FORMER world heavyweight champion Tyson Fury and Queensberry Promotions have signed a multi-fight deal with ESPN. The broadcast giant will have the exclusive rights to televise Fury in the United States.
“It gives me an opportunity to fight on the biggest broadcast network in the world,” Fury said. “I’ve got my platform in America and the UK [BT Sport]. It puts me right on top where I should be. They’re going to have to come through me.”
The fear however is that it puts Fury a stage removed from fights with Anthony Joshua and Deontay Wilder, the major contests in other words that the world wants to see. Fury held Wilder to a thrilling if controversial draw in December. Joshua is the unified WBO, WBA and IBF heavyweight champion. He however will box on new streaming service DAZN next, while Wilder, the WBC titlist, has recently been on Showtime Sports in America. This new development means that one of the big three heavyweights would have to cross a broadcast divide to make a fight with one of the others.
Fury’s deal with ESPN marks a significant change in the landscape. But at least the representatives of Fury and Wilder are still in negotiations. “As far as I’m concerned the [Wilder] fight is now more makeable than ever,” Fury said. “I want the biggest fights.”
“I dared to be great and I came out the other side smelling of roses,” he added. “It is what it is and I look forward to the future.”
Sounding a note of caution he continued, “Boxing is boxing. I suppose you can only fight who’s available. Sometimes they never happen… Am I going to cry about a fight that never happened? No.”
His promoter Frank Warren insisted, “Tyson wants it, we all want [the Wilder rematch.] It’s changed dramatically. It’s up to us to sit down and try and get it over the line.
“There’s a lot of negotiations [to come]. I’m sure it’s a big shock to Deontay Wilder this morning.
“We will see what happens. That’s what we’re working on at the moment.”
“Of course we’d like to see the [Joshua] fight but you know what we’re on the bigger platform,” Warren added, “They’re going to have to come to us to make the fight.
“We did try to make the fight but they didn’t want it.”
“Tyson is in a fantastic position. He will get what he wants,” Warren maintains. “He’s the heavyweight that steps up to the plate.”
Fury is planning on fighting three times in 2019, eyeing boxing in May and most likely in the United States. “We want him out as soon as possible. Obviously the talks are continuing [with Wilder]. This ESPN situation is one of the biggest things that’s happened to a British sportsman,” Warren said. “It’s something special. The name of the game is get out there and keep busy.”
We are no closer to knowing if Fury will fight Wilder next or eventually nail down a contest with British rival Joshua. At first glance however the big three appear to be going in different directions. The surprise today is the new level of uncertainty about whether any of the world’s top three heavyweights will be able to fight one another at any point in 2019. Not too long ago Joshua’s promoter Eddie Hearn was complaining about his man being frozen out of the heavyweight picture. Now we could be in the surprising position where all three of the top heavyweights can freeze themselves out of the biggest fight in the sport. It remains for Deontay Wilder to make the next move.
Fury himself is sanguine about whatever might happen next. All he said was that, by this time in 2020, “if I’m healthy and well and out of trouble I’ve had a very good year.”
The health of the sport however will be less robust if the biggest fights can’t be made.