TYSON FURY has told his heavyweight world title rivals they are running out of time to make fights or accept step-aside deals.
But the 6ft 9in undefeated WBC king has plenty of options whichever way the giant-fortune cookie crumbles over the next 24 hours.
Ideally Fury wants to delay his overdue mandatory challenge from Dillian Whyte, leaving him free to face WBA, IBF and WBO champ Oleksandr Usyk in Saudi Arabia, to crown an undisputed king.
But that would mean Whyte and Anthony Joshua – who has activated his rematch clause to rerun his September loss to Usyk – not only accepting step-aside money but also the warring pair agreeing terms for who gets first dibs at the winner.
It’s expensive and confusing but could crown the first four-belt heavyweight ruler in history and secure iconic legacies for the four men involved.
But this is a Gypsy King who insists money, world titles and even records and reputations are worthless.
So SunSport has had a look at his options as the clock ticks down to some major announcements and potential shocks.
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A big-money boxing fan is ready to stump up the cash to pay AJ and Whyte the step-aside dough and let Fury and Usyk clash in the desert.
Fury would then just be 12 rounds away from emulating Brit legend Lennox Lewis and becoming undisputed champ.
If he succeeds he will be one of the biggest stars on the planet and his next step would be pretty unpredictable.
Any deal AJ and Whyte agree to will have watertight rights to a shot at his WBC title and would like carry huge financial penalties if he were to retire, exit the sport in any way or fail to fulfil his obligation.
But Fury might see that as a fair price to pay for being able to complete the game, retire undefeated and scatter all the belts around, making it almost impossible for any of his rivals, of this era, to emulate.
Whyte has ongoing legal and arbitration cases with the WBC regarding the length of time he has had to wait for his shot at the green and gold belt and his share of the potential Fury purse.
SunSport understands Fury cannot defend his WBC world title against anyone but Whyte until these disputes are settled.
But his UK promoter Frank Warren has had the Manchester arena on hold for March 26 for some time and he has confirmed Fury could take a keep-warm fight without the WBC world title on the line.
Fury would still defend his respected Ring Magazine belt and his claim to mythical lineal championship and it would serve as a UK homecoming after a handful of American away paypays.
This would also give Whyte and the WBC and AJ and Usyk to settle their differences.
Fury loves playing mind games with all of his rivals and in totally different sports too.
UFC heavyweight king Francis Ngannou defended his crown at the weekend and is at war with the company over his relatively poor pay when compared to boxers of similar standing.
Ngannou has insisted he will not fight for the UFC again under his current contract and Fury has teased him about his £500,000-per-fight earnings.
The WBC would probably even back the move by making Fury their franchise or emeritus champion and creating a new fairytale belt for the Brit and Cameroonian to fight over, as they did with the Money Belt they sanctioned Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor to fight over.
The WBC have decided Whyte only deserves 20 per cent of the purse from any potential fight with Fury.
Considering the 34-year-old Brixton Body Snatcher is their interim champion, former diamond champion and mandatory challenger, it seems very harsh and SunSport understands Whyte’s promoter Eddie Hearn would appeal that figure if it was enforced.
A simple solution would be for Fury to accept parting with around 30 per cent of the potential windfall and meeting Whyte in a UK ring.
But it seems Fury and the WBC have a shared dislike for Whyte and they are unlikely to help the contractual lone wolf in any way.
Fury is in the middle of a gruelling training camp, hammering his body alongside fellow heavyweight Joseph Parker and refuelling thanks to imported US nutrition guru George Lockhart.
He seems primed to fight but Fury is totally unpredictable and could scupper everyone’s plans by retiring – temporarily or not.
That drastic move would leave the WBC belt vacant and the unregulated Mexican organisation free to pick from their rankings someone for Whyte to face.
And, following all the bad blood and legal rows that have gone on between them, the WBC could hand him a high-risk low-pay clash against someone like Deontay Wilder, Luis Ortiz or even Brit Joe Joyce.
Fury’s undefeated record would remain intact and he would be backed to return at any time to carry on his career for the sanctioning body.
But this move seems unlikely with so many big-money options on the table.