Tyson Fury's ESPN deal creates barriers and confusion, say Costello & Bunce

By Luke ReddyBBC Sport
If there's no Wilder rematch 'it's not the end of the world' - Fury

Tyson Fury's lucrative new deal with a US broadcaster has "confused" boxing's heavyweight landscape by creating "walls and barriers", according to the BBC Radio 5 live boxing team.

On Monday, Fury was the focus of a news conference that - unlike many in the boxing world - saw the mass media arrive with no knowledge of what was on the agenda.

The 29-year-old, who is promoted by Frank Warren in the UK, will now be promoted by Bob Arum's Top Rank organisation in the US and be aligned with broadcaster ESPN in America.

His reported fee of £80m for five fights sounds positive but, as 5 live Boxing's Mike Costello and Steve Bunce explain, the deal could hinder a golden heavyweight era.

A shock and an obstacle

Boxing fans the world over have been waiting for a rematch between WBC world champion Deontay Wilder and Fury to be confirmed and at first, many thought Monday's news conference was for that purpose. Things have changed…

Mike Costello: For those asking why Fury v Wilder could happen in December but maybe not now, the big difference is that this time Fury is aligned with an American broadcaster.

Last time around there wasn't that conflict between Showtime - who aired the fight in the US - and any other rival American broadcaster.

That's why this time around all of us are confused and some of us are deflated on this fight maybe not happening.

We like to consider ourselves fairly well connected but none of us were told by anybody that this was in the offing. It was an announcement that took just about everyone there by surprise.

My shoulders dropped because I thought this means fights are going to be so, so difficult to make from here on.

Steve Bunce: None of us had any idea. It creates walls and barriers.

We have said confidently since January, "don't worry, Wilder and Fury is a done deal".

Suddenly, to find that it's not what the announcement was about - it still could be the next fight but I'm not so sure.

Why Anthony Joshua could benefit from Tyson Fury-Deontay Wilder falling through

History paints grim picture

Fury's new deal means he is signed to BT Sport in the UK and ESPN in the US. Wilder is aligned with the Showtime network in America, while WBA, IBF and WBO world heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua is with Sky Sports in the UK and the DAZN streaming service across the Atlantic. The top heavyweights are fragmented from a broadcasting perspective.

Costello: There was a general feeling of surprise all around the room but a sense of deflation as well because of the fears - knowing how boxing has worked down the years.

If you look at the history of powerhouses in broadcasting, you have to go back to Lennox Lewis v Mike Tyson in 2002 and Manny Pacquiao v Floyd Mayweather in 2015 where two big US broadcasters came to work together. In the case of Showtime and HBO, only twice in their history did they come together.

Now you are talking about streaming services, the likes of ESPN+ and DAZN, and it's difficult to see how both of those, at these early stages for them, will want to get involved in some sort of cross pollination for a fight of such magnitude.

Bunce: Well, it's not going to happen. This is a straightforward power play with four very powerful entities in the business - Bob Arum, Frank Warren and two big broadcasters taking on any rivals as a foursome.

This week, we will see rivals start rubbishing it, which is a sign they know they need to think on and this moves us no closer to a Wilder v Fury fight.

Yes we saw broadcasters and promoters come together for Lewis and Tyson, and Pacquiao v Mayweather but what else marked out those fights? They happened five years too late.

Fury's new deal could make negotiations for a Deontay Wilder rematch more problematic
Fury's new deal could make negotiations for a Deontay Wilder rematch more difficult

What hope for Fury v Wilder II?

Warren told BBC Sport on Monday that fights between the elite heavyweights "must happen for the fans". But whereas three weeks ago he was certain a Wilder rematch was in the offing, on Monday he told Costello: "I don't know. Now we will get down to some 'serious negotiations'."

Bunce: Wilder's manager Shelly Finkel has told me as far as he is concerned, the deal will not impact anything going forward. He said he was shocked by the deal and, when he was asked if he felt there were other options if the Fury fight fell apart, he said "I don't even want to think about that".

So there is always hope. But we have realised with this deal that the blockades and obstacles are immense going forward here. This is serious.

Costello: And Mauricio Sulaiman, the president of the WBC, told me he has been speaking to both sides for a couple of weeks and that's why they have extended deadlines for the fight to be made. He said he has seen signs of goodwill from both sides.

If it isn't Wilder versus Fury, who can it be? If you look down the top 10 rankings to showcase Fury in a legitimate fight in the US, looking down the top 10 you have Bryant Jennings, Trevor Bryan, Andy Ruiz - you're not looking at really sexy opposition.

A good day for AJ and where next?

Public perception of Joshua has slipped in some quarters, with the unified champion facing criticism for not agreeing mega fights with Wilder or Fury. When Wilder and Fury drew in December, demand for a rematch left Joshua with fewer options.

Bunce: If Fury does go on to face Wilder and has this better deal, it will be great for boxing as it will show what people can do as collaborators.

I must say though, this feels like great news for people in the Anthony Joshua camp.

Costello: Some criticism will be deflected away from Joshua if this fight is not made. There will be more of an understanding about what Joshua is doing with his career.

Is it a good news deal for boxing? I am still very confused and not sure of where we are going.

I've been saying for a long time that this was the best heavyweight scene for 25 years and is it going to come to a full stop?

Like many fans, I am completely confused as to what is going on.


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