Some months ago, I wrote a blog about the metaphorical loss of power suffered by Anthony Joshua when he lost a world title heavyweight fight to Ukraine’s (then unfancied) Alexander Usyk. 3 judges score boxing matches and the outcome was a unanimous victory for Usyk. I mentioned that whilst Joshua is an amazing physical specimen (I’ve seen him in the flesh) even in the heavyweight boxing division; size, muscle mass and reach advantages can be outmanoeuvred by boxing guile and craft and Usyk is clearly more skilled in the latter areas. I postulated that the much in demand fight with Tyson Fury was now even more out of reach and questioned what the defeat (and the denial of an opportunity to fight Fury) would do to Joshua’s long-term legacy, not to mention his already burgeoning bank balance (Joshua is one of the most marketable athletes in the world).
There are parallels here with negotiation, as company size is often believed to be the key determinant of who has the power in the negotiation. And whilst size can have an impact, context is critical (e.g. how much do they need us, is their business at risk if they don’t stop working with us, what are the costs to them of moving to a different supplier) as are options and in a world of scarce resources, we’re seeing many of the Procurement teams we work with having to think differently and more creatively about how they approach negotiations.
Joshua took up the option of a rematch with Usyk, which took place on late August 2022, 11 months after the first bout. Despite an improved performance, Joshua lost the fight on a split decision, with 2 of the judges scoring in favour of Usyk. Joshua did not take the defeat well and allegedly accused Usyk of being neither strong, skilled or big whilst questioning how he beat him, as they say size isn’t everything, whilst he was a little more contrite in his emotionally-charged post-fight interview.
Tyson Fury (The Gypsy King) still looms very large on the heavyweight boxing arena, he’s 206cm tall. He’s a highly unorthodox character but is considered to be the most skilled heavyweight boxer in the division. At 34, he announced his retirement a few days before the 2nd Joshua/Usyk fight and relinquished the title he owned (Usyk has the other three). My suspicion is that he has little appetite to fight Usyk, as he doesn’t have the draw of a Joshua or Deontay Wilder from the US. In any sport where rules of engagement apply, the last thing I expected was a fight between Joshua (who’s lost three of his last five fights) and Fury (who’s undefeated in his professional career). But the market gets what the market wants and two weeks ago Fury (free of any fight obligations) offered Joshua (who has no titles) the chance to fight in December, which then sent the sports media into a frenzy. From a negotiator’s perspective, whilst it is possible to assume that Fury has the power (hence him making the proposal), he knows it takes two to tango (now there’s something that would be fun to see) and offered Joshua (to what appeared generous to the reporting journalists) a 60/40 split. Fighting Joshua simply creates more value…
Despite Joshua’s recently tarnished reputation, this fight would undeniably be the biggest in living memory, demand huge media attention and make vast sums of money for each boxer and their respective promoters. One of the interesting insights from one of the fight experts, is that in boxing, negotiations typically start after the contracts are signed, which I can only assume means that there are a number of key headline terms agreed ahead of the negotiations with a plethora of other deal terms being dealt with later. By way of example, there is no venue yet secured, although Cardiff and Saudi Arabia (where the 2nd Joshua/Usyk fight took place) have been mentioned.
Fury also put a timeline on his proposal (he’s doing this as he knows he has more options than Joshua) and to the boxing world’s surprise Joshua’s camp had not accepted the offer ahead of Monday’s 5pm deadline. Fury immediately posted a video on social media saying the fight was dead and offering it to other fighters, whilst footage emerged of a more relaxed Joshua stating that his people were talking to Fury’s people and that the fight would take place.
A carefully orchestrated plan as part of an ongoing media strategy, or Joshua’s people taking some power back by not adhering to the deadline set? Who knows, it’s certainly looking like this is only the start of the shenanigans between now and the end of the year?