Ring Magazine Editor-in-Chief Dougie Fischer has revealed the respective boxing outlet will strip Tyson Fury of their heavyweight title unless he sets up a fight this month.
Fischer, who took over the reigns from Michael Rosenthal in October, was asked the question in his 'Monday Mailbag' column this week and revealed Fury is living on borrowed time with the championship.
Fury, 29, has been out of action for two years and two months since defeating former belt holder Wladimir Klitschko in Dusseldorf, through a combination of illness, injury and suspension.
In what is a delicate situation, Fischer has treated Fury with kid gloves over the last few months but says a decision needs to be made imminently in order to get the 'Rocky Belt' active again.
"As a member of THE RING Editorial Board and its Ratings Panel, I weighed-in on his situation throughout 2017," Fischer explained in his Monday Mailbag.
"Sometimes I thought it best that we stripped him, other times I wanted to give him time for things (mainly his legal situation with UKAD and his mental health) to work themselves out.
"Complicating Fury’s situation is that he had rematches scheduled with Wladimir Klitschko – for July 9, 2016 and Oct. 29, 2016 – that were postponed (due to an injured ankle in late June) and then cancelled (due to mental health issues).
"I don’t recall how popular a decision it was with the Ratings Panel in late 2016, but at the time we (former editor Michael Rosenthal and I) decided to treat Fury’s bipolar disorder the same way we would a physical ailment or illness, which is to allow for a grace period while they heal, recover/rehab and get back into fighting shape once healthy again.
"Rule No. 3 of the championship policy states that “the champion” will be stripped 'if he does not schedule a fight in any weight class for 18, although injuries and certain other unforeseen circumstances could be taken into consideration.' (It should be noted that both Andre Ward and Guillermo Rigondeaux were given extra months before being stripped of their RING titles for not defending against a top-5 contender within an 18-month period – Ward got the grace period because of shoulder surgery he underwent in January 2013, and Rigo got extra time because we knew that the top-five fighters in his weight class were blatantly avoiding him).
"Tyson appeared to be gradually recovering from his depression and other issues in the early months of 2017 and, by April, he had started working out and talking about return dates.
"However, due to a failed (and disputed) PED test (taken in February 2015), Fury’s license was suspended by the BBBC pending further investigation of his case.
"The problem Fury had was that UKAD – the UK’s anti-doping agency – would not schedule his hearing, or they kept putting it off (reportedly because a member of the panel had a “conflict of interest”). So, he was in legal limbo for the second half of 2017.
"The former RING editor believed that Fury was being treated unfairly, and he was probably right about that. However, Fury was also holding up THE RING heavyweight title. I leaned toward stripping him in September and October, but Rosenthal held off and maybe he was right in doing so.
"Fury signed with a management company (MTK Global) in November, and in December, UKAD finally held its hearing and all but exonerated Fury (as well as his cousin Hughie), paving the way for his long-put-off comeback sometime in the first half of 2018.
"Still, Fury needs to get a fight on the schedule asap. We can’t go into February still not knowing when or who the lineal champ will fight," he added.
Fischer's comments seemingly give Fury just a couple of weeks to name an opponent, but even then the Magazine may not be entirely happy unless it's a big name.
Rumors the forthcoming Anthony Joshua v Joseph Parker fight could be sanctioned with the title on the line have already begun since Fischer's remarks on the situation, although Fury would retain his 'lineal' status unless someone actually takes to the ring to defeat him.