By Jake Donovan
Bob Arum believes he’s struck promotional gold with Tyson Fury.
The Hall of Fame promoter enters his first adventure with the unbeaten and outspoken heavyweight this weekend, as England’s Fury debuts both under the Top Rank/ESPN banner and in Las Vegas. There, he will face Germany’s Tom Schwarz, an unbeaten but largely untested fringe contender who is a massive longshot to upset the odds this weekend.
Of course if you ask the show’s marquee attraction, there’s only one name that really matters—whether this weekend, or in general.
“This is going to be epic. This is the Tyson Fury show, it’s not about anybody else,” the outspoken Fury (27-0-1, 19KOs) declared during a recent media conference call ahead of Saturday’s card, which streams live on ESPN+ from MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nev.
He is right to a degree, at least as far as this weekend is concerned. The 6’9” British heavyweight has been the toast of the town since arriving in Vegas in late May for the final stages of his training camp. The bout will be his fourth since unseating long-reigning World heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko in Nov. 2015, but his first since a celebrated–if widely disputed—12-round draw versus Deontay Wilder last December in Los Angeles, Calif.
Fury was believed to have been denied a deserved decision in the fight, although having to twice peel himself off the canvas including a dramatic 12th round knockdown where he was believed to have been done for the night. The latter sequence has become among the most watched boxing clips in recent memory, and an easy selling point for a rematch that was to take place this past May.
Those plans changed when the Brit balked at the 11th hour in favor of a lucrative multi-fight deal with Top Rank and ESPN, whose streaming service will carry his future fights beginning with Saturday’s showdown versus Schwarz. Coverage for the ESPN+ show has already rivaled that of a PPV event, such promotion coming by design.
“I’ve had some guys who were not shy, fighters such as Muhammad Ali and George Foreman,” noted Arum of two of his most famous clients he’s promoted through six decades in the sport. “(Fury) is right up with there with those two guys. People can relate to him. I’ve never seen an outpouring of fans like we have right now who root for Tyson Fury.
“People look at the heavyweight division. We have great fighters on ESPN–two of the best in Terence ‘Bud’ Crawford and Vasiliy Lomachenko. He has the ability to capture the imagination. That’s what we hope to accomplish with him. This guy is a force in and of himself in and out of the ring.”
The Vegas show this weekend has generated a lot of buzz, with Fury already the subject of several ESPN-aired segments and with plenty more to come. The treatment rivals that of ESPN’s initially welcoming renowned mixed martial arts outfit Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) to the fold earlier this year. Their first show spiked ESPN+ subscription rates by more than 560,000, which event promoters for this weekend view as a benchmark.
“This weekend’s event is very important for boxing,” Arum notes. “Look, even though the UFC are cousins of ours at ESPN, they are still competition. They’ve done extraordinarily well and ESPN had the announcement of their big subscription boost right out of the gate.
“With Tyson Fury coming up on June 15, we’re gonna get more new subscribers than they did with their debut in January.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox