Let me drop some Apollo Creed on you. When Apollo decides to give Rocky Balboa a shot at his heavyweight crown, he quips: “Apollo Creed meets The Italian Stallion. Sounds like a damn monster movie.” That’s exactly how this one sounds — The Bronze Bomber vs. The Gypsy King Part II. It’s the rematch between heavyweight world titleholder Deontay Wilder (42-0-1, 41 KOs) and lineal champion Tyson Fury (29-0-1, 20 KOs), and it will happen Feb. 22 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Top Rank and Premier Boxing Champions announced on Friday.
The Wilder-Fury sequel is arguably the most anticipated heavyweight rematch in almost a quarter-century when Evander Holyfield fought Mike Tyson on June 28, 1997. And Wilder vs Fury will happen with an unprecedented joining of forces as ESPN and FOX Sports will co-produce the pay-per-view. Surely, ESPN and FOX will promote the hell out of it, along with Fury’s promoting beast, Top Rank. “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.
Top Rank chief Bob Arum recently told BoxingScene.com: “I would be disappointed if the pay-per-view was less than 2 million buys. That’s the goal and estimation. I think it’s doable… and we’re pulling off all of the stops to reach that number, or exceed it.” Two million buys, Bob? Whaaaat? The 2018 Wilder-Fury match fell far short of the 1 million that promoters had originally aimed to reach, with 325,000 pay-per-view buys in the United States at $74.99 and another 420,000 in the United Kingdom, where Fury is from. The rematch is expected to be priced at $74.99, but could go as high as $99.99.
If Wilder-Fury 2 should reach Arum’s insane goal of 2 million buys, he should bow down to Wilder and Fury, who are master hype machines in their own rights. Fury will appear on ESPN’s “College Gameday” on Saturday and later he will appear during coverage of the Fiesta Bowl. Both fighters also have personal sagas that are easy sells to the public. Fury has risen from the Hades of drug abuse, 400-pound obesity and near-suicidal depression, while Wilder, who once waited tables at IHOP, became a professional boxer to support his daughter, who was diagnosed with spina bifida as a newborn.
Wilder is already hyping, promising on Instagram shortly after the fight became official: “After February 22nd there will be no more unanswered questions. I will finish what I started, and this time [Fury] will not be getting up off that canvas so quickly.” Of course, Fury had an Instagram pledge of his own: “Watch me knock out Deontay Wilder AKA The Big Dosser.”
What will sell the rematch more than anything is the Wilder-Fury fight from Dec. 1, 2018 at Staples Center in Los Angeles. That night, we saw Fury outbox Wilder with slickness that evoked the Great Ali. That night, we saw Wilder nearly decapitate Fury with a right-left kaboom in the final round. That night, we saw Fury rise off the canvas like a zombie after the near-decapitation. And that night we got a stinkin’ draw that bubbled with controversy. Wilder claimed the referee gave Fury a long count, and he should’ve won. Fury claimed a couple judges unfairly gave Wilder too many rounds, and he should’ve won. Whatever. The whole damn thing — the astounding fight and the controversial ending — makes Part II an easier sell, and that’s all ESPN, FOX and Arum care about. And maybe Arum’s vision of 2 million pay-per-view buys isn’t as crazy as it sounds.