By Keith Idec
NEW YORK – John Skipper has made DAZN’s run at Deontay Wilder.
Bob Arum also has tried to lure the WBC heavyweight champion to ESPN.
Now that Wilder has turned down lucrative, multi-fight offers to perform on each of those platforms, Stephen Espinoza hopes Showtime and its competitors can get back to making the biggest fights for Wilder the way Wilder appears most comfortable attempting to do that. Showtime will televise Wilder’s next fight, a mandatory title defense against Dominic Breazeale, on May 18 from Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
Wilder isn’t contractually committed to Showtime thereafter, yet Espinoza, Showtime Sports’ president, is confident Wilder’s decisions to turn down DAZN and ESPN have sent messages regarding how Wilder wants to go about making a title unification fight against Anthony Joshua or a rematch with Tyson Fury.
“Deontay has always valued his independence and autonomy,” Espinoza told BoxingScene.com recently. “He’s seen firsthand the complications that sort of come with making that commitment. There are certain positives, but there are also negatives in terms of locking in long-term with a promoter or a network. And he’s made the choice, for his own business, to remain a free agent. If he wanted a multi-fight deal with Showtime, he could have one. If he wanted one with other networks, he could have one. But that’s not his priority. That’s not what he values.”
Al Haymon, Wilder’s adviser, and Shelly Finkel, Wilder’s co-manager, convinced Wilder that by accepting DAZN’s four-fight, $120 million offer that he ultimately would’ve left money on the table for two fights versus Joshua, the IBF/IBO/WBA/WBO champ. Skipper, DAZN’s executive chairman, offered Wilder $40 million apiece for two fights with Joshua, much more than the $15 million flat fee Eddie Hearn, Joshua’s promoter, offered him last year to box England’s Joshua in the United Kingdom.
DAZN offered the knockout artist from Tuscaloosa, Alabama, a $20 million guarantee to battle Breazeale, a figure Espinoza indicated Wilder (40-0-1, 39 KOs) at least will come close to earning for fighting Breazeale (20-1, 18 KOs) on Showtime.
“This is his process – seeing what is out there and evaluating it,” Espinoza said. “We certainly don’t begrudge him the opportunity to evaluate all the options. Now, at the end of the day, he looked at the entire range of options – and the advantages and disadvantages to each – and came to the conclusion that he had already had the best arrangement. I think that was combination of factors – the financial opportunities, the visibility, what we’ve achieved so far and the commitment that’s necessary. I think the difficult thing is people told him that they were trying to make these big fights, that they wanted to make a Fury rematch, that they wanted to make a Joshua fight.
“But then, in engaging in the conversation, the true motives came out. And it became clear that the goal was not making a Joshua fight. It was not making a Fury rematch. It was to get Deontay Wilder to sign for four or five fights. That didn’t work. That’s not something he’s interested in. He is confident in his ability to generate revenues, without having to lock in. So now, hopefully, we can back to the original intention – let’s make the big fights. I understand everybody tried to sign him long-term. It’s not gonna work. Now, let’s get back to talking what we should be talking, making these big fights. They’re makeable. We just have to focus on making them.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.