IT’S here, at last. Boxing Day. You open your eyes and look at the time. It’s just gone 6am and your stomach is already in knots. Trying to go back to sleep is futile. In approximately 16 hours, Anthony Joshua and Tyson Fury will be in a boxing ring with only each other for company.
On the television, with every click of the remote control, interviews and specials featuring the two heavyweights can be seen. Channels and programmes that would never normally mention the sport of boxing are positively giddy with excitement. Boxing Day, the heavyweight superfight’s infectious tagline, is everywhere. The UK will stage the bout at Wembley Stadium and is drunk on expectancy.
Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister, is urging everyone to watch while imploring the best man to win. Every single newspaper has images on their front pages of Fury and Joshua alongside stories on the biggest fight Britain has ever produced.
The contest is all anyone is talking about. Taxi drivers, old ladies on buses and children in the park bicker about who is going to win. A-List celebrities take to social media to offer their opinion on who will be the last man standing. Boxing has never had it so good. As the morning becomes afternoon, street parties are underway. Banners that read Happy Boxing Day can be seen in pub windows. And away from the hysteria and the carnivals and the irresistible merriment, the two fighters are getting ready for their defining moment.
At 4pm the undercard begins. Fans who have been lucky enough to get tickets chant the names of the two fighters as they walk down Wembley Way. Promoters Eddie Hearn, Bob Arum and Frank Warren are already at ringside, bristling with nervous energy. The media take their seats, too. Today is not a day to arrive just before the main event. This atmosphere is one that must be cherished for as long as it lasts.
By 8pm images of the two boxers walking into the stadium are displayed on the big screens. The crowd boo and cheer and sing and laugh. Fury is wearing a bright green two-piece, blue suede loafers without socks or a shirt and breaks into song. Joshua nods to the camera wearing customary tracksuit, a smile and clutches a bottle of water. A commentary team, including analysts from BT Sport and Sky Sports, do their best to focus on the supporting cast who fight in the ring.
Then it’s time. Boxing Day. The Stadium goes black before fireworks illuminate the night sky and Sweet Caroline hurtles through the stomachs and ears of all in attendance. Joshua enters first, Seven Nation Army blares from the sound system and heightens the atmosphere. Then it’s the turn of Fury to make his way to the battleground. He’s jovial, sitting in a replica Rolls Royce that drops him off near the ring as Chumbawumba provide the soundtrack. Tyson wears a bowler hat and makeshift suit and laughs and blows kisses to the crowd.
Fury is introduced first. Michael Buffer lingers on the last letter of his surname. Concentration carves lines in Joshua’s face.
For the first time in a long time, Buffer’s claims that what we’re about to see will decide the world heavyweight championship, the real undisputed inarguable world heavyweight championship, are completely true.
Joshua removes his long, elegant Muhammad Ali-esque robe. Fury dispenses with his suit and hat and struts to centre ring. The noise in the stadium is astonishing, its volume so loud and intense it’s all-consuming. The referee’s final instructions are swallowed up in the hullaballoo. The commentators can barely hear their own voices. The teams of each fighter offer final words of advice before dispersing. All that’s left to do, after months of talking and positioning and anticipation, is to let battle commence.
There is a brief silence. The first bell sounds. Anthony Joshua and Tyson Fury walk away from their corners and towards each other.