Deontay Wilder said something that might otherwise get lost in the flurry of quips and one-liners he uttered Tuesday as he announced the next defense of his WBC heavyweight title will be May 18 against Dominic Breazeale on Showtime.
Far too often in modern boxing, business deals overtake what is happening, or should happen, in the ring.
And while it’s important that fighters who risk their lives be compensated appropriately, the constant drumbeat about money and business can be off-putting to those who simply yearn to see exciting matches involving the best fighters in the world.
Wilder declined a four-fight, $120 million deal with DAZN that would have paid him $40 million apiece for two fights with IBF-WBA-WBO heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua, $20 million for the fight with Breazeale and $20 million to fight another opponent after the two Joshua bouts. The money was guaranteed and Wilder would have been paid had he lost all four bouts.
There is no fight which would be better for the overall health of the sport than an undisputed heavyweight title bout between Wilder and Joshua. Battle fatigue, though, is beginning to set in as the business advisers argue over the arrangements necessary to get them into the ring against each other.
Much of the narrative coming out of Tuesday’s news conference is about Wilder’s choice to turn down the DAZN deal and how much money he left on the table.
It is reminiscent of former heavyweight champion Hasim Rahman in 2001, when Rahman turned down a lucrative long-term deal with HBO to accept a rematch with Lennox Lewis on a one-fight deal. Rahman was knocked out in the fourth round and never approached the kind of payday he would have gotten had he accepted HBO’s offer.
The fight to make, clearly, was Wilder-Joshua, but given the finish of the Wilder-Tyson Fury fight, negotiations were ongoing to make that rematch until Top Rank signed Fury. Less than a week later, it announced Fury would not do an immediate rematch with Wilder. That left Wilder without an obvious opponent and Breazeale fit the bill.
Wilder vs. Breazeale seemed targeted for pay-per-view, particularly when offers to Wilder made his purse swell above eight figures.
“As long as my management team and I are happy with the money and the terms and everything is right, why should the fans care about how much I’m making or how much I could have made somewhere else?” Wilder said. “The fans should be happy. I don’t think the fans should be worrying about where the money is coming from or if I left this on the table or I’m overpaid or underpaid or not paid. They should worry about getting the fight they want to see and just enjoying boxing.
“A lot of people are getting excited about boxing again and the heavyweight division is lit. This sport is almost at an all-time high. It’s a beautiful time to be a fighter, especially an elite heavyweight.”
It is important for the best fights to be made as regularly as possible, but the good news is that there is no impediment to making a Wilder-Joshua fight after Wilder finishes with Breazeale and Joshua defends his belts against Jarrell “Big Baby” Miller on June 1 at Madison Square Garden.
Wilder noted he is a free agent again after the Breazeale fight and can commence negotiations with Joshua, or Fury, for a bout.
Wilder-Breazeale rivalry dates back to 2017
There is a contentious rivalry between Wilder and Breazeale that dates back to an altercation in a Birmingham, Alabama, hotel between them after they both won fights on a 2017 Fox card. Wilder stopped Gerald Washington and Breazeale stopped Izu Ugonoh. They have different versions of what occurred, but the result is that there is great bitterness as a result and they didn’t mince words.
“I’m one of those guys who’s sick of seeing this bum walk around with that belt,” said Breazeale, who announced he’s now being trained by the estimable Virgil Hunter. “I’ll put him on his ass. Everyone who is sitting in their seat will be rising up when I knock him down.”
Wilder uttered his own version of trash talk and vowed to hurt Breazeale.
“I love this sport, but payback in this sport is [an expletive],” Wilder said. “Pain is the name of the game in this sport. And we all know who does that the best! It’s me, and it’s legal. I get paid to do it!”
Wilder’s right, though. There are plenty of good things happening in boxing, and focusing on business deals takes the attention away from a lot of it.
Having two fighters with a combined record of 61-1-1 with a combined 57 knockouts talking trash to each other and vowing to knock the other cold is what gets the fan base riled up and energized.
He pointed out he’s scored at least one knockdown in each of his 41 professional fights, and said that he doesn’t believe it will end on May 18.
“The things I’ve done, no one I’m aware of has ever done,” Wilder said. “To be able to knock guys out, and in every fight I’ve fought, they’ve ended up on the canvas, that’s something we haven’t seen before. No matter if they’ve gotten up, because they’ve been there. To me, it’s a remarkable accomplishment for anyone, but especially for me coming from where I came from.
“Alabama’s no place to go find fighters. I was a rare breeze that blew out of there. I just took to this sport and I lifted my country, my city and my state along with me as I moved up. I developed this enormous power and I have become the most significant, most important voice in the sport. The road to riches in the heavyweight division rides through me. You have plans to be somebody in the heavyweight division, you know that sooner or later, you’re going to have to confront me.”
Breazeale will most definitely confront him head-on May 18.
It’s a lot better than listening to promoters, managers and television executives argue the merits of contract offers and television deals.
This is the fight game. Let’s not forget to keep the fighting part front and center.
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