Back To The Future: the key to PPV success for Fury vs Wilder 3

When Tyson Fury dominated Deontay Wilder in Las Vegas back in February, many experts came away from that huge PPV show believing there was no need for a Fury vs Wilder 3.

‘The Gypsy King’ had delivered a performance so crushing in its impact that not only did Wilder (42-1-1) suffer his first professional defeat, he was completely unmasked, uncloaked and dethroned in the process. It was the type of seven-round beating from which some fighters never fully recover.

More importantly from a financial perspective, a rematch which failed deliver on the lofty expectations set by a joint PPV featuring the collective might of ESPN and Fox (an eventual 800,000 US buys) had appeared to take plenty of lustre and interest from a potential third meeting.

But here we are, Wilder has exercised his contractual right to a trilogy showdown, and at this stage Saturday December 19 appears the likely date. But how can a fight with so many challenges coming out of a global pandemic be a box-office success?

Stephen Espinoza, President of Showtime Sports, says a mental reset and more importantly a rewind is required – to the Deontay Wilder of old. He believes the bout as a financial project will live or die on whether Wilder can make the public believe he has a legitimate chance of settling the score with Fury.

He told the Pug and Copp Boxing Show on The Athletic: “It’s a marketing challenge but what they need to do, or what I would do, they really need to rely on the Deontay Wilder that we all know. Deontay Wilder is no less confident today than he was six months ago, than he was a year and a half ago, before the very first fight of the eventual trilogy.

“It’s hard to listen to Deontay and not believe whatever you say, because he speaks with complete conviction. When he says he is confident going into this fight, you believe him.”

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As well as Wilder’s unshakeable belief, the PPV moguls must also play up the angle that this is a heavyweight fight, one where anything can happen. Wilder remember is one of the biggest punchers in heavyweight history and did have Fury down twice in their first meeting – that controversial draw at Staples Center in Los Angeles back in December 2018.

“When you look at it on paper, it’s sort of like ‘well, maybe this is one where I know how it’s gonna end’,” he said.

“But remind people this is the heavyweight division, anything can happen and you gotta lean on Deontay in terms of his star value, and his appeal and his confidence that this will be a different ending.”

While that December 19 date is the favourite to stage Fury vs Wilder 3 , the venue is an even more complicated matter. The MGM Grand Garden Arena staged that February rematch, and produced a live gate of almost $17million – a record for a heavyweight bout.

Fury’s co-promoter Bob Arum has stressed time and time again that this fight will not happen without a live gate due to the financial ramifications, but how can that happen this year if COVID-19 continues to rage in the United States?

Allegiant Stadium – which had been the frontrunner – is now out of the running after the Las Vegas Raiders announced that their brand-new home will be closed to fans for the entirety of the 2020 National Football League (NFL) season.

Other possibles mentioned have been Macau and Australia, but it is difficult to find a territory now where COVID is not continuing to wreak havoc, often via a second wave of cases.

Any further delays for Fury vs Wilder 3 of course will only serve to push back a potential unification match between Fury and fellow British world heavyweight king Anthony Joshua. They have agreed in principle the financial structure for a two-fight deal.

The first of those bouts had been expected to take place in the summer of 2021, but the pandemic as well as the political complexities regarding mandatory contenders for the various world heavyweight title belts are already threatening to push it back.