Expect to see plenty of Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder as ESPN, Fox join forces to promote their rematch

Kevin Iole
Combat columnist
Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury during the WBC Heavyweight Championship bout at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. (Photo by Lionel Hahn/PA Images via Getty Images)

Prepare to see plenty of Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder on your televisions and your computers over the next two months.

Tickets will go on sale for their Feb. 22 rematch at the MGM Grand Garden in Las Vegas for the lineal and WBC heavyweight titles on Saturday at 1p.m. ET/10 a.m. PT, which will kick off an avalanche of media coverage for the combined Fox Sports/ESPN+ pay-per-view. Tickets are available at mgmgrand.com and axs.com.

Fury will appear on ESPN’s “College Gameday” on Saturday and later he will appear during coverage of the Fiesta Bowl.

Their first fight, in which Fury dramatically arose from a devastating 12th round knockdown to finish the fight, ended in a split draw on Dec. 1, 2018, in Los Angeles. It sold 325,000 on pay-per-view and finished with one judge scoring the fight for Wilder, another for Fury and the third seeing it as a draw.

But with Fox Sports and ESPN+ sharing the pay-per-view and thus pushing the fight on their television and online platforms during a busy time that includes NFL playoffs, the Super Bowl and college football playoffs, the fight will get a significant boost in attention.

It comes 13 days after the Super Bowl, which will be on Fox, so expect to see the fighters making multiple appearances on each network during the build-up to the game.

“Having networks like ESPN and Fox come together and create awareness for a fight is really unprecedented,” Top Rank president Todd duBoef told Yahoo Sports.

Matt Kenny, ESPN’s vice president of programming and acquisitions, said the notoriety the fighters have gained in the last year since they first met will contribute to making the fight a massive business success.

Fury was fighting in the U.S. for just the second time when he met Wilder in Los Angeles the first time, and had been out of the game for more than two years after winning the lineal title from Wladimir Klitschko in a big upset in 2015. He sat out all of 2016 and 2017 with mental health issues and ballooned to more than 400 pounds.

He returned in 2018 with two low-level tune-up fights before challenging Wilder in Los Angeles.

Since then, he has signed a nine-figure deal with Top Rank to fight on ESPN, and has competed twice in the U.S. since. He’s also wrestled in a major WWE show that brought him a lot of exposure to non-boxing fans and has written a popular autobiography.

“Both fighters’ popularity has grown significantly since that time,” Kenny told Yahoo Sports. “Top Rank, in particular, has done a tremendous job with Tyson Fury. They’ve not only introduced him to the boxing fan, but to the mainstream sports fan. … 

“We were opportunistic in deciding when and where to put this fight. There was not one particular event or date that drove the decision, but in the 60-day runway leading up to this event, you’ll see unprecedented promotional support for it from both ESPN and Fox. It was a no-brainer and without getting into [predicting pay-per-view sales] numbers, it feels like a different type of event. This will capture the attention and imagination of the general sports fan in a way that not a lot of fights can do.”

Bill Wanger, the executive vice president of programming and the head of scheduling at Fox Sports, said that the promotional push will involve more than just appearing during the Super Bowl, which is on Fox on Feb. 2.

He said it will extend beyond the sports realm, as well. What has been proven is that when fans have a rooting interest in a fighter and they have awareness, they’re much more likely to buy a pay-per-view. Floyd Mayweather used that strategy to become the best-selling PPV fighter in boxing history, and according to Forbes, earned more than $900 million in this decade.

That was by creating awareness of himself and his fights beyond just boxing fans. Mayweather appeared on “Dancing with the Stars,” and competed at WrestleMania. He didn’t just limit himself to boxing interviews or the sports interviews and made himself massive.

That approach will be tried again in this bout.

“Because of the personalities of the fighters, we’re able to do a lot of things and we’ve coming up with some interesting ways to use the fighters,” Wanger told Yahoo Sports. “ … We’re working on an appearance on (‘Jimmy Kimmel Live’), they’ll be at the Super Bowl, there will be a televised press conference coming up in the near future where there will be an opportunity to see the fighters together. We’re going to take advantage of this opportunity and use them in creative and different ways to create as much awareness as possible for this event.”

DuBoef said the interest is similar in non-American markets, which is an indication the fight will be big.

None of the three would predict a pay-per-view number and would only say they expect it to do well. Richard Schaefer, who has promoted some of the biggest pay-per-views in history, told Yahoo Sports during the November Wilder-Luis Ortiz fight that he thought Wilder-Fury 2 would hit 1.5 million sales with the possibility of reaching 2 million if everything went perfectly.

DuBoef said only that this is the biggest heavyweight fight in at least the last 10 years, and that “it is absolutely” the Mike Tyson-Evander Holyfield fight of this generation. 

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