By Keith Idec
Bob Arum is more than open to Tyson Fury fighting Deontay Wilder next.
The Hall-of-Fame promoter just needs to know how willing those that work with Deontay Wilder will be to work with his company and ESPN to make that immediate rematch happen. Now that Arum’s Top Rank Inc. has signed England’s Fury to a multi-fight agreement for the lineal heavyweight champion to box on ESPN in the United States, he’ll help co-promoter Frank Warren decide Fury’s next move.
A deal nearly was finalized late last week for Fury (27-0-1, 19 KOs) to challenge Wilder (40-0-1, 39 KOs) for his WBC title again May 18 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Those working on Wilder’s behalf believed that the deal would be consummated soon and announced perhaps as early as sometime this week.
That all changed when ESPN issued a press release Monday morning to announce Fury’s new partnership with Top Rank and ESPN. Those two companies formed an exclusive content alliance in June 2017.
“It could be next,” Arum told BoxingScene.com regarding the Wilder-Fury rematch. “We don’t know. We’re not gonna be playing around with anybody. But if everybody is reasonable and wants to do what I think is right for the fighters and the fans, it’ll get done. But again, ESPN – you can talk about promoters and this and that – but ESPN is no schlock outfit. ESPN is the big leagues, and we’re playing in the big leagues now, not with people are that are advisers and promoters and you don’t know what they are. This signals, I think, a new day.”
The 87-year-old Arum acknowledged that an immediate rematch with Wilder is the most profitable fight Fury can take at the moment. Arum also made it clear that unless he and Warren get can what they want for Fury to fight the hard-hitting Wilder again, Fury has other options he can explore.
Top Rank recently signed Bulgarian contender Kubrat Pulev to a co-promotional agreement. The 36-year-old Pulev (26-1, 13 KOs) has lost only to retired former champion Wladimir Klitschko (64-5, 53 KOs), whom Fury upset in November 2015 to win the IBF, IBO, WBA and WBO championships in Dusseldorf, Germany.
Wilder, meanwhile, knocked down Fury in the ninth and 12th rounds of their December 1 fight at Staples Center in Los Angeles. Until Monday morning, they appeared headed toward an immediate rematch May 18.
Now Arum and other Top Rank employees will begin negotiating with Wilder’s team, which consists of adviser Al Haymon and co-managers Jay Deas and Shelly Finkel.
“That’s a fight that should happen,” Arum said, referring to the Wilder-Fury rematch. “But again, it’s not the end of the world. It has to happen and it has to happen on the terms that make sense for us, for the fighters, for ESPN. I mean, let’s be honest about it – Showtime did a very good job for boxing when it was Showtime and HBO. But this is past the era of Showtime and HBO. Showtime and HBO are great entertainment channels, but they play to a relatively small audience and an older audience.
“And therefore, their megaphones are not what a megaphone is for a sports network that programs on multiple channels 24 hours a day. Now, with ESPN being the megaphone, any pay-per-view fight worth its salt, like a Fury-Wilder fight, will out-perform anything that they had before. This is a different, different era that we’re getting into, and we’re not playing around with the old way things were done.”
ESPN, a basic cable channel, is available in approximately 86 million homes in the United States. Showtime, a premium cable network, has roughly 27 million American subscribers.
CBS, which owns BoxingScene.com, is Showtime’s parent company as well. CBS reaches nearly 120 million homes in the United States.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.