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War of the World: Eight Venues Which Might Host Tyson Fury-Anthony Joshua Showdown

Anthony Joshua's promoter Eddie Hearn has said his fighter and Tyson Fury have agreed in principle to meet in a fight later this year which will decide who is the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world.

Hearn told The Times last week: "The deal is done, really - without being signed. The financial elements of the deal are done. We're talking through the broadcast situation, the only thing really now is to paper it."

But where will the contest take place? Hearn has said there are eight venues under consideration.

Las Vegas, US

Tyson Fury has been out of the ring since February 2020 when he beat America’s Deontay Wilder convincingly in a rematch for the WBC title after the pair had drawn their first fight in Los Angeles.

© AP Photo / John Locher
The Las Vegas Raiders' new stadium

The rematch took place in Las Vegas and the city known as "the capital of boxing" will inevitably bid for the honour of hosting the Joshua-Fury fight.

But Sin City only works as a venue, financially, if paying spectators are allowed.

Around 17,000 people packed into the MGM Arena in February when Fury knocked Wilder out in the seventh road and ringside seats sold for $425 and Fury-Joshua could be put on at the Raiders' brand-new stadium.

But Vegas is currently on lockdown because of the pandemic and on 11 January the Governor of Nevada, Steve Sisolak, said the measures would remain in place for at least another 30 days.

With COVID-19 still rampant in the US it is difficult to see how Las Vegas could host a fight which Fury and Joshua want to take place in May or June.

Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

If the pandemic has not been conquered in the next month and large numbers of boxing fans will not be able to travel then the only way to finance the fight - and give the two fighters a decent purse - is by the promoters charging a huge site fee, which would offset the lack of paying customers at ringside.

Hearn told The Times: "The Middle East will be aggressive and will be front-runners in this. To stage this fight, you need significant government support. You need someone who is staging this fight as a statement for their country."

Joshua has already fought once in Saudi Arabia - in December 2019 he regained his titles against Andy Ruiz in the so-called Clash Of The Dunes.

© AP Photo / Frank Franklin II
Andy Ruiz, right, punches Anthony Joshua during the seventh round of a heavyweight championship boxing match Saturday, June 1, 2019, in New York. Ruiz won in the seventh round

Joshua-Ruiz 2 took place at the Diriyah Arena, a 15-000 seater temporary stadium which was erected in the desert just outside Riyadh. But three weeks after the fight it was dismantled and shipped to Tokyo to become part of the doomed 2020 Olympics.

Saudi Arabia has several football stadiums which could host the fight but the problem could be the weather - by May or June daytime temperatures are stifling.

Dubai

Dubai is another contender for the fight.

The oil-rich emirate was hit hard by a double whammy in 2020 - falling oil revenues and a massive downturn in tourism, its other main income generator.

© AP Photo / Kamran Jebreili
The sun rises over the city skyline with the Burj Khalifa, world's tallest building at the backdrop, seen from a balcony on the 42nd floor of a hotel on a foggy day in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Saturday, Dec. 31, 2016

The Al-Maktoum Stadium in Dubai holds only 12,000 people which would be plenty big enough if the pandemic prevents boxing fans attending in person for a summer fight. An alternative might be the air-conditioned DSC Indoor Arena.

The Joshua-Ruiz 2 fight generated 1.57 million paying customers on pay-TV in the UK and another 1.8 million on the DAZN online streaming platform.

Promoters Eddie Hearn and Bob Arum would be expecting double that number of pay-TV sales for the Joshua-Fury fight.

For those viewing the fight in the UK, Dubai would work well as a venue because if the boxers step into the ring at midnight that means a 9pm start in Britain. A sizeable audience would also tune in from North America, which is at least five hours behind.

Abu Dhabi

The third protagonist in the Middle East is Abu Dhabi, which regular hosts UFC fights. 

Like neighbouring Dubai, this emirate has deep pockets because of its huge oil and gas resources.

Abu Dhabi's ruler, Khalifa bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, would happily stump up a $100 million site fee.

Jeff Bottari
Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates; Dustin Poirier reacts after his knockout victory over Conor McGregor of Ireland in a lightweight fight during the UFC 257 event inside Etihad Arena on UFC Fight Island.

The al-Nahyan family is worth US$150 billion and the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority manages another $875 billion in assets.

Not surprising then that Fury’s promoter, Bob Arum told DAZN earlier this month: “The Joshua vs Fury fight will earn each of the guys close to $100million. Each of the guys. It is the biggest fight in history in the UK, not even close. Around the world it is the biggest fight that people want to see.”

Qatar

Qatar would have been out of the running until earlier this month when they patched up their differences with neighbouring Saudi Arabia.

© AFP 2020 / KARIM JAAFAR
A picture taken with a fisheye lens on May 19, 2017, shows a general view of the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha, after it was refurbished ahead of the Qatar 2022 FIFA World Cup, as fans arrive to attend the Qatar Emir Cup Final football match between Al-Sadd and Al-Rayyan

The capital, Doha, will host the football World Cup final in 2022 and a world heavyweight title fight would be the perfect dress rehearsal.

The probable venue would be the air-conditioned 15,000-seater Aspire Dome in Doha.

Macao

Last week Hearn told Talksport: “We’re talking to Saudi Arabia, we’re talking to Qatar, we’re talking to Dubai, we’re talking to Singapore, we’re talking to China, we’re talking to America.”

If he is discussing a venue with China then there is no doubt where it would be - the casino resort of Macao.

© AFP 2020 / ANTHONY WALLACE
Tourists look at a replica of the Eiffel Tower after the opening of the Sands new mega resort The Parisian in Macau, on September 13, 2016. Billionaire casino tycoon Sheldon Adelson predicted a revival for beleaguered Macau as he launched his new Paris-themed mega resort, with the gambling enclave betting its fortunes on mass market tourists.

The former Portuguese colony, which is only a stone’s throw from Hong Kong, is the gambling capital of China and has already hosted a Manny Pacquiao fight.

Although the pandemic started in China it has now completely abated there and hundreds of thousands of Chinese gamblers and tourists visit Macao every day.

Macao could certainly afford to pay a big site fee but the only drawback is the timezone - it is eight hours ahead of London, so if the fight was to draw in a big prime-time audience the fighters would have to enter the ring at 5am local time, which neither boxer will relish.

Singapore

Singapore is also eight hours ahead, so that too makes it a dark horse in the race to host the fight.

But if by some miracle it does win the race then the promoters will surely dub the battle: Singapore Swing.

Singapore does not have a big history of hosting boxing matches but then nor did Kinshasa and the infamous Rumble in the Jungle between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman went down in history as the greatest ever heavyweight title fight.  

© AP Photo / Andrew Couldridge
Britain's Anthony Joshua punches Bulgarian Kubrat Pulev during their fight on 12 December 2020
Cardiff, Wales

Although both fighters are British, it looks unlikely the bout will take place in the UK, because of the pandemic.

Boxing has been suspended during January and even when it does resume next month with Josh Warrington’s IBF featherweight title defence, there will be no fans at ringside.

But when Fury and Joshua agreed to fight it was a two-fight package, with a guaranteed rematch for the loser.

Hearn said of the rematch - which could conceivably be in 2022: "I'd like it to be here (in the UK). Where? Millennium Stadium."

Joshua has fought twice at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, most recently in 2018 when he won the WBO title off New Zealand’s Joseph Parker.

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