Eddie Hearn has given Tyson Fury and his team just one week to resolve the issue of a third Deontay Wilder fight, revealing talks are now underway for Anthony Joshua to take on Oleksandr Usyk instead.
Joshua and Fury had been lined up to fight for the undisputed heavyweight championship on August 14 in Saudi Arabia, with Hearn, Fury and the Gypsy King’s US promoter Bob Arum confirming the fight was set to go ahead.
However, a bombshell emerged on Monday evening, as a US judge ruled that Fury must take on Wilder for a third time by September 15, after the Brit signed a two-fight agreement before their second bout in February last year.
Fury’s UK promoter Frank Warren told Sportsmail on Tuesday morning that talks are underway to reach an eight-figure settlement that would see Wilder step aside and allow the undisputed fight to go ahead.
But Arum told ESPN on Monday night that they would not hand Wilder a pay-off, but fight him instead, with the Joshua fight moved to a later date. He even indicated that Top Rank has reserved the Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas for Fury vs Wilder III on July 24.
Speaking on Tuesday afternoon, Hearn has revealed the news came as a shock to everyone, while insisting the situation is now totally out of his hands.
‘It was a shock to the system.’ Hearn told Matchroom’s YouTube channel. ‘Negotiations have been going on for three or four months now, and we’ve always been assured that this wouldn’t be a problem.
‘It’s a very strange decision from the arbitrator, to say the least – but that’s their business, their responsibility. We’ll have to see where they go with it.
‘(Arum) was in complete and utter shock. I’ve never really head him speechless before, but he’s been very bullish throughout this whole process – I know it’s their business and we don’t know too much about contracts – that this wouldn’t be a problem, that it wouldn’t stand in the way of an Anthony Joshua vs Tyson Fury fight.’
Throughout negotiations, the likes of Fury and Warren have remained more cautious than Hearn, who has repeatedly insisted that the undisputed fight would definitely go ahead.
However, even Fury in recent weeks has made it clear the fight was a certainty. Now, while Hearn insists he remains hopeful, he admits the bout is in doubt.
Asked how optimistic he is the fight will go ahead on August 14, Hearn said: ‘I hope it does, we’ve grafted away for months to make this happen.
‘We’ve got a fantastic deal in place for both fighters, for a legacy fight, a huge amount of money, the undisputed world championship – it’s what both guys wanted. So, I hope. But hopeful? I don’t know.
‘Everything we were told from the get go is that this arbitration issue wouldn’t be a problem. Obviously, it is a problem now. We have to act on our feet, act accordingly, but we still hope the fight can go ahead. But that’s completely out of our hands.’
He added: ‘The only fight we had our minds on was Tyson Fury. We hope that fight can still take place on August 14, but the game changed last night, where we have to have a plan B in place – and probably a plan C as well.’
If the Wilder issue cannot be resolved, it’s WBO mandatory challenger Oleksandr Usyk who would most likely be Joshua’s next opponent.
The governing bodies previously ordered a WBO interim clash between Usyk and Joe Joyce with Joshua tied up with the Fury clash, but that would no longer be necessary.
Hearn said: We’re in a situation now, where if team Fury don’t get their act together by the end of this week, we will have no option but to look for an alternative fight.
‘AJ wants to fight this summer; Oleksandr Usyk is the mandatory. We have two or three other options as well. But, in an ideal world, if the right deal would be done, we could maintain those belts, keep the Fury fight alive for probably December – but for the undisputed as well.
‘I had a very good conversation this morning with Alexander Krassyuk (Usky’s promoter), he’s a partner of ours – I’ve worked with him with Usyk. I was very honest. I said team Fury are trying to resolve this issue, but if they don’t, there’s a very good chance we could be fighting you.
‘If we’re all sensible, let’s move forward. Let’s try to look at the options to get that locked in.’
Crucially, Hearn now insists team Fury has just one week to resolve the issue, before he looks to line up another fight.
Asked when the issue can be resolved by, he said: ‘Two weeks is a good answer I always give. But no, is the answer to that. I think this week.
‘We can’t wait around. We had a deal in place with Tyson Fury, we provided an unable opportunity to him.
‘We were told by his team, Bob Arum, that the arbitration wouldn’t be an issue and we can move on with this fight. They were wrong, and that’s on them, their responsibility, their problem.
‘We hope they can resolve that, but we have to look after ourselves… we want to be in a position by the end of this week, where we know if we’re fighting Tyson Fury or if we’re moving forward with another option.’