Wilder-Fury 2 Pay Per View: An Unusual Network Alliance
By: Sean Crose
After Tyson Fury, the man many consider to still be the lineal heavyweight champion of the world, fought WBC heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder to a wild draw in December of 2018, it was assumed that a rematch was in order. Then, in the first part of 2019, Fury signed up with Bob Arum’s Top Rank Promotions. This led people to question if and when a rematch with Wilder would happen, as Top Rank fighters are aligned with ESPN while Wilder, who is with Al Haymon’s Premiere Boxing Champions’ organization, fights on Showtime and Fox. According to Haymon Boxing’s Timothy Smith, however, a rematch had already been prepared for before Fury aligned with Top Rank.
“You have to remember,” states Smith, “that the frame work of the agreement between Wilder and Fury had been worked out before Top Rank and ESPN came on board.” In other words, everyone involved with both Fury and Wilder were probably well aware that a rematch was in serious play before Fury made the step over to Top Rank and ESPN. It was simply a matter of competing networks and promotional outlets actually coming together. And now, with the Wilder-Fury rematch set for February 22nd, it’s clear that they have. For the fight will be co-promoted by both Premiere Boxing Champions (PBC) and Top Rank, while the Pay Per View broadcast will be presented by both Fox and ESPN.
The entire arrangement is unusual for a variety of reasons. First, boxing is a sport that’s in a state of perpetual civil war, with promoters and their network allies battling each other for supremacy of the fans and the airwaves. Unlike the UFC, where top MMA fighters battle under the same tent, boxing often sees its own top fighters unable or unwilling to meet in the ring because of personal and professional loyalties. Differing parties haven’t come together for an event as big as Wilder-Fury 2 since the Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao superfight was arranged well after its sell by date in 2015. It’s also unusual for networks to broadcast the same sports programming. In fact, it’s virtually unheard of. Big boxing, however, is nothing if not big business. And big rewards have a way of bringing professional entities together.
“The Deontay Wilder – Tyson Fury rematch is going to be one of the biggest and most exciting fights in boxing for a long, long time,” Bill Wanger, FOX Sports executive vice president, head of programming and scheduling, says. “Both fighters wanted to prove they actually won the fight and that made it easy to put together. FOX Sports and the PBC understand the implications and are excited to be working with the other parties involved to deliver the fight the fans want and to help grow boxing.” There’s little doubt that the fascinating nature of both Fury, and Wilder, as well as their memorable first battle, made it easier for everyone to sit down and come to an agreement for the rematch.
For Wilder is a boisterous, thunderously hard hitting American. Tall, lean, and outspoken, the man is, simply put, a thrilling fighter to watch. His performances are the stuff of highlight reel legend. The way Wilder puts opponents on the mat makes the Alabaman as frightening as he is entertaining. Fury, on the other hand, was actually able to remarkably arise from one of Wilder’s howitzer like punches. He’s also at least as boisterous as Wilder is. An enormous Irish Gypsy from England, Fury is slick, and has an impressive story of successfully dealing with mental illness and substance abuse. Throw in the fact that each man has, along with Anthony Joshua, completely reinvigorated the heavyweight division, and the decision of each camp to successfully work with the other for Wilder-Fury 2 becomes clear.
And so, with two major networks and two top boxing entities behind it, the Widler-Fury 2 Pay Per View promotional effort aims to achieve gold. Or perhaps even platinum. Although there’s been some over top predictions made as to how many eyeballs this fight will draw, no one will likely argue that it wasn’t effectively promoted. The prep work will have been done. It will be up to the fighters themselves to satisfy the viewers come fight night. If a collaboration like this pays off, the future might be particularly bright for those who wish to make similar arrangements in the future. If the fight is a dud, the way many felt Mayweather-Pacquiao was, however…