Anthony Joshua and Tyson Fury have both signed a contract for a two-fight deal to unify the world heavyweight titles and crown an undisputed champion.
The announcement comes as a surprise following last week’s announcement by Fury, who owns the WBC title, that the fight was “nowhere near” being made.
Protracted negotiations have been ongoing since last year, but stepped up following Joshua’s knockout victory over Kubrat Pulev to clear the way for the two British rivals to meet in 2021.
But now the pair are destined to meet to decide the first undisputed world heavyweight champion since British great Lennox Lewis in 2000, with Joshua’s WBA, WBO and IBF titles also set to be on the line.
And Joshua’s promoter Eddie Hearn confirmed the significant development, describing it as a “major effort”, though both teams must also now negotiate when and where the fight will take place, with as many as nine venues from multiple countries eager to stage the historic event.
“We’d like to get a site deal confirmed in the next month,” Eddie Hearn told ESPN. “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.
“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.
“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.”
The two fighters agreed to a 50-50 split in the purse, while another hurdle was negotiated with Oleksandr Usyk, the mandatory challenger for the WBO title, agreeing to wait for his turn and instead face Joe Joyce for the interim belt.
Further details will need to be ironed out between the broadcasters, with Sky Sports and BT Sport likely to share the rights in the UK, while ESPN has carried Fury’s recent fights in the United States, but DAZN hold the rights to AJ’s fights outside the UK.