With the stroke of a single network contract, the anticipated heavyweight title fight rematch between Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury has gone from “nearly done” to “not just yet.”
A twice-altered deadline imposed by the World Boxing Council (WBC)—whose heavyweight title Wilder has held since Jan. ‘15—was set for Wednesday with the demand of talks either wrapping up or the matter heading straight to purse bid. The Mexico City-based sanctioning body got the news it sought one day early, even if it’s the news that few want to hear.
“The Deontay Wilder-Tyson Fury rematch is officially not happening next,” WBC President Mauricio Sulaiman informed BoxingScene.com on Tuesday. “The WBC has received communications as per our process. While Wilder has confirmed a willingness to defend his title in the rematch, Fury will take on another fight, with the expectation of the rematch taking place at a later date.”
Talks for a planned sequel between the pair of hulking heavyweights began shortly after their memorable 12-round draw last December in Los Angeles, Calif. England’s Fury (27-0-1, 19KOs) delivered a memorable boxing performance, but an inability to avoid Wilder’s power for all 36 minutes resulted in his being twice dropped in the later rounds, including a now infamous 12th round knockdown sequence that appeared to have him out for the night.
Fury somehow rose from the canvas following the second knockdown, barely beating the count of referee Jack Reiss and finishing the fight on his toes. The sequence cost him an upset win, however, as the judges were split across the board in producing the stalemate.
Wilder was originally hoping to move forward either with a date with Anthony Joshua for the undisputed heavyweight championship or clearing out the divisional clutter in honoring his pair of mandatories. The bitter taste left behind with the draw-coupled with the commercial success of the Showtime Pay-Per-View Event, which generated roughly $25 million in revenue through 325,000 units sold—prompted both sides to enter talks for a rematch.
It came with the blessing of the WBC, who later ordered the fight with an imposed deadline which was twice postponed on good faith that talks were progressing as planned. A deal was believed to be in place for May 18 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.
However, talks took a drastic turn when Fury and promoter Frank Warren dropped a pre-Valentines Day bombshell in entering a co-promotional agreement with Top Rank and for his fights to air exclusively on ESPN platforms in the United States.
Top Rank founder and CEO Bob Arum has for years held a contentious relationship with Al Haymon, Wilder’s career-long adviser and under whose Premier Boxing Champions (PBC) banner he’s fought since its inception in 2015. The current state of such relationship has Wilder fighting primarily on Showtime (and its Pay-Per-View arm) and Fox Sports, although the 33-year old Alabama native recently revealed his free agent status as it relates his being contractually bound to any particular network.
Such news caught the attention of Arum, whose Top Rank is the primary content provider for ESPN and ESPN+ where Fury’s future fights will take place, particularly his stateside appearances. The Hall of Fame promoter made a formal offer to Wilder’s team, including manager Shelly Finkel whom acknowledged receipt but declined to disclose the terms.
For the moment, it’s a moot point as Fury’s mind seemed made up from the moment he walked across the street.
There still exists the possibility of Wilder accepting terms to fight on ESPN+, even without a straightaway rematch. However, his loyalty to Haymon and to Showtime—both of whom have heavily invested into his career—will likely result in status quo and his career traveling in a path that for the foreseeable future won’t include a rematch with Fury.
Efforts to reach Wilder and his team went unreturned as this goes to publish.
Fury became the lineal heavyweight king following a Nov. ’15 upset win over long-reigning champion Wladimir Klitschko. As it relates to the slew of titles he collected in the process, none were successfully defended as he initially vacated the IBF strap in lieu of a mandatory defense versus Vyacheslav Glaskov to instead enter a rematch with Klitschko.
That battle never came about, as Fury was forced to twice postpone due to injury and cancel altogether while attempting to overcome drug and alcohol addiction and mental health issues which at one point left him suicidal.
A triumphant ring return was enjoyed some 31 months after his title win, coming back last June and scoring a pair of summer tune-up wins. It was enough to shake loose the cobwebs and excess baggage, as he felt fighting fit for a showdown with Wilder who was coming off of a rallying knockout win over Luis Ortiz last March.
Despite being held to a draw, Wilder still left their December bout with his title still intact. It was good for his eighth successful title defense. The next will likely come versus mandatory challenger Dominic Breazeale, who is still entertaining an interim title fight with Dillian Whyte but who could bypass that fight for a straightaway crack at Wilder.
“With this news on Wilder coming out, I can’t pass on a world title,” noted Breazeale, who is coming off of 9th round knockout of Carlos Negron last December.