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LAS VEGAS — We are about to learn how much the value of promotion is worth for a boxing match in 2020.
On Dec. 1, 2018, Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury met at Staples Center in Los Angeles for the WBC and lineal heavyweight titles. At the time, they both had perfect records. The fight, on Showtime Pay-Per-View, did a little over 300,000 buys.
They will rematch on Saturday at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, with only their 2018 draw sullying their records. The pay-per-view is a joint production of Fox and ESPN, which have teamed with Top Rank and the Premier Boxing Champions to put on a promotion unprecedented in reach and scope.
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There was a live news conference last month on Fox, that was simulcast on ESPNews. Fox is in more than 110 million homes. The final news conference on Wednesday was broadcast live on ESPN2 and Fox Sports 1. On Saturday, ABC will broadcast a live preview show. That’s another network in over 100 million homes.
It doesn’t stop there. ABC is going to show Saturday’s fighter arrivals on tape during the broadcast of the Milwaukee Bucks-Philadelphia 76ers game. And on “SportsCenter,” they plan to show the ring walks of both Fury and Wilder live, which might entice a few last minute buyers.
Fury appeared during ESPN’s coverage of the college football national championship game. Wilder was on the Super Bowl pregame show and worked Radio Row ahead of the big game. There were eight commercial spots during the Super Bowl, some in the pregame, some during the game and some in the postgame.
All of the major talk shows on ESPN have had fight-related coverage, and its biggest stars, including Stephen A. Smith, have been a part of the promotion. Fox Sports 1 also had several of its shows on site at the MGM Grand that have had Wilder and Fury on. On Wednesday, the champions appeared on Fox’s “The Masked Singer,” which according to Nielsen had 7.1 million viewers and performed above average in all key demographics.
Fight weeks in Las Vegas generally kick off on Tuesday with a fighter arrival ceremony. An MGM Grand spokeswoman said the media turnout for it was the largest she could remember.
The promotion has been so comprehensive that gas pumps which have video screens in Las Vegas have been playing highlights of their first fight with an ad for ticket sales.
There are less than a thousand tickets remaining and the paid gate is on track to surpass the record for a heavyweight fight in the U.S. which is currently held by Lennox Lewis-Evander Holyfield 2 on Nov. 13, 1999 at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas.
The fight has gotten so much into the mainstream that presidential candidate Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota referenced it during the Democratic debate on Tuesday.
The question, of course, is whether it translates into pay-per-view sales.
Promoter Bob Arum is a master of hyperbole, but he is convinced it will exceed two million.
“If we were in the old days when HBO and Showtime were doing [the pay-per-views], it would have been crazy to say a fight like this could do two million,” Arum said. “But because of Fox and ESPN and what I knew they were planning to do to promote the fight, I always believed we had a shot to equal or exceed two million buys. I’m more confident than ever now that we will surpass two million.”
Those who buy will be treated to perhaps the most significant fight in the heavyweight division since Lewis and Mike Tyson fought in Memphis, Tennessee, in 2002.
Who wins rematch in Deontay Wilder vs. Tyson Fury?
The first bout was as dramatic as can be, with Wilder scoring a 12th round knockdown that left Showtime play-by-play man Mauro Ranallo shrieking, “Deontay Wilder has done it!” But Fury shocked Wilder, Ranallo and every other person who watched the fight when he beat referee Jack Reiss’ count and survived.
Judges scored it three different ways. Robert Tapper had it eight rounds to four, 114-112, for Fury. Alejandro Rochin had it seven rounds to five, 115-111, for Wilder. And Phil Edwards had it seven rounds to five for Fury, but because of the knockdowns had it 113-113. The result was a split draw.
My standard in picking a winner in a fight if the boxers are even talent-wise is to default toward the boxer, in this case Fury.
Fury said the other day that boxers tend to win 90 percent of the boxer versus slugger fights, and while that number is probably quite a bit high, one would never lose money over the long term by betting on the boxer in such cases.
Wilder remains a slight favorite, at -130, at the MGM Grand Sports Book. Fury is at +110.
Despite the history of success by boxers against sluggers, I’m going against my own strategy and picking Wilder. His footwork is vastly underrated and he’s able to quickly get into punching position and deliver his powerful shots. And while much has been made of the power in his right hand, he also has one-punch KO power with the left.
Fury is probably going to try to back Wilder up because sluggers are used to moving forward and because if Wilder is defending, he won’t be throwing that right hand as much.
It’s a risky strategy because if he’s not moving, it will be easier for Wilder to find him.
Fury will win six or seven of the first nine rounds, but Wilder will connect in the back half of the fight and eventually stop Fury.
I’m going to go with Wilder by a stoppage in the 10th.
More Wilder-Fury 2 coverage from Yahoo Sports: