The biggest fight in British boxing history has moved closer to fruition after contracts were signed by Anthony Joshua and Tyson Fury on Monday to face off for the undisputed heavyweight title.
Joshua’s promoter Eddie Hearn confirmed to Sportsmail that all the paperwork has been completed, exchanged and signed for two mega-fights, with the first scheduled for this summer.
A date and venue will be finalised in the next three weeks to a month, with late June or early July the prime options for the opening showdown.
The Middle East is currently putting up the most enticing proposals, with Saudi Arabia understood to be leading the way.
It is hoped by both parties that the first fight could be worth as much as £100million per man as Joshua, the WBA, IBF, WBO and IBO champion, finally goes head to head with his fierce rival Fury, the WBC belt holder.
Hearn told Sportsmail: ‘All sides have now put pen to paper on what will be the biggest fight in boxing.
‘We will now collectively look at the best site deal. We have had a lot of offers and now we will go over the details and see what works the best for this historic fight.
‘The agreement is for two fights and getting the names on contracts is a huge step. We will hopefully be in a position to confirm details on where and when in the next month.’
The split for the first fight will be an even 50-50, with the winner going on to command 60-40 of the purse for the rematch. Each fighter is bidding to become the first to hold the undisputed crown since Lennox Lewis.
Hearn and Fury’s camp, led by Bob Arum and Frank Warren, have received lucrative site proposals from the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, the US and Australia, among others.
Restrictions around the pandemic have long since ruled out the UK as an option for the first fight, but there remains an appetite for the rematch to be held on these shores.
The money-spinning two-fight deal is all set to eclipse Floyd Mayweather vs Manny Pacquiao as the most lucrative bout in the sport’s history.
Both Joshua, 31, and Fury, 32, are set to earn £100million each as part of the eye-watering purse.
Hearn revealed the break-through on Monday when he exclaimed ‘the hard bit is now over the line’ giving fans the excuse to now get excited about the fight finally coming to fruition.
‘We’d like to get a site deal confirmed in the next month,’ Hearn added.
‘We’ve already had approaches from eight or nine sites. The offers have come from multiple countries in the Middle East, from Asia, Eastern Europe and America.’
‘The hard part is always getting everybody to put pen to paper but this was a major effort from all parties to get this over the line.
‘You had rival promoters, rival networks and rival fighters.
‘I actually feel we’ve done the hard part. Speaking for myself, Anthony and his team at 258 management, I know how hard we’ve worked hard these last couple of months and I just feel that this fight is so big it’s not a difficult sell.’
Concerns had grown among boxing fans that the fight would never have the chance to materialise due to mandatory challengers to both stars, meaning the respective schedules of AJ and Fury would never align.
Hearn, however, is now marveling in the fact that he has secured the arrangements for boxing’s ‘biggest’ clash which he believes will hugely benefit the UK.
Hearn added: ‘This is the biggest fight in boxing and one of the biggest sporting events in the world.
‘It will be a major, major win for a country that wants to showcase itself.’
In recent weeks Fury – who so spectacularly defeated American Deontay Wilder during their 2020 rematch – had poured doubt over the fight ever happening after revealing he had fallen out of his previously high level training regime.
Fury recently admitted he was enjoying up to 12 pints of beer a day after stopping his training schedule in light of talks with AJ reaching a standstill.
Just this week the WBC heavyweight champion, who has made no secret of his battle with mental health issues, took to social media to share an image of himself grinning while holding a half-full bottle of the spirit, and another picture of a full glass.
And on Sunday, Fury wrote ‘Whisky on my mind. Sunday blues’ alongside the photos of himself and the alcohol.
Speaking to iFLTV last week, Fury said: ‘I’ve stopped training now, I’m on holiday, I’m doing anywhere between, eight, 10, 12 pints of lager a day at the minute. Not eating though so I’m getting my calories through alcohol.
‘There’s nothing to do, is there? I’ve done training, training, training with no further process. It’s one of those things, at the minute I’m just chilling out, being a man of leisure in lockdown.’
Fury, who has not fought in over year since dethroning Wilder, has previously caused concern with his claims of excessive drinking, having ballooned to 28 stone as he turned to alcohol and drugs amid a battle against depression following his victory over Wladimir Klitschko in 2015.
He has spent the last week aiming fresh digs at Joshua, claiming he could ‘drink 14 pints and still give him a hiding.’
‘I could drink 14 pints of beer and still give AJ a hiding, no problem,’ the WBC champion told MTK Global live via Talksport.
‘I’m looking for a challenge, I’ve been looking, searching the world for 13 years as a professional to find a man who can better me. I just can’t find him.
Fury, at the time, had added: ‘I’m not training anymore. Until I get a date, then I go back into training camp.
‘I only need six, seven weeks anyway for these bums and that’s it.
‘I don’t need no big, great sparring partners for a methodical bodybuilding type of guy. I just need the local binmen, firemen and local strongmen.’
A growing undercurrent of impatience had been swirling around the fight, with Fury’s promoter Bob Arum recently snapping after being peppered by questions of frustrated fans.
When asked during a recent interview with Boxing Scene for his views on fans voicing their anger, Arum replied: ‘You know what I say? Go f*** yourself. Find a life. That’s what I would say to them.
‘For Christ sake, we’re all dealing with a fraught situation [Covid-19 pandemic] that is none of our fault and we don’t have the expertise if there is any expertise to deal with it.
‘(The earliest would be) end of June, beginning of July. But, again, I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know what the medical experts are saying,’ he added.