THE path to heavyweight nirvana clearly was never destined to run smooth. In the heady days of a month ago it all looked so simple. A Tyson Fury versus Deontay Wilder rematch was a presumed to be straightforward to make. They had already fought to a controversial draw, screened on Showtime in the US and BT Sport in the UK, so in theory could do so again. It might take a while to get to an undisputed championship fight but on the other side of the divide Anthony Joshua and Dillian Whyte both shared a promoter and, seemingly, were heading to the conveniently pre-booked April 13 date at Wembley stadium for what would have been a high-profile rematch. The latter is not going to happen, Joshua will instead defend his unified WBO, WBA and IBF titles against fortunate American Jarrell Miller on June 1 in New York. The route to a second Wilder-Fury WBC heavyweight title fight is increasingly convoluted too. In a surprise move, on Monday Fury announced a lucrative deal with ESPN in the United States. That means if Wilder is going to get the rematch the world wants to see, he’d have to transition to a new platform. The next move is his to make.
Fury’s promoter, Frank Warren is adamant that, even if a layer of complexity has been added to the Wilder-Fury negotiations, Tyson’s move to ESPN itself should not prevent the rematch or major fights from happening. “It should make some of them easier, because we’ve got the biggest sports broadcaster in America,” Warren said. “They want the big fights – they’re not doing this for Tyson just to fight a load of knockovers. We want the big fights.”
“What’s to stop them coming over? They want to earn big money as well so what’s to stop them?” he added. “Showtime and HBO are minnows compared to ESPN. It’s a massive game changer. The size of the audience, the size of the reach, and they’re now going to start doing PPV. They’ve an audience of dedicated sports fans; they’ve got them already. It’s an absolute no-brainer for us.”
Wilder does work with influential adviser Al Haymon, whose Premier Boxing Champions stable of fighters have been broadcast on Showtime and Fox in the US. That might be a sticking point for staging Wilder-Fury on ESPN, but Warren pointed out, “I don’t know if he [Wilder] has got a broadcast deal with Showtime, but Al Haymon isn’t a promoter. He’s an agent, an adviser. He certainly hasn’t got a promotional deal with Al Haymon, so all he needs to think about is where he can earn the most money.”
Warren has not let the politics of dealing with Al Haymon distract him. “I’ve never, ever spoken or met with him. You can imagine how frustrating that is, that you’ve got to go through people. I don’t like dealing like that. That is what it is, so I can’t say that in doing this we’ve let down Al Haymon. If he walked in this room I wouldn’t even know who he was,” the veteran promoter said. “I’ve never met him. I find it insulting to be honest.
“I don’t know if he [Wilder] is [contracted to Showtime], let’s see if he is. He may not be. They may have to go and satisfy him financially. They’re not going to do it with two million dollars.”
The salient point for Warren is that Fury wouldn’t be in the away corner, boxing on somebody else’s promotion. “I prefer it to be on our promotion rather than their promotion. Because if it’s on our promotion you’ve got more control of the situation. On our promotion Tyson Fury would now be the WBC champion. He got robbed out there. That’s the difference on what promotion you’re on sometimes. It shouldn’t be like but that’s the reality of it. That’s why Golovkin’s not won a fight [against Canelo Alvarez] because he’s been on the other guy’s promotion. How many times does he [Fury] need to keep rolling the dice?” Warren said. “I think with the heavyweight situation now it becomes far more interesting because we’re not beholden to people dictating terms to us. That’s not happening any more.”
The size of ESPN’s reach in the USA is another significant benefit of this deal for Fury, not to mention the fact that it will make him an exceedingly rich man. Suffice to say it will be “very” lucrative (some media reports suggest the multi-fight deal could be as much as $80 million). “You’ve got to speak to the fighters. Never mind anybody else. Ask the fighters what are they in this for? To make as much money as possible. Where are you going to make as much money as possible? With the people who have got the most subscribers that’s where you’re going to make the most. So that’s where it’s at,” Warren said. “ESPN are doing pay-per-view and that will be bigger than anybody’s. They’ve got the biggest sports platform out of anybody. He will be seen in so many homes across America.
“He’s getting great, great exposure and it will make him probably after David Beckham, Britain’s most famous sportsman. And I think he will maybe take over from David Beckham.”