Tyson Fury ESPN deal: A powerful alliance throws Deontay Wilder rematch into drama and doubt

 In one awful moment of realisation, all the colourful rumours of a Wilder rematch simply vanished

Steve Bunce
Monday 18 February 2019 16:51 GMT
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Tyson Fury: 'Deontay Wilder is a big, useless dosser'

The complex fabric of a Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder rematch changed forever on Monday when it was revealed that Frank Warren, Bob Arum, BT and ESPN had formed a powerful alliance.

It meant, in one awful moment of realisation, that all the colourful rumours of a Wilder rematch and bold talk of a deal being secured in private to avoid the unpredictable drama of a proposed purse bid, simply vanished.

“I want Wilder, I still want a Wilder, but I would also take [Anthony] Joshua and I have more chance of getting them with this deal,” Fury insisted.

Fury will fight next in America, the first of three fights this year, and it could, in theory, be Wilder, the WBC heavyweight champion, in the opposite corner; the new deal, however, gives Fury a lot more power and influence at the table when his people sit down with Wilder’s people.

Wilder’s people - a glorious term in the boxing trade - only found out about the new deal when Warren made it public on Monday morning. It is a huge collaboration in the boxing industry.

Fury will still be promoted by Warren in Britain, screened live in America on ESPN, live on BT here and Arum will work with Warren as the American promoter - Warren and Arum first worked together in 1985 when Welshman Colin Jones fought Donald Curry for the welterweight world title.

“The story continues,” said Fury. “After the anxiety, the weight I gained, the depression, the drinking and the drugs - it’s a Cinderella story and it is not over. I’m nearly seven-foot tall, weighed nearly 30-stone and I came out with the mental health issues. I’m fighting for more than just boxing.”

Warren resurrected Fury’s career last year, watching with care and experience over the loss of nine stone in fat and the struggles to clear the scramble inside the fallen boxer’s head. Warren has sat in vigil over troubled fighters before and knew that a slimmer waistline would not necessarily be enough magic to convert the wayward fighter for a long run at the championship. “He has changed his life totally to get where he is today - that is a different man,” said Warren.

Fury has become a superstar in the US since beating the 10-count in the 12th round in Los Angeles (Getty ) (Getty)

Fury worked in solitude for a year with his new coach, Ben Davison, and from boxing’s wilderness the gentle construction of the toppled giant took place. In many ways the work was completed when Fury rose from the canvas in the final two-minutes of the 12th round last December; it was a sensation and American interest in the 'Gypsy King', as Fury is known, was tremendous. The fight was scored a draw, but Fury left the ring a star after that long night in Tinsel Town. He entered a big man, but left the ring an even bigger man and that is the reason for the new deal.

Arum first promoted Muhammad Ali in the Sixties and has staged some of the sport’s greatest fights on a regular basis ever since. Arum has an established, and often bitter, rivalry with a man called Al Harmon and Haymon is Wilder’s promoter.

The harsh truth is that Fury’s future world title fights, certainly the big ones, will take place in America because that is where heavyweights behind the scenes slug it out for the right deal in proper 50-50 fights.

The new deal means that Warren and Fury will have the crucial backing from both Arum and ESPN, huge sentinels in their arenas, when and if they sit down with Haymon to find agreeable terms for the rematch. It is known that several issues were proving difficult to solve and that the extensions to the negotiating period offered by the WBC were proving equally fruitless.

There has not been any dialogue between the rival teams for a week and that silence interrupted a period when rumours suggested the fight was made, secured, signed.

On Monday at BT there were still plenty of people expecting Wilder to walk in, but that hope finished when the posters for Arum’s iconic Top Rank company and ESPN’s logo were suddenly illuminated as a backdrop. It was the equivalent of showing a ghoul the cross.

“It’s been one of the best kept secrets in boxing,” said Warren, who has pulled some stunning stunts previously to shock the gathered media. “It was important that nobody knew about this deal - this deal changed everything.”

So, no Wilder and Fury fight announcement just yet, but when it is finally made it will be agreed over many, many hours of talks and will be a better deal for Fury - the fighting bit just might be the easy bit.

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