TYSON FURY against Anthony Joshua is the biggest heavyweight fight since Muhammad Ali versus Joe Frazier.
That is according to legendary promoter Bob Arum, who staged the iconic ‘Fight of the Century’ at New York’s Madison Square Garden five decades ago.
Now Arum, who turns 90 this year, is on the cusp of delivering another history-making bout in boxing’s blue riband division.
He believes Fury and Joshua’s pay-per-view pulling power and online presence – not available during Ali’s reign – can grip the wider public’s attention like never before.
Arum told SunSport: “The closest heavyweight fight it compares to would be the first Ali-Frazer fight which was in March of 1971.
“The whole world stopped. Why? Because Ali couldn’t fight because of the draft situation, couldn’t fight for three and a half years but he was still undefeated.
“He captured everyone’s imagination, unfortunately we didn’t have the technology we have now.
“We didn’t have satellites domestically like we do now to get the signal, we had to use telephone company longlines and we were limited to the number of people who could watch it.
“There was no pay-per-view at the time, but still it was by far the biggest fight that I had ever experienced then and, looking back on it, now.
“And I really think Fury-Joshua will begin to approach that first Ali-Frazer fight.”
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All-time great Ali had been stripped of his title in 1967 after his refusal to serve in the Vietnam war due to his religious beliefs.
He returned in 1970 and had two fights before challenging Frazier, where he lost for the first time.
It took Ali three years to gain revenge, as he won the rematch on points, before emerging victorious in the series with his 1975 trilogy win.
Fury, 32, has himself enjoyed a similar comeback story, having vacated the unified belts a year after he won them against Wladimir Klitschko in 2015.
It took the Gyspy King – like Ali – three years to return, but by 2020 he was already at the heavyweight summit again.
He dominated Deontay Wilder, 35, last February for the WBC belt, setting him up with a historic undisputed title decider against Joshua, 31.
It will be the first time in heavyweight history that all four belts – WBC, WBA, IBF and WBO – will be on the line.
Arum and Fury’s UK promoter Frank Warren have exchanged contracts with AJ’s backer Eddie Hearn, with top lawyers going over the finer details.
Both sides – including Top Rank who return on Saturday with Joe Smith vs Maxim Vlasov on FITE TV or Premier Sports in the UK – will remain tight-lipped until an official announcement can be made.
But fans have been ensured only extraordinary circumstances would prevent the Battle of Britain from finally commencing.
Arum revealed: “Well, lightning could hit one of the fighters and incapacitate them and it doesn’t happen.
“But otherwise, I’m absolutely certain it will happen.
“But, remember fights like these, particularly this fight with Fury and Joshua, big financial ventures and anything of this magnitude, the lawyers are going to do good careful work.
“Matchroom sent us their draft of the agreement, then I set up a Zoom call with Frank and his lawyer Stephen Heath, with Tyson’s lawyer Robert Davis, with my lawyer and myself.
“We went over the draft, made a whole list of changes, marked up – which we call redline – sent it back to them, they then accepted most of them, maybe some additional changes and it goes back.
“But this is the normal process. The issues between the two camps continue to get narrowed down until there’s a meeting of the minds and the deal’s ready to be signed.
“Not at that stage yet but I’m confident we will be.”
Terms in the contract include a rematch clause for the loser, promising fans the chance of a domestic double header.
But amid the coronavirus pandemic, the initial fight looks destined for an away fixture, with the Middle East and Asia both mooted options.
Not only has Arum been in the thick of the greatest heavyweight fights, including with Mike Tyson, he has been involved in the richest.
The American former attorney helped promote Floyd Mayweather’s 2015 win over Manny Pacquiao, which sold a record 4.4m PPVs and raked in around £52m in ticket sales.
But it took over five years to make and relied on Mayweather demanding his terms be met in the negotiation room.
That included his name being first on the poster, walking to the ring second and having his name announced after Pacquiao’s.
Arum will be faced with similar requests between the nation’s leading stars in Fury and AJ, but does not expect such dramas to arise.
He said: “Problems will be dealt with now and I envision Matchroom and their people, knowing Frank and his people, Top Rank, once we get it sorted the promotion will be really non-controversial.
“All of these issues will be sorted out beforehand.”