Tyson Fury signs with Top Rank as fans clamor for Deontay Wilder rematch

Kevin IoleCombat columnist
Tyson Fury, of England, yells after his WBC heavyweight championship boxing match against Deontay Wilder on Dec. 1, 2018, in Los Angeles. The fight ended in a draw. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Tyson Fury, of England, yells after his WBC heavyweight championship boxing match against Deontay Wilder on Dec. 1, 2018, in Los Angeles. The fight ended in a draw. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

When the WBC mandated that heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder rematch Tyson Fury following their compelling Dec. 1 draw in Los Angeles, it did so with the provision that if talks went to a purse bid, there would be a 60-40 split in favor of Wilder instead of the usual 75-25 split.

The WBC suspended its planned purse bid because promoters for Wilder and Fury were closing in on a deal for a rematch.

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On Monday, the news that Fury had signed a promotional agreement in the U.S. with Top Rank seemingly threw a monkey wrench into those plans.

But what it may have done is simply give Fury promoter Frank Warren of Queensbury Promotions more ammunition to win a purse bid against Wilder and the PBC. Even if it doesn’t get to a purse bid, it provides Fury’s side leverage to push the talks forward.

Warren is allied with BT Sport in the United Kingdom, where Fury lives. By getting the promotional and financial muscle of Top Rank and its television partner, ESPN, in the U.S., Warren put himself in a better position to win the purse bid and control the bout, or at least get a stronger foothold in talks.

Boxing fans don’t care about who promotes a fight, though a good promoter can be important because it can widen a fighter’s appeal.

What fans care about is whether the fights they want to see happen, and so the verdict on this deal comes down to one thing: Do Fury and Wilder rematch as planned or not?

The heavyweight division is as deep and talented as it has been for years, and that along with Fury’s personality is what interested Top Rank president Todd duBoef.

When duBoef watched Fury’s interview on the “Joe Rogan Experience” podcast last year, he was fascinated and determined to work a deal to sign him to a promotional agreement.

“I think he brings such a huge personality, and personality is so big in this sport,” duBoef said. “But the good thing is, this guy can fight. He’s one of the significant players in the heavyweight division. To have an international guy with his charisma and personality and appeal to have the linear championship and have a lot of fights out there for him just magnifies the whole sport.”

The deal provides for Fury to fight twice a year in the U.S. DuBoef said that all of his television platforms, including ESPN, the online streaming service ESPN+ and pay-per-view, are in play for Fury.

Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder after their fight in Los Angeles. (Reuters)
Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder after their fight in Los Angeles. (Reuters)

The impact of the deal for U.S. fight fans will hinge upon whether the rematch happens. Wilder knocked Fury down twice in their first fight, and seemingly had him out in the 12th round, but Fury got to his feet and was fighting back at the end in as dramatic of a finish to a heavyweight title bout as there had been in decades.

The sport is fractured TV-wise, and nowhere is that more apparent than among the heavyweights, where IBF-WBA-WBC champion Anthony Joshua is signed with the streaming service DAZN, Wilder is with the Premier Boxing Champions, which does business with Showtime and Fox, and now Fury is with ESPN and BT.

That’s going to make it hard to put fights between them together because of the financial investment each side has in their deals.

The Wilder-Fury fight did 320,000 on pay-per-view in the U.S. and approximately 400,000 in the U.K. It is expected that number could rise, perhaps significantly, for a rematch given the way the first bout ended.

Fury captivated the media before the fight, as he spoke about his mental health issues, his incredible weight loss and his thoughts of suicide. At the post-fight news conference, Fury led media singing the Don McLean song, “American Pie.”

The promotional might of Top Rank and ESPN could push the fight into extraordinary numbers. But if the deal means that the rematch doesn’t occur and Fury fights lesser opponents on ESPN’s platforms, fans will be disgruntled and it will be little more than business as usual.

The verdict on this one remains to be seen, but while there is no reason for excessive gloom and doom, nor is there reason for wild celebration.

It’s up to the players involved to see and respect the wishes of the fans and the fighters and get the big bouts done. And that doesn’t just mean a Wilder-Fury rematch. It means a fight with Joshua down the road, as well.

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