Top Rank looking to sign Deontay Wilder to fight on ESPN
By Mike Smith: Top Rank Boxing has reportedly made a multi-fight offer to WBC heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder to have him come over to ESPN to fight Tyson Fury in a rematch in the fall of this year, according to Dan Rafael.
Top Rank boss Bob Arum sent an offer to Wilder’s co-manager Shelly Finkel for the multi-fight deal. If Wilder (40-0-1, 39 KOs) agrees to the deal, he and Fury (27-0-1, 19 KOs) would both be fighting interim fights this summer on the ESPN+ platform, which is looking to build up, before facing each other in the fall. It’s unknown who Top Rank would want Wilder and Fury to fight in their interim fights in the summer.
It’s believed that it would likely be one of Top Rank’s own heavyweights that they promote, which could mean that Wilder or Fury would need to beat the like of Bryant Jennings, Joseph Parker, Kubrat Pulev or Oscar Rivas. Those aren’t easy fights for Wilder or Fury. Things could go very wrong for Top Rank if Wilder or Fury lose their interim fights. Arum already had a bad experience when he tried to marinate the Juan Manuel Lopez vs. Yuriorkis Gamboa fight years ago. Lopez ended up losing twice to Orlando Salido, and the Lopez-Gamboa never took place. Interim fights only make sense when you’re going to put a fighter in against over-matched opposition. Jennings, Pulev, Rivas and Parker are guys that might beat Fury and Wilder. Those aren’t gimmes.
“They made an offer. I wrote back that we received it,” Wilder’s co-manager Shelly Finkel said to ESPN.com. “We will review it and we will respond. If we are amenable to the offer, we will be able to get something done. If the terms are amenable to us, something will happen. If not, it won’t.”
Wilder and Fury were deep in negotiations for a rematch on May 18 when Top Rank Boxing pulled off a shocker this week in signing the 30-year-old Fury to a multi-fight deal, which is rumored to be worth an estimated $100 million. Fury going over to Top Rank to fight on ESPN is a game changer suddenly. The negotiation points are now likely to change dramatically for a Wilder vs. Fury II rematch. Not only will the rematch be potentially delayed until November or December, but the terms are expected to be different. Wilder could have gotten a 60-40 split of the purse for the rematch with Fury, but now things are different Fury is rumored to have rejected a 50-50 split for the rematch with the 6’7″ Wilder. If that’s true, then it means that Fury, as the lineal champion, will be looking to get the bigger purse split that Wilder. Of course, if Wilder signs the multi-fight deal with Top Rank Boxing, then could change things.
Wilder revealed this week that he’s a promotional free agent, which is the reason why he’s now being given an offer by Top Rank to fight on ESPN. Wilder had been fighting on SHOWTIME. It’s unknown if Wilder is a promotional free agent or not. Finkel, and Wilder’s other co-managers Al Haymon and Jay Deas will need to look at his contract with SHOWTIME to see if he is a free agent or not. If Wilder isn’t a free agent, then putting a fight together with Fury will be more complicated potentially, because the Wilder-Fury II rematch would need to be televised on SHOWTIME as well as ESPN PPV.
Wilder fought Fury to a 12 round draw on December 1 last year at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California. The judges scored the fight 115-111 for Wilder, 114-112 for Fury and 113-113. Fury was getting the better of Wilder during most of the fight, but he tired out in the championship rounds and was dropped in the 9th and 12th rounds. Wilder knocked Fury down hard in the 12th after hitting him with a big right hand followed quickly by a left hook. Fury was already falling down from the right hand that Wilder smashed him with. The left hook that Wilder connected on while Fury was falling knocked him senseless. Fury laid on the canvas looking out cold, but the referee Jack Reiss chose not to stop the fight. He used an old school approach to the knockdown by giving a count to the unconscious-looking Fury. Somehow, Fury was able to get back to his feet and beat the count.
If Wilder signs a multi-fight deal with Top Rank Boxing for his fights to be shown on the ESPN platform, it’s going to make things tough for an eventual unification fight against IBF/WBA/WBO champion Anthony Joshua, who is signed with Matchroom Sport promoter Eddie Hearn, and fights on DAZN. To negotiate the Wilder-Joshua or Joshua-Fury fights will be harder, and maybe not even possible given the lack of popularity for Joshua in the U.S.
Two networks in the U.S sharing a fight involving Joshua isn’t a guarantee of huge success for either one of them. It’s still too early. For a dual network broadcast to do well with a unifcation fight involving Joshua, it would require more time for him to become known to the U.S boxing fans, and to become a star like Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather Jr. Their fight in 2015 was shown on HBO and SHOWTIME. The reason the fight did so well on both networks was due to their popularity. They had both been fighting in the U.S for years before they fought each other. Joshua is about to have his first fight in the U.S against American Jarrell ‘Big Baby’ Miller, who isn’t popular, and likely ever will be. Miller has some boxing fans in the New York area, but his popularity is low level to say the least.
Joshua would need to fight a lot longer than just one or two fights for him to become popular enough in the U.S for a dual network unification fight involving him and the Wilder-Fury II winner to be a huge success. Given the big rush that Joshua is in to fight Wilder or Fury this year, the fight will likely not be big enough for it to be worthwhile for two networks to carry it. That means the big unification fight involving Joshua and the Wilder vs. Fury 2 winner may not take place in 2019. If Arum gets his way with the Wilder-Fury II rematch taking place in the fall, the Joshua definitely won’t be taking place this year. It can’t. Arum wants Wilder and Fury to take interim fights in the summer before they face each other in the winter.
For Wilder, this is good news that he could get a nice contract with Top Rank Boxing. However, if Wilder’s contract is smaller than the one that Top Rank gave to Fury for him to fight on ESPN, that could be a stumbling block to signing the Alabama star. Wilder will likely similar money to what Fury is getting. As the WBC champion of four years, Wilder would seem to be worth more than Fury, who is arguably a flash in the pan from his big upset win over 40-yer-old Wladimir Klitschko from their fight in November 2015. Fury easily would have lost that fight if Wladimir had thrown some punches, but he fought in a timid way the entire match, and ended up losing a close decision.