LAS VEGAS -- Long before Tyson Fury had stripped to his underpants late on Saturday night after his win over Deontay Wilder, there was talk of a future fight with Anthony Joshua.
Fury had dismantled the previously lethal Wilder like an adult taking a dummy from the mouth of a baby, hitting him at will, playing with him and then finishing the brutal mismatch after 99 one-sided seconds of Round 7.
The WBC heavyweight belt changed hands as Wilder was helped -- bloody, dazed and bruised -- from the MGM ring by his shell-shocked entourage. The fallen champion, who was making his 11th defence, offered no excuses as he limped away. He now has 30 crucial days to trigger the trilogy and demand the contracted third fight.
"I will do it all again if he wants to take another beating," Fury insisted. "He was brave in that ring, he never quit. He took his beating like a man. I respect him."
It was former world champion, Mark Breland, part of Wilder's training team, who threw in the final, fateful white towel of surrender. Wilder had lost his sense of balance after the knockdown in Round 3 when Fury connected behind his ear; it was a legitimate knockdown and Wilder never recovered. However, before Wilder was sent tumbling, he had been pushed and hit and hurt from the first bell in the first round. Fury was magnificent on a magical night.
"I think Anthony Joshua should be here," Lennox Lewis had told me an hour before the fight started. "I had to sit ringside for (Evander) Holyfield and ]Riddick] Bowe in their third fight and take all the abuse from Bowe after the fight." Bowe had threatened to leave the postfight press conference table on that night in 1995 and cut off Lennox's dreadlocks. Lewis has a point.
The immediate postfight talk about a potential showdown with Joshua, who holds the IBF, WBA and WBO belts, was realistic; it is a great fight, a fight that would shatter records, but it is extremely complicated. Fury and Wilder, incidentally, set a heavyweight title record for box-office receipts here in Las Vegas of $16.9 million, beating the Holyfield and Lewis rematch in 1999 by $300,000.
In the small hours after the fight, as the casino floors filled with chorus after chorus celebrating the Gypsy King's win, there emerged a few details and even more wild and entertaining rumours. There is no place quite like Las Vegas after a big fight for hard boxing news, fake boxing news and just preposterous boxing news.
Adam Smith of Sky Sports Boxing was at the postfight conference and Omar Khalil, the fixer for Joshua's last fight in Saudi Arabia, was in covert huddles with people all week; there was definitely something in the recycled Las Vegas air long before Fury's fists ruined Wilder.
Eddie Hearn, who promotes Joshua, and Frank Warren, one of Fury's promoters, both acknowledged that the fight between the two British champions, the men with all the belts, would be a 50-50 split of the guaranteed money. Warren did add that he thought, after the Wilder annihilation, Fury should be on 70-30. But, he will, it seems, start the negotiations with a 50-50 proposal on the table. It is odd in the complex and often ridiculous boxing business for there to be an early solid percentage to work from. However, it gets immensely complicated after the percentages have been agreed.
Joshua has serious mandatory title defenses to juggle, Fury might have to honor the contract and give Wilder a third fight. So, with each having a potential fight or two on the horizon it means that a showdown would be probably be in 2021. Fury is heavily aligned in the U.K. with broadcaster BT and contracted with ESPN in America, while Joshua has broadcast deals in place with Sky in the U.K. and DAZN in America.
There are shortcuts to a solution, persuasive ways to get two opposing fighters, teams and broadcasters in the same ring, but they are complicated. There are also smaller, trickier problems to be solved with contracted fights and mandatory fights and their resolution is often expensive and litigious.
The good news is that they both want to fight each other, they have been talking about it for a very long time and they have even talked to each other about a fight in a series of bizarre phone calls.
"I will give that big dosser Joshua a chance and then give him what I gave Wilder," continued Fury. "I have said for years that these muscle beach bums can't hit me. I showed it tonight."
Joshua has to fight the Bulgarian Kubrat Pulev, possibly in June at the new Tottenham stadium in North London. He will win that and he is now under pressure to look good on the night. It could be avoided, Pulev could receive a vast step-aside fee. It would, in theory, mean Joshua could fight Fury next.
Fury, meanwhile, will feature in a twilight week of cameo appearances and karaoke performances as he waits for Wilder to make up his mind about a trilogy. "What can he do?" Fury said. "How can he beat me? Still, I expect him to want to fight me again." If Wilder holds back, Fury and Joshua will move closer.
A fight between Joshua and Fury is back on the agenda, but don't be fooled by common sense and desire: it might happen, it should happen and, sadly in boxing, that does not mean it will happen anytime soon.
It will be worth waiting for: Fury against Joshua, a British fight for all of the heavyweight titles. That sounds like a boxing fantasy.