The video former heavyweight world titlist Deontay Wilder posted this week on social media and other comments he has made in interviews has caused quite a stir and caught the eye of Top Rank’s Bob Arum, Fury’s co-promoter, and Bob Bennett, the executive director of the Nevada State Athletic Commission.
Wilder had kept a low profile since Tyson Fury dominated and stopped him in the seventh round of their rematch on Feb. 22 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas until posting the 2-minute video set to eerie background music with low lighting.
In the video, Wilder called Fury a “thief” and accused him of cheating in their rematch by using loaded gloves, took a shot at referee Kenny Bayless and called now-former co-trainer Mark Breland “disloyal” for throwing in the towel while Wilder was taking a beating in the seventh round.
In various interviews, Wilder (42-1-1, 41 KOs), 35, of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, took additional shots at Fury (30-0-1, 21 KOs), 32, accused Breland of spiking his water with muscle relaxant and had claimed Bayless was drunk.
“That to my mind is really serious in the sense that he’s called Fury a thief and a criminal. It’s so preposterous,” Arum told BoxingScene.com. “And then to accuse Mark Breland of putting something in his water? Mark is a great guy. And what would be his motivation to do that? And then third, to demean and defame Kenny Bayless the way he did, that he was drunk? I mean it’s crazy.”
Wilder has been unhappy that Fury walked away from a third fight due take place this year. After the February loss, Wilder exercised his contractual right to an immediate third bout.
They were supposed to meet in July, which was delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic and Wilder’s surgery, before being looked at for October and eventually Dec. 19 at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas.
Even though the Fury camp maintains that the date by which the fight had to take place by expired in late October, Fury was still willing to do the fight on Dec. 19. However, that date ultimately did not work because of a loaded schedule of college football games being aired that day by Fury broadcast partner ESPN and Wilder broadcaster Fox. They would have done the fight as a joint pay-per-view as they had in the February rematch.
Once Dec. 19 was off the table, Fury opted out of the fight and instead plans to fight Dec. 5, probably against Agit Kabayel, in London and then look forward to an undisputed world championship fight with unified titlist and British countryman Anthony Joshua in the first half of 2021.
“It’s clear from the documents that the date (by which a third fight had to happen) was July plus 90 days,” Arum said. “When I talked to Tyson before we even started talking about Dec. 19 it was based on a multi-million dollar gate, the casinos buying tickets, and robust pay-per-view. And it wasn’t thrown out the window by us. It was thrown out the window by the two networks (ESPN and Fox). They say you can’t go Dec. 19 and they’re completely right.
“So, Tyson is going to fight Dec. 5 and (the Wilder camp says) they have the right to Fury’s next fight, which they don’t. I assume that they’re going to challenge the Dec. 5 fight but I have no idea how they will.”
Arum also said Wilder’s comments in the video and interviews were so provocative that he thinks Wilder could be in trouble with the Nevada commission.
“I think the commission may be considering calling Wilder in on the comments on Bayless and the gloves,” Arum said. “This is crazy. I mean I didn’t see anything that Bayless was doing that favored Fury.”
Bennett told BoxingScene he was aware of Wilder’s video and comments. While Bennett declined to say if he would ask Wilder to appear before the commission to explain himself, he said the gloves were handled properly.
“I’d like to recognize Deontay Wilder for his success as an Olympian and as a world class fighter and for being a real asset to the fans of boxing. He’s fought some of the best heavyweights in the business,” Bennett said. “I’m aware of his remarks regarding the Nevada State Athletic Commission’s gloves process as well as referee Kenny Bayless and I was disappointed to read them knowing they’re not true.”
In his video Wilder said, “I saw in the first fight when (assistant and former world champion) Ricky Hatton was pulling down your gloves to put your fist in the improper position. Y’all tried the same method the second time. Only this time, you scratched flesh out of my ears and caused my ears to bleed.
“It’s impossible for a brand new 10-ounce glove to bend, to keep a smushed-in form, or to have loose space. I highly believe you put something hard in your glove, something the size and the shape of an egg weight. It’s the reason the side of my face swelled up in an egg weight shape form. It left a dent in my face as well. But in the midst of it all, you still couldn’t keep this king down. You would’ve had to kill me. In the end, it took a crap-in-a-bucket referee (Bayless) and a disloyal trainer (Breland) to throw the towel in just to stop me.”
Wilder also called on Fury to honor his word and give him another chance the way Wilder did after their first fight, which was a draw.
"Fury, it is time for you to be a man and honor your agreement,” Wilder posted on social media. “What is this bull---- of you fighting (possibly) Carlos Takam instead of me, you got to be kidding. When you were going through your darkest time, I told you that if you got yourself together I would give you a title shot. Being a man of my word, I gave you the title shot.
"When that fight was a draw, I told you that I would give you a rematch. You know I was offered more money to fight Joshua than I was getting to fight you. Again being a man of my word, I fought you like I said I would. In the rematch agreement, there was a rematch clause. Now it is time for you to be a man and honor your word, instead of trying to weasel out of our agreement. Scared people run but a (scared) man will break his contract you coward azz bitch!”
Bennett described how the Nevada commission handles gloves and why they couldn’t have been tampered with.
“The gloves need to be factory sealed and sent to our office 72 hours in advance of the fight. Upon receipt, we inspect the gloves,” Bennett said. “Then our chief inspector inspects the gloves and weighs them on a calibrated and certified scale. Then they are locked in a safe place.
“On the day of the weigh-in they’re carried to the arena and we have a glove selection process after the weigh in where the fighters select their gloves. They may have anywhere from two to eight pairs of gloves. They try on their gloves, take as long as they need, and select their No. 1 pair and backup pair. Thereafter the gloves are resealed, returned to the commission, placed in a locked safe and brought the arena on fight night. They are provided to the fighters in the presence of Nevada State Athletic Commission inspectors. They are never out of our sight and they’re in our care and custody to ensure the gloves are not manipulated.”
Bennett also took exception to Wilder’s view of Bayless, who is widely regarded as one of the best referees in boxing history.
“He’s a world class referee,” Bennett said. “I was present during the pre-fight instructions that referee Bayless provided to Mr. Wilder and his camp and they were in accordance with the unified rules and he was professional and polite at all times. Upon completion of providing rules we were available for any questions or concerns. There were none.
“It’s unfortunate that Mr. Wilder has these thoughts and beliefs, which he is entitled to. He has the freedom of speech like we all do. We wish him continued success and the best.”
Wilder has offered a slew of reasons for his loss: Fury’s gloves being manipulated and loaded; the Breland spiking his water; Bayless favoring Fury; and that his ring walk attire was too heavy and left him with weak legs for the bout.
Dan Rafael was ESPN.com's senior boxing writer for fifteen years, and covered the sport for five years at USA Today. He was the 2013 BWAA Nat Fleischer Award winner for excellence in boxing journalism.