Just when it seemed as if WBC heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder (40-0-1, 39 KOs) and Tyson Fury (27-0-1, 19 KOs) would be on course for an immediate rematch of last December’s thrilling split draw, the rug has been pulled out from under expectant boxing fans.
Fury’s unexpected exclusive deal with ESPN on a co-promotional agreement with Top Rank Boxing put an immediate roadblock in the plans to make Wilder vs. Fury II happen, and despite both Team Fury and Team Wilder stating they wanted to still proceed with the rematch, Top Rank has other ideas.
It was confirmed on Wednesday by the WBC that Top Rank informed them Fury will take another fight in May or June, and seek the Wilder rematch in the fall. Wilder’s camp has already stated they still intend to fight on May 18th, the original target date for the second Fury matchup.
It is unknown as to whom Fury will face in lieu of Wilder, whereas Wilder will likely take on WBC mandatory challenger Dominic Breazeale (20-1, 18 KOs) next, although it’d presumably be a regular PBC on FOX or PBC on Showtime main event as opposed to being placed on pay-per-view.
With Wilder claiming he’s a network free agent — as is the case for most of Al Haymon’s PBC fighters — he theoretically could sign an exclusive deal with ESPN. Top Rank promoter Bob Arum rather cynically offered Wilder a “tremendous offer” for Wilder to fight on ESPN’s platforms, except it was a multi-fight deal that involved him also taking an interim bout before rematching Fury. In other words, “marination” nonsense that boxing fans have come to loathe, with the goal of making the PPV for their second fight even bigger than the 325,000 buys we saw just two months ago.
Fury’s main promoter, Frank Warren, seemed to pass the buck off to ESPN for wanting Tyson to face another opponent to elevate his profile in the United States.
♂️ Frank Warren on Wilder vs Fury II being on hold: "It's not our doing. ESPN/Top Rank, they're insisting they want to give Tyson an exposure fight in the States first... I'm very disappointed we're not going straight to it, but it is actually beyond our control." [@talkSPORT]— Michael Benson (@MichaelBensonn) February 27, 2019
Either Warren is full of it or he’s somehow the most naive promoter in the world to think that Top Rank/ESPN wouldn’t do exactly this the moment Fury signed with them.
Anyway, Wilder and Fury are at least fighting on Twitter over the two of them not fighting, so close enough.
You sorry muthafucka. We knew you only said this bec you knew you wasn’t fighting me next. #CloutChaser you requested a warm-up fight first I don’t blame you tho, I probably would too if I saw my brains splashed all over the canvas. #Timberrr #Bih #RunHoeRun #NoSmokeWanted— Deontay Wilder (@BronzeBomber) February 26, 2019
Get your self a bit more well known in America first kid & then I’ll give you another chance.! I already beat you & the world knows it & so do you must be hard for you that a British fighter has taken over the USA watch me whippppp #ONLYINAMERICA @espn— TYSON FURY (@Tyson_Fury) February 27, 2019
What an idiot, known is the fact your only highlight was you getting up off your back and since your known to snort shit, this is what happens when your body is on drugs your body Resembles the effect of it. I’m the CHAMP #TilThisDay your nothing in USA if I don’t bless you fool pic.twitter.com/ahW3nXfsC6— Deontay Wilder (@BronzeBomber) February 27, 2019
the world knows I won the fight as did u and ur team. Fool me once shame on you but you won’t fool me twice. Why would I go get robbed again on showtime. My team offered to do you a favour, pay you better and build your name all be it as my workman you big dosser @espn #MTKglobal— TYSON FURY (@Tyson_Fury) February 27, 2019
Welcome to the new era of boxing network wars, just modified for 2019. The insane amount of money being spent on boxers across all networks — ESPN, DAZN, FOX/Showtime — is financially great for the fighters... but we know all too well it doesn’t automatically mean it’s great for the fans, too.