But by March 10, with an agreement still not reached, Fury put it in plainer terms, saying in an Instagram video: “They want 50%, Usyk and all this ‘Tyson is being greedy.’ From where I’m standing, Usyk, you and your team are worth 30%. You either take it or you leave it. And if you don’t want it, go fight Daniel Dubois at the Copper Box [Arena in London] and get a few million dollars.
“If you want to make some real money, come and fight The Gypsy King. … I will say, for every day from today that you linger, mess around, I’m going to deduct 1% from the 30%. … Sign the contract, get your money and get f—ed up. … Tick, tock.”
March 10, 2022: Usyk agrees to 70-30 split in favor of Fury
Fury makes 70/30 undisputed fight proposal to Usyk
Oleksandr Usyk responds to Tyson Fury’s 70/30 offer for an undisputed heavyweight fight.
The clock didn’t tick for long. Later on March 10, Usyk posted a video to Instagram to announce he had tentatively agreed to terms on a 70-30 split, with the long-awaited unification bout scheduled to take place at Wembley Stadium on April 29.
However, the fight was not yet announced nor finalized, with some terms still to be discussed, so Usyk issued an ultimatum and a ticking clock of his own.
“Hey greedy belly,” Usyk said. “I accept your offer, 70/30 split to fight on April 29 at Wembley. But you will promise to donate 1 million pounds to Ukraine immediately after the fight. And for every day of your delay, you will pay 1% from your purse to Ukrainian people. Deal?”
The fight looked set to be agreed, heavyweight boxing growing closer to finding a unified champion. Warren himself responded to Usyk’s demands, seeming as optimistic as ever.
“Both boxers have agreed to a split, and it’ll be on. It’s just a matter of contracts, but they’ll not be a problem. I know we’ll get this on,” Warren said in another TalkSport appearance the same day.
“We’ll get this fight over the line, and we’ve been working hard to do it and we will get it over the line. You know why? Because both fighters want it!”
March 22, 2023: Fight is off
In the early hours of Wednesday, March 22, news of the fight’s collapse broke. “No matter how much Usyk compromised, he was pushed for more,” Usyk’s manager, Egis Klimas, told boxing reporter Steve Kim. By the following afternoon, both promoters, Frank Warren and Alexander Krassyuk, were doing a joint radio appearance on TalkSport to explain their sides of the story. Warren said he received an email on Tuesday from Usyk’s manager, Egis Klimas, stating that negotiations were off, while Krassyuk said Fury was trying to take advantage of Usyk.
“The fight is called off,” Krassyuk said. “The reason for that is it went too far. There was a feeling that after Usyk accepted 70-30, Tyson Fury started thinking that he could put a saddle around his neck and start riding Usyk as much as he can. It’s not right. I mean, Usyk accepted the 70-30 split as a courtesy.”
Negotiations broke down over the rematch clause. Sources told ESPN’s Mike Coppinger both sides had agreed to a bi-lateral rematch clause, but differences over the split of revenue for a second London fight caused an impasse. Usyk wanted the same 70-30 split he agreed to for the April bout in his favor if he won the first match, but Fury demanded a 50-50 share.
“Tried all week to get out of it, begging for a rematch,” Fury said in an insult-filled Instagram story on March 23.
“You got your rematch and didn’t want to fight at that. You were never man enough to tangle with the Gypsy King ever in your life.”
Now, boxing must wait longer to crown its first unified heavyweight champion since Lennox Lewis in 1999 (three-belt era) as Fury and Usyk seek their next steps. For Usyk, that seems straightforward. He will likely face WBA mandatory challenger Daniel Dubois, with the WBA saying they would order the fight should an agreement with Fury not be signed before April 1.
That means Krassyuk and Warren will need to return to the negotiating table, since Dubois is promoted by Warren.
“I spoke with Frank, and we both admitted that the [Usyk-Fury] fight is off,” Krassyuk told iFLTV. “So we accepted it, and we agreed to speak over the weekend to discuss the mandatory [Dubois for Usyk].”
Another option for Usyk could also include the IBF’s No. 1 challenger Filip Hrgovic.
As for Fury, his options seem up in the air.
In the aftermath of his victory over Chisora, the 34-year-old made clear what his plans would be should a fight with Usyk not be made, his priority would be an all-British clash with Joe Joyce at Wembley, but Joyce is first engaged in a bout with Chinese heavyweight Zhilei Zhang on April 15.
Even Joyce wants to see Fury-Usyk first, though.
“I’m hoping that it’s going to happen. It’s the undisputed [heavyweight title fight]. When was the last undisputed? They need to have that fight. It needs to happen,” Joyce told Sky Sports on Thursday.
“Can you just get the fight made please, guys?”