By agreeing on the basics of a deal to meet twice, starting in 2021, Tyson Fury and Anthony Joshua have given the sports world a tantalizing hope of a major event at a time when we have been starved of them.
The sport only just resumed without crowds in the US on Tuesday night after it was shut down in March due to the coronavirus. It is still awaiting a restart in the U.K. where rival world heavyweight champions Joshua and Fury are both from.
But as encouraging as it was to hear Joshua's promoter Eddie Hearn talk about the "the basics of the deal, a two-fight deal," and "moving forward" toward making the biggest fight currently possible in the sport, there are obstacles to overcome before you mark this megafight in your calendars.
What has to happen before the fight takes place?
Both have fights to win before they can battle to decide the undisputed world heavyweight champion for the first time since Lennox Lewis reigned 20 years ago. And if WBC champion Fury and WBA-IBF-WBO champion Joshua have to go through two fights against their mandatory challengers to make it happen, this fight is in real jeopardy.
Fury (30-0-1, 21 KOs), 31, from Manchester, is due to face Deontay Wilder, of Tuscaloosa, Alabama later this year in their trilogy fight after he stopped Wilder (42-1-1, 41 KOs) in the seventh round in February following a controversial split draw in December 2018.
If Fury wins the trilogy fight, he's likely to have to face another Briton, Dillian Whyte (27-1, 18 KOs), in a WBC mandatory defense early in 2021.
Joshua (23-1, 21 KOs), 30, from Watford, is due to face Bulgaria's Kubrat Pulev (28-1, 14 KOs), 39, next. No date or venue has been confirmed after the fight was postponed from its previously scheduled June date.
Beyond Pulev, however, lurks Ukraine's former undisputed world cruiserweight champion Oleksandr Usyk (17-0, 13 KOs), 33, who is now the WBO mandatory challenger at heavyweight. Usyk represents a big threat to the Fury-Joshua fight happening if he (or the organization) insists on facing Joshua before Fury does.
Hearn promotes Usyk as well as Joshua, and there is the possibility a deal could be made for Usyk to step aside and wait for the Fury-Joshua winner. If that is the case, Fury will have the more treacherous path to navigate to make the Joshua fights a reality. And as much as they'd like a clear path, in this moment, we can't say for sure how many fighters Joshua and Fury will each need to take on before they meet.
"Who knows what's going to happen with Deontay Wilder, but we [at Matchroom Sport] want Dillian Whyte to fight for the world title and he is supposed to fight Tyson Fury, the WBC champion, by February 2021," Hearn told ESPN.
"There are obstacles to overcome, but the good news is that we are moving forward."
Long-term plans can quickly unravel in boxing, and the course of history can quickly pivot from where promoters had hoped it would go. Fury would not be sitting at No. 11 in the recent Forbes list of highest paid athletes if the referee had stopped him on cuts against Sweden's unknown Otto Wallin in September 2019. Fury's face was a mask of blood, he required 47 stitches, and the wounds threatened to KO the second Wilder fight.
What's the deal?
The money split is always the hardest part to overcome, and failure to agree terms was one of the reasons why we didn't get to see Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao until 2015.
With that part of the deal already put to bed, according to Hearn, the other negotiating points like venue and television rights should not be as troublesome.
Frank Warren, who co-promotes Fury along with Bob Arum, told ESPN both sides have agreed a 50-50 split.
"It was always going to be a 50-50 deal and a rematch. Other than that nothing has been agreed, no contract," Warren told ESPN.
Hearn expects the fight will set new pay-per-view records in the U.K., where the interest will be highest. For Hearn, it will be the biggest fight ever in British boxing history.
"A lot of it [revenue] is pay-per-view led," said Hearn. "From a British point of view, this will do over 2 million pay-per-view buys in the U.K. It's not so big in the US."
If Joshua and Fury can make their fight happen, expect them both to climb higher in the Forbes list next year.
"These guys [Fury, Joshua] could get between $60-70 million each from one fight against each other, double that if there's a rematch, in one year," Warren told ESPN.
Where will it happen?
Despite logic saying two British fighters meeting on British soil being a no-brainer, the chances of this fight heading to the Middle East or Las Vegas seem greater than it taking place at an outdoor English soccer stadium at this point.
Fury-Joshua would attract a 90,000 crowd to a venue like Wembley Stadium in London in the summer of 2021, but Hearn says other nations will also be considered to host the fight if it happens.
"It's too early to say where it could take place. It's two Brits, and obviously it makes sense to have it here, but a lot of other countries want to stage this fight, and we will look at it," Hearn said.
"It's two Brits, but there's much more money available. Middle East will want to stage it and will make a huge play to stage it there. They have both fought in Saudi Arabia -- Tyson did WWE there, and AJ had his last fight there [the rematch with Andy Ruiz Jr. in December 2019]. Las Vegas will go after it, and we have already had approaches from China to stage it there."
Who has the advantage?
Fury was outstanding in the rematch against Wilder, stopping the wobbly American in the seventh after dropping him in the third and fifth rounds. Many thought Fury deserved to beat Wilder the first time around, too.
Fury showed a more destructive, aggressive side to him in the Wilder rematch that surprised a lot of people.
Joshua was more cautious than spectacularly impressive in a rematch with Ruiz, but his dominant display earned him back the three belts he had lost to Ruiz in a shock knockout loss a year ago. That defeat raised doubts over his capabilities.
With at least one and possibly multiple fights to come before these two can meet, a lot can change. But based on their previous performances, it has to be Fury ... at the moment.