Suddenly cast as a co-promoter of an unbeaten heavyweight he describes as a “generational talent,” Bob Arum on Monday admitted it might make the most sense to delay his fighter Tyson Fury’s rematch with Deontay Wilder until later this year.
“We envision this [rematch] can reach 1 to 2 million homes. The only way to do that is to allow the general sports fan to really get to know these guys,” Arum told the Los Angeles Times on Monday morning following the announcement by Top Rank and ESPN that they’ve aligned with Fury’s U.K.-based promoter, Frank Warren.
“If that takes each of them fighting another opponent first, then rolling them into a September fight, the money on the table then would be more than they can conceive of … that’s the way I look at it.”
Both men said at the post-fight news conference that they wanted an immediate rematch, and that momentum continued through last week, when Wilder’s manager, Shelly Finkel, Showtime Sports President Stephen Espinoza and World Boxing Council President Mauricio Sulaiman each indicated a deal for a May 18 bout was imminent before it would reach a scheduled purse bid this week.
Warren and Fury’s management, MTK Global, turned to Arum, who offered U.S. television exposure to the charismatic former three-belt champion Fury, 30, who touched many last year by overcoming alcohol, drug and food addiction following his 2015 upset of Wladimir Klitschko to stage a heroic 12th-round recovery from a knockdown against Wilder.
In discussing the pending deal between Fury’s and Wilder’s team, which includes Premier Boxing Champions head Al Haymon, an individual connected to the talks said Top Rank officials identified deal points unfavorable to Fury.
“They realized for him to be a star in the U.S., he’s going to need ESPN … now, they have the biggest platform in sports and can fight anybody to achieve that exposure,” Arum said. “Even Deontay Wilder should be celebrating this because it shows how sincere the involvement of ESPN in boxing is: They’re in with both feet.
“Those people who have a percentage of Wilder’s earnings should be overjoyed. This arrangement will drive him to more [pay-per-view] buys. He’ll make even more.”
That raises the question of what obligation Wilder owes to Showtime, which placed the December fight against Fury on pay-per-view.
While Espinoza did not immediately return messages left for him Monday morning, two individuals connected to the situation said they believe Showtime only retains the opportunity of last refusal to match an offer ESPN could present to televise the fight on its pay-per-view platform, which debuts in April with Terence Crawford defending his welterweight belt against England’s Amir Khan.
“If Wilder allows” loyalty to Showtime “to be an issue, he’s a fool,” Arum said. “Wilder should only be looking at how much he can make.”
If a deal fails to materialize for Fury to meet Wilder in the spring, Fury could perhaps be sent to fight secondary World Boxing Assn. champion Manuel Charr or one of Top Rank’s better heavyweights, including unbeaten Oscar Rivas.