Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury put the long-lagging heavyweight division back on the map last December when they fought to a disputed split draw at Staples Center.
The undefeated fighters each spent this year successfully stepping aside and winning a pair of bouts as they paved a path to meet again on an amplified promotion. In the interim, Anthony Joshua and Andy Ruiz entered the heavyweight picture and created further chaos in the sport’s glamour division, with Joshua righting his catastrophic wrong from June earlier this month by avenging his lone loss to Ruiz to regain four versions (WBO, WBA, IBF, IBO) of the heavyweight title.
Another division-defining rematch is in store on Feb. 22 as Wilder (42-0-1, 41 KOs), the WBC heavyweight champion, will take on Fury (29-0-1, 20 KOs), the lineal champion, in a rematch at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. For the first time ever, a boxing match will be a joint pay-per-view on Fox and ESPN Plus.
“I’m happy and excited that the rematch is finally happening,” Wilder said. “I proved myself the first time and I’m ready to do it again. It was a very controversial fight. I promise my fans that there won’t be any controversy with this one. I’m going to finish it.”
“There’s no more ducking and diving,” added Fury. “The date has been set, and the ‘Bomb Squad’ is about to be securely detonated and the real champion crowned as the world watches on for the most anticipated fight in years. This is unfinished business for me, but come Feb. 22, this dosser will finally get what’s coming to him, and I can’t wait.”
The particulars announced Thursday for the encore showing are no surprise. Fury originally announced the date in August on ESPN programming while they each still had unfinished business in front of them.
Wilder, a 34-year-old Alabaman and 2008 Olympic bronze medalist, arguably took the harder route to the rematch via opposition, yet still scored two knockout of the year candidates while doing so against Dominic Breazeale in May and Luis Ortiz in November.
The 31-year-old British Fury, who signed a $100-million deal with Top Rank in February to further build his U.S. profile, faced unheralded fighters, first with Tom Schwarz in June, disposing him in two rounds with a technical knockout. His September fight against Otto Wallin was surprisingly more challenging, as Fury fought through a nasty gash over his right eye that required nearly four dozen stitches en route to a unanimous decision win.
The severity of the injury led to questions whether the cut could heal in due time, or create a postponement.
As Fury recovered with a sabbatical in WWE, he went off script and shook up his corner earlier this month, amicably parting ways with trainer Ben Davison. Fury assigned coaching duties to Javan “Sugar” Hill Steward instead, a nephew and disciple of the late great trainer Emanuel Steward.
The 27-year-old Davison was responsible for Fury’s miraculous comeback after a 2 ½ year spiral away from boxing once he beat Wladimir Klitschko in 2015. Fury ballooned to 400 pounds and battled drugs, alcohol and depression that led to a suicide attempt before bouncing back and returning to the ring in 2018.
After two tune-ups, Fury faced Wilder and outboxed him the entire fight, outpunching him 84 to 71. Wilder, however, scored a knockdown in the ninth and 12th rounds to rally on the scorecards and secure a draw. Fury survived the last knockdown in miraculous fashion, lifting himself off the canvas to finish the fight.
Longtime rivals Bob Arum, head of Top Rank, and Al Haymon, head of PBC, are remarkably doing business together after years of stalemates pitting their best fighters against one another.
They’ll have the megaphones of both ESPN and Fox, the latter of which will broadcast the Super Bowl on Feb. 2, to promote the rematch in unprecedented fashion with multi-platform shoulder programming.
Arum, Fury’s promoter, is anticipating over two million PPV purchases and $100 million in revenue for the rematch, which would make the rematch one of the most successful and lucrative heavyweight fights of all time, right next to the Mike Tyson versus Lennox Lewis fight in 2002 ($110 million; 1.97 million PPV buys), and the 1997 rematch between Tyson and Evander Holyfield ($100 million; 1.99 million PPV buys).
The first fight between Wilder and Fury generated approximately 325,000 PPV buys on Showtime.