By Jake Donovan
The brass at Showtime has taken great pride in maintaining an industry stance as the leading destination for today’s heavyweight landscape. No prouder moment came than with its coverage of the memorable 12-round draw between Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury.
It hardly meant the staff was content to bask in the glow of the aftermath.
In a surprise move, the U.S. cable giant has secured stateside broadcasting rights for this weekend’s heavyweight rematch between Dillian Whyte and Dereck Chisora. The event will air live from The O2 in London on its flagship network (Saturday, 5:30p ET) in the US and on Sky Sports in the United Kingdom.
The event will serve as a one-bout telecast in regards to Showtime’s coverage. The rest of the show—including Cristofer Rosales’ flyweight title defense versus Charlie Edwards—will be limited to UK televised coverage on Sky Sports Box Office, which is carrying the Whyte-Chisora II PPV in its entirety.
The bout serves as a rematch to their Dec. ’16 thriller, with Whyte (24-1, 17KOs) claiming a split decision win in a back-and-forth battle that warranted year-end awards consideration.
“SHOWTIME continues to lead the industry by delivering more of the most compelling boxing events from around the world to our premium cable subscribers and online streaming customers,” said Stephen Espinoza, president of Showtime Sports in a statement released through the network’s press office. “This network has televised all of the most important heavyweight fights during the division’s renaissance and we are proud to join Matchroom Sports in delivering Whyte-Chisora II to our audience.
“Their first fight was action-packed from bell to bell. Now, with the stakes as high as they have ever been for both men, this bout promises to be even better. I hope that the boxing pundits have not yet cast their vote for Fight, Knockout and Round of the Year. Saturday’s matchup may challenge some of this year’s best.”
Chisora (29-8, 21KOs) has won three of his last four starts since then, including an 8th round knockout of Carlos Takam, in supporting capacity to Whyte’s 12-round win over former heavyweight titlist Joseph Parker also at The O2 this past July.
The wins were enough to prompt the brass at Matchroom Boxing to once again pair the two in the ring, this time raising the stakes. The winner is widely believed to land a coveted title shot versus unbeaten, unified titlist Anthony Joshua, who is currently tabbed to return next April 13 at Wembley Stadium in London.
With Joshua and promoter Eddie Hearn having since moved over to DAZN, it was widely believed that the sports streaming platform would serve as the primary provider to all things Matchroom Boxing.
However, a development first reported by BoxingScene.com senior writer Keith Idec revealed that the relationship between Hearn and DAZN apparently doesn’t exclusively extend to its UK content.
It also raises interest in how deep Showtime can continue to delve into to the once-again thriving heavyweight landscape.
The network has been a major stakeholder in the heavyweight rebirth dating back to Deontay Wilder’s Jan. ’15 title-winning effort over Bermane Stiverne in their first fight. At the time, Wladimir Klitschko still served as the lineal champion, having also possessed every other piece of major heavyweight hardware aside from Wilder’s belt and with his bouts carried by then-industry rival HBO.
That changed in a very big way following Klitschko’s upset loss to Tyson Fury in Nov. ’15 and its subsequent fallout—Fury being stripped of a title and their twice-canceled rematch never coming to fruition leaving HBO in the dust and every other title up for grabs.
Showtime was the ultimate benefactor, pairing a vacant title fight between Charles Martin and Vyacheslav Glazkov on the undercard of Wilder’s title defense versus Artur Szpilka in Jan. ’16. Martin ultimately won the title via 3rd round injury stoppage, a move that paved the way for Joshua to enter the title picture.
The unbeaten Brit—who captured a Gold medal for Great Britain in the 2012 London Olympics—began a two-year run with Showtime in his two-round destruction of Martin in April ’16. The bout was the first of six straight that would air live on the U.S. premium cable outlet, a run that saw Joshua collect three alphabet titles including his epic off-the-canvas knockout victory over Klitschko in their 2017 Fight of the Year-level war and the not-so-thrilling but still effective 12-round win over Joseph Parker to become a three-belt titlist this past March.
The latter win came four weeks after Wilder survived some very rocky moments to eventually stop previously unbeaten Luis Ortiz in their March 3 war in Brooklyn. The two dates were scheduled by design, with hopes that it would lead to an eventual collision for all the heavyweight marbles later in the year.
It didn’t quite work out that way, as Joshua and Hearn instead took its services to DAZN. Joshua’s knockout win over Alexander Povetkin steered the platform’s maiden voyage in the US market this past September.
The move prompted Showtime to throw its support behind another unbeaten Britiish heavyweight in Fury.
Battling through drug and alcohol addiction and severe mental health issues, Fury enjoyed a triumphant ring return this past June in a knockout win over Sefer Seferi. His first fight since a career-defining win over Klitschko some 31 months prior was streamed live on Showtime’s YouTube channel, as was Fury’s subsequent 10-round nod over Francesco Pianeta in August.
The latter bout was far more pertinent to Showtime’s investment in his services, as it paved the way for his memorable clash with Wilder who was seated ringside that night and joined Fury in the ring immediately after the final bell. Their battle was announced a few weeks later, their December 1 instant classic headlining the first Showtime Pay-Per-View in the post-Floyd Mayweather era—and their first PPV that didn’t involve Mayweather since 2011.
Despite their eventual stalemate sparking wide debate as to whom really deserved the nod, the event generated worldwide buzz and a groundswell of support for an immediate rematch. It was a welcomed escape from dragged out “will they/won’t they” talks—or lack thereof—between Joshua and Wilder.
While Showtime remains entrenched in the Deontay Wilder business, Saturday’s rematch landing on Showtime rather than DAZN, the next question would be just who will get to hold the stateside rights to Joshua’s next ring appearance.
Any other answer than the one previously assumed makes this latest development a potential game-changer.