World Boxing Council President Mauricio Sulaiman announced Tuesday that Tyson Fury has decided to pursue a fight other than a rematch with unbeaten champion Deontay Wilder.
Following a thrilling Dec. 1 draw saved both by Wilder’s 12th-round knockdown of Fury and Fury’s stirring rise from the canvas at Staples Center, all the momentum and willingness from both sides seemed apparent to stage a second bout in the first half of this year.
Then, at the eleventh hour of negotiations to set a May 18 date in Las Vegas or New York, unbeaten Fury on Feb. 18 entered into a co-promotional deal with veteran promoter Bob Arum’s Top Rank and ESPN, agreeing to two U.S. fights per year.
After the Fury camp had revealed some points that troubled Top Rank about the impending Wilder deal, Arum painted a gloomy scene about jumping quickly back into a rematch between the unbeatens.
“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 said last week. “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.”
“He [Fury] doesn’t want the fight,” said one high-ranking official who requested anonymity because of the financial stakes of the negotiations.
At a moment the heavyweight division was moving toward a revival with three unbeaten champions in its midst, Fury’s move further splinters that cause.
Fury fights for Top Rank/ESPN, Wilder with PBC/Showtime and Fox, and unbeaten three-belt champion Anthony Joshua fights for Matchroom Boxing/DAZN.
Sulaiman, after extending a deadline for the ordered fight to get made, reported on Twitter Tuesday that “[Wilder] vs. [Fury] is officially not happening next. The WBC has received communications, as our process, and while WBC Champion Wilder confirmed [his] willingness to fight the rematch, Fury will take on another fight with expectations to do [a] rematch at a later date.”
Top Rank formally informed the WBC in an email that Fury intends to take the interim fight, with one company official saying Tuesday that a date in May or June makes sense.
Wilder, meanwhile, could turn to former title challenger Dominic Breazeale of Southern California for his next bout, or take a rematch with Cuba’s Luis Ortiz, who fights Saturday at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.