The all-British showdown between Anthony Joshua and Tyson Fury to determine the undisputed heavyweight champion is set to take place on one of the first two Saturdays in August in Saudi Arabia, according to promoter Eddie Hearn.
A bout between two fighters who hold all four major world titles in the division has been on the cusp of being finalised for a number of weeks now, but there has still been no official announcement from either party.
Fury’s co-promoter Bob Arum said this month a fight this summer was “dead in the water” but Hearn, who promotes Joshua, believes they are close to securing a date as well as a venue, with the country seemingly locked in.
Saudi Arabia staged Joshua’s rematch against Andy Ruiz, when the Briton regained his WBA, IBF and WBO titles in December 2019, putting him on a collision course with Fury, who became the WBC champion a couple of months later.
“August 7, August 14,” Hearn said on Sky Sports when asked about a date for Joshua-Fury. “It’s a very bad secret that the fight is happening in Saudi Arabia. I don’t mind giving that information, Bob Arum’s already done it.
“It’s the same people we did the deal with for Andy Ruiz, that event was spectacular. As partners, they were fantastic as well, so we’re very comfortable.
“We’re very comfortable. Anthony’s comfortable, he knows those people. They delivered on every one of their promises last time, we’re ready to go.”
Joshua avenging the only defeat of his professional career against Ruiz in Saudi Arabia attracted plenty of criticism from campaigners, who accused the Middle East country of trying to “sportswash” its human rights record.
Responding to Hearn’s revelation that Joshua-Fury is on course to take place in Saudi Arabia, Kate Allen, director of Amnesty International UK, said in a statement to the PA news agency: “It comes as no surprise that Saudi Arabia is once again set to use a major sporting event as a means to sportswash its atrocious human rights record.
“By staging this high-profile fight, Saudi Arabia is yet again trying to shift the media spotlight away from its jailing of peaceful activists like Loujain al-Hathloul, its grisly state-sanctioned murder of Jamal Khashoggi and its indiscriminate bombing of civilians in neighbouring Yemen
“Simply put – Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman wants people around the world to be talking about sport in Saudi Arabia, not the dissidents being locking up after sham trials or the people being tortured in Saudi jails.
“When he fought in Saudi Arabia in 2019 it was disappointing that Anthony Joshua ducked the issue of human rights, and this time we hope he and his opponent can speak out in the build-up to the fight.
“A few well-chosen words about human rights from Joshua and Fury would mean a lot to Saudi Arabia’s beleaguered human rights defenders, helping to counteract the intended sportswashing effect of this boxing match.”
Hearn indicated August 14 could be a more favourable date to avoid a clash with the Olympics, which are scheduled to finish six days earlier.
“In terms of a global spectacle, it would make sense to go on the 14th,” Hearn added. “That’s one of the other things to tick off, hopefully, in the next few days.”
Joshua warned on Twitter on Monday night he was “tired” of waiting around for Fury and demanded “less talk. More action” from his rival, who responded: “Come get some then you big ugly Dosser???? YOUR NO TALK NO ACTION.”
Hearn added: “There’s no reason why it shouldn’t happen this week. This is kind of like the moment where you could actually turn around at this point and say ‘this is dragging on too long, or I can’t be dealing with this anymore’.
“But we have to nail this, and I’m not going to stop until I nail it, and everyone has just got to move forward collectively. It is inevitable, but at the same time, we’ve got to close the door on it.”