Tyson Fury's undisputed heavyweight world title fight with Anthony Joshua has been placed in doubt after the WBC champion was ordered to face Deontay Wilder for a third time before September 15.
Fury, 32, became a two-time world champion in February 2020 when he stopped Wilder in the seventh round. Their first fight ended in a thrilling, and contentious, draw in December 2018.
A trilogy fight was expected to happen until the coronavirus pandemic led Fury to seek alternative options – and that alternative looks set to be the fight the boxing world has been waiting for. Fury and Joshua, the WBA, WBO, and IBF champion, have agreed to a showdown in Saudi Arabia on August 14, with an official announcement expected imminently.
However, a US judge on Monday ruled in mediation that Wilder has the legal right to fight Fury for a third time, setting a deadline of September 15.
Wilder, who suffered his first loss to Fury, and his team have argued that a rematch clause in the contract from their second fight gives the American the right to a trilogy bout, although the proposed July 2020 date was inevitably missed due to the pandemic.
Fury declined a suggested 2021 date and said he would be moving on, which prompted Wilder and his team to initiate legal proceedings. Judge Daniel Weinstein has now sided with Wilder and ordered the fight to take place by mid-September.
The mediation verdict does not necessarily spell the end for Fury's bout with Joshua, but it does add another layer of complication to an event that has taken months of protracted negotiations to reach an outcome.
Four governing bodies, several rival broadcasters, three promoters, and potential hosts, including Saudi Arabia, were involved. The Wilder verdict provides another element that now needs to be negotiated.
The most likely solution would be to offer Wilder a step-aside fee, which would see the American paid a sum – likely in the seven figures – to allow the Fury-Joshua fight to go ahead on the agreed August date.
Wilder could then be in line to fight the winner, although that could be further complicated if Fury or Joshua opt to activate the rematch clause. In June, Fury and Joshua agreed to a two-fight deal.
Should Fury's fight with Joshua still go ahead as planned, it will be the first heavyweight world title bout to involve all four belts.