The blockbuster boxing match between Tyson Fury and Anthony Joshua is hanging in the balance.
An arbitration hearing ruled WBC world heavyweight holder Fury will have to fight Deontay Wilder for a third time before 15 September 2021.
The third instalment of Fury vs Wilder was scheduled for July 2020 but was delayed due to the Covid pandemic, prompting Fury to seek an alternative fight.
Fury, nicknamed ‘The Gypsy King’, confirmed he would fight Joshua on 14 August 2021 in Saudi Arabia just 24 hours before the ruling was announced.
Why did Fury and Wilder go to arbitration?
After Fury won the second contest between the two fighters in February 2020 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, a third match up was in the pipeline for that summer.
Yet complications brought on by the Covid pandemic meant the fight didn’t happen - leading to a difference in preferences between the two Wilder and Fury camps.
Wilder wanted to fix another date for the third contracted fight for a chance to win back the WBC belt he lost to Fury, with 2021 seen as an alternative time frame for a rematch.
Fury, however, wanted to pursue other interests, as talk intensified around an all-British bout with Anthony Joshua which would see all four heavyweight titles on the line.
Due to their differences, mediation was required to settle the dispute which was overseen by American judge Daniel Weinstein who sided with Wilder and set a deadline for Fury vs Wilder III.
What does this mean for Fury vs Joshua?
Weinstein decided Fury and Wilder part three will have to happen before 15 September 2021 - a month after the proposed fight between Fury and Joshua is scheduled to take place.
The much anticipated fight between Fury and Joshua is expected to be one of the most-watched bouts in British boxing history, with a truck load of cash being thrown at the contest.
Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme, Fury’s promoter Frank Warren said: “Until we can reach an accommodation with Deontay Wilder's people, I can't say that [Fury's fight with Joshua] will definitely happen.
“But we are working hard to get that over the line. We were talking last night and hopefully we can do that. If not then Tyson, if he wishes, will go to the fight with Wilder. They're the only two options.”
Joshua’s promoter Eddie Hearn had previously told Sky Sports that he had received assurances from Fury’s camp that the arbitration decision would not impact the Joshua vs Fury fight.
“That's a Fury problem, a Team Fury problem,” said Hearn. “We're confident that it won't impact our fight, or the announcement.”
How is the issue likely to be resolved?
Warren hinted that a financial settlement could be a viable solution to the problem.
With so much money riding on the Joshua vs Fury fight, there is a good chance a deal could be struck to appease all parties involved and still see the all-British contest go ahead as planned.
Warren said: “It'll cost quite a bit of money. He [Wilder] will want as much as possible so I think it'll be about the negotiation if we go down that road.”
Yet the saga took another twist when Fury took to Instagram to vent his frustration at the situation, which threatens to derail plans for an all-British heavyweight contest with Joshua.
There was initial hopes the American, nicknamed The Bronze Bomber', would accept a financial settlement to walk away from a third fight with Fury, but his demands are high.
Fury wrote: "What a joke @bronzebomber has become. Asked for 20 million to move over #joker. Looks like I’ll have to crack his skull again!"
What happens next for Fury, Wilder and Joshua?
With Wilder wanting a third contest with Fury, the Gyspy King has a contractual agreement to uphold with a 24 July 2021 fight date scheduled in Las Vegas.
Fury’s US promoter Bob Arum told Boxing Social: “There's no chance he [Wilder] will step aside.
"Whatever it is, the judge said he had a right to the rematch and we are going to go ahead with it.”
And added: "He will take out his frustration and anger on Wilder and he tells me he will knock Wilder out quicker than he did last time.”
Joshua, meanwhile, is likely to take on an opponent too, if Fury v Wilder III happens, with WBO mandatory challenger Oleksandr Usyk in the frame.
Arum said Fury and Joshua could face each other “in the winter” if both are successful in their respective fights this summer.