Bob Arum believes Deontay Wilder-Tyson Fury rematch can surpass 2 million PPV buys
Arum has already set some lofty expectations for the WBC heavyweight title rematch
When lineal champion Tyson Fury announced a co-promotional deal with Top Rank in February that would move his fights exclusively to ESPN, it appeared as if the idea of seeing more heavyweight superfights was a lost cause. Fury (27-0-1, 19 KOs), who was in the midst of negotiating with WBC champion Deontay Wilder for a rematch of their dramatic December 2018 pay-per-view bout, opted to take money and security in just another example of boxing politics further segregating the sport.
All of that appeared to change last week when Wilder, just days after announcing a September rematch against Luis Ortiz, took it one step further on social media by revealing.
While Wilder's tweet was certainly encouraging, the only issue on getting too excited was that the fact that neither Fury, Top Rank promoter Bob Arum nor ESPN ever went public to confirm the news. Fury, 30, who settled for a disputed draw against Wilder after getting up off the canvas twice, will make his June 15 debut on ESPN+ when he faces unheralded Tom Schwarz (24-0, 16 KOs) in Las Vegas.
Respect box? Subscribe to my podcast -- State of Combat with Brian Campbell -- where we take an in-depth look at the world of boxing each week.
Asked on Tuesday to clarify things, Arum told CBS Sports that the truth was somewhere in the middle.
"I'm not saying it's not the truth, but I'm not going to confirm it," Arum said in a wide-ranging interview that will air on next week's "State of Combat" boxing podcast. "Why am I not going to confirm it? Because my guy, Tyson Fury, has to get in the ring on June 15 with an undefeated German fighter who I have seen film on. He's a very, very good fighter. I don't think he's as good as Tyson Fury but he's a very, very good fighter. He was up in my office last week and he's here to win and thinks this is a great opportunity.
"So I am not talking about any future Tyson Fury fight until he beats Schwarz, and then we will discuss the whole Wilder situation at that point."
Arum confirmed that if Wilder-Fury II takes place, it will be a joint-network PPV card similar to the record-breaking 2015 superfight between Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao. Wilder (41-0-1, 40 KOs) fights under the Premier Boxing Champions banner, which has television deals with Fox and Showtime.
"To have a big event that this would be distributed by two networks rather than one, as long as the networks get along it's great because there is more publicity, more eyeballs looking in at the future fight," Arum said. "It's a win-win situation, and it's only not a win-win if the networks and the promoters fight with each other. That takes away from the event. But I'm confident with ESPN, which are the grownups in the sports business, I know they will cooperate with whatever network Wilder chooses to make an unbelievably publicized event which I believe can exceed 2 million pay-per-view buys.
"To get a good fight done, sometimes it requires cooperation between promoters and networks. Cooperation is not a bad word. If that's what it takes to get it done, you try to get it done in a way that you enhance the product, not take it away. I believe that having two networks involved in a Fury-Wilder fight will be a plus."
Despite Arum's hesitation in publicizing Wilder-Fury II until both fighters are successful in their respective interim bouts, Showtime Sports president Stephen Espinoza sang a much more positive tune during Tuesday's appearance on the "Showtime Boxing with Raskin & Mulvaney" podcast.
"Contractually, as of between the fighters, it's a done deal," Espinoza said.
Espinoza, whose network produced the first Wilder-Fury PPV, said the only thing that might prevent a second fight from coming to fruition would be an unforeseen circumstance that would cancel a fall rematch between PBC fighter Andy Ruiz Jr. and British superstar Anthony Joshua, the former unified heavyweight champion.in stunning upset fashion via TKO in Round 7.
"It would require another negotiation if something weird happened with the Ruiz fight," Espinoza said. "As of Tuesday afternoon, it looks as if Joshua has now exercised the Ruiz option, so it would take something really strange for that rematch to not occur."
After Wilder announced he would rematch Ortiz, an opponent whom Espinoza said Joshua was heavily courting, it became "musical chairs" to see who would get Fury. Not only did Wilder win, but the negotiation turned out to be an easy one, according to Espinoza.
"It's clear [Wilder] has wanted the fight, and I think with the passage of time, Fury has sort of met his incentive, whether it was to get more fights or get more money or both," Espinoza said. "But having done that, it was now an easier deal to make than it was the first time around with an immediate rematch.
"It was a bit of a surprise that once it became the focus that it moved so quickly. I thought given what happened the first time, it would be a relatively slow and painful and grinding negotiation, and it wasn't. It ended up in a place that I don't think anyone saw coming. For Deontay, it probably ended up in a better way because if the Fury fight hadn't been made before Joshua lost, I think the Fury negotiation is more difficult because, at that point, Fury has more leverage. He knows he's the one attractive, high-level and must-make fight."
Although he doesn't have an exclusive deal, Joshua left Showtime last year for the all-sports streaming app DAZN which reportedly sent a lucrative offer in the area of $100 million over four fights to Wilder, with the promise of two fights against Joshua that he ultimately turned down.
Asked whether a network like ESPN could do a joint card with DAZN given that the streaming app has made its name off of an attempt to kill the PPV industry, Arum had his doubts, especially for a fight as potentially big as Wilder-Fury II.
"It's hard to see how you can make up for the pay-per-view revenue when you are looking at two million homes, which is like $150 million," Arum said. "How do you make up for that if you're not doing that on pay-per-view? Now, if DAZN would somehow agree to do it on pay-per-view, maybe it could happen with DAZN's cooperation, but they are in a different business.
"They are in the streaming business, not in the pay-per-view business, and I just can't see how they could play a part in an event that is a major pay-per-view event. I don't see that, but that doesn't necessarily mean that it can't happen. But I don't see how it can happen. On the other hand, with Wilder who has been with Fox and Showtime, those entities would be great partners on a pay-per-view event."
Joseph Markowski, DAZN's executive vice president of North America who oversees boxing, told CBS Sports in May that his network would be open to work with any other partner in an effort to make the biggest fights possible.
The five-time amateur boxing champ opens up on 'A Fighter's Chance'
The Ukrainian boxing legend, along with eight others, escaped the incident without harm
Charlo wants his WBC title match and has no desire to wait for it after obliterating Cota
Charlo is looking for vengeance in the form of a late replacement opponent on Sunday night
From the heavyweight renaissance to what Canelo does next, there's plenty of burning questions...
Business is booming so far as the year in boxing rolls along