Tyson Fury signs co-promotional deal with Top Rank, throws a wrench in Deontay Wilder rematch plans

Showtime

Lineal champion Tyson Fury sent a curveball to the heavyweight division on Monday by joining promoter Frank Warren of Queensberry Promotions in announcing a multi-year partnership with ESPN and Hall of Fame promoter Bob Arum's Top Rank. 

The 30-year-old Fury (27-0-1, 19 KOs), who is currently in negotiations for a spring rematch with unbeaten WBC champion Deontay Wilder, agreed to a deal featuring a minimum of two fights per year that will make ESPN and streaming app ESPN+ his official U.S. home. What that deal means for the prospect of an immediate Wilder rematch, however, now remains uncertain. 

Although Fury and Warren both said during Monday morning's news conference in Great Britain that a Wilder rematch is still in the plans, there are plenty of reasons to be skeptical that it happens this year. Warren, who said Fury has been promised three fights in 2019 with the first targeted in May, also revealed that Wilder's team wasn't told of the ESPN ahead of it being announced. 

Wilder (40-0-1, 39 KOs) fights under the Premier Boxing Champions brand, which places his fights on Showtime and Fox. The 33-year-old slugger dropped Fury twice en route to a controversial split draw in their blockbuster December bout, which aired on Showtime PPV. 

"I'm delighted that Frank and Queensberry Promotions have teamed up with Top Rank to promote my fights in America," said Fury, who also re-upped with BT Sport as his exclusive television home in the U.K. as part of the deal. "With ESPN and BT Sport behind me, the biggest sports platforms in the world are now linked up with the best heavyweight in the world!"

Fury and Wilder have been in negotiations for a rematch seemingly from the moment their first fight concluded at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. Rumors had swirled that a deal was close and was expected to be announced this week. In fact, a purse bid ordered by the WBC was twice postponed due to the fact that a deal was so close. 

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The reality of Fury's new deal now makes the purse bid a potentially risky scenario for either side should they be blindly outbid for control of the television rights. While a joint PPV deal between both networks is still possible and akin to previous agreements made between HBO and Showtime for the 2002 Lennox Lewis-Mike Tyson and 2015 Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao fights, Wilder-Fury II isn't on the same level financially after producing just over 300,000 PPV buys. 

"Top Rank is very excited to enter into the promotional arrangement along with Queensberry Promotions for the lineal heavyweight champion, Tyson Fury," Arum said. "He is a generational heavyweight talent at the peak of his powers. We also look forward to our growing relationship with MTK Global, which represents so many world-class fighters."

The deal is a wily one for Arum, whose heavyweight stable is arguably the thinnest comparable to other major American promoters. Top Rank did, however, recently sign former world title challenger Kubrat Pulev. 

Fury captured his lineal crown by upsetting former champion Wladimir Klitschko in 2015. But his much-publicized downward spiral into depression, drug abuse and obesity saw him vacate his trio of world titles. 

By agreeing to face Wilder in 2018 despite being just two fights and less than a year into his comeback, Fury became a last-minute wild card to interrupt public negotiations between Wilder and unbeaten unified champion Anthony Joshua for a super fight that never was consummated. 

Previously, Fury's lack of a permanent U.S. television home made it feel like any fight was possible. Now, the idea of him even facing Joshua, who fights on the U.S. streaming app DAZN, has become more difficult to make.

"The game has changed now, ESPN are the biggest broadcasters in the U.S.," Warren said. "If [Joshua] wants to fight Tyson, they're going to have to come to us."

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Brian Campbell covers MMA, boxing and WWE. The Connecticut native joined CBS Sports in 2017 and has covered combat sports since 2010. He has written and hosted various podcasts and digital shows for ESPN... Full Bio

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