With his second appearance in Las Vegas proving far more dramatic than his previous trip, perhaps the third time will be a charm as it relates to Tyson Fury’s box office appeal.
The unbeaten and outspoken heavyweight from England survived a hellacious cut over his right eye and a stiff challenge from lefthanded Swedish contender Otto Wallin to emerge victorious in a unanimous decision win. Their Sept. 14 headliner at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada produced high drama in the ring, along with $999,722.50 at the live gate.
The box office total was derived from 3,577 tickets sold, according to final receipts as confirmed to BoxingScene.com by the Nevada State Athletic Commission.
Another 3,898 complimentary tickets were issued to patrons for the event, which streamed live on ESPN+. The card was the second for Fury (29-0-1, 20KOs) on the platform—both of which took place in Las Vegas—since signing a reported nine-figure pact with the Disney—owned sports leader earlier this year.
Fury’s celebrated Vegas debut came in June, scoring a 2nd round knockout of Germany’s Tom Schwarz atop an ESPN+ card at MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nevada. That event generated $882,145 from 5,489 tickets sold, along with another 1,187 complimentary tickets issued, with final figures falling well short of the announced crowd of 9.012 in attendance.
The Sept. 14 show carried an announced attendance of 8,249, though with the venue configuration actually shaping up the crowd to appear more packed than his previous Sin City adventure.
At the very least, they were far more engaged at least from the third round onward—a luxury not afforded Fury’s last adventure which was brief and one-sided. A cut from a left hand by Wallin (20-1, 13KOs) opened up a gusher of a cut over Fury’s right eye, though never to the point of the bout in danger of being stopped.
Adding to the drama was the confusion in how the injury was produced. The official ruling by referee Tony Weeks was that it was accidental but that the sequence was under review. State commission officials determined from instant replay—the first time it was used in Nevada—that the sequence came about from a punch, only for the ruling to never properly make its way back to Weeks or the boxers and their corners.
In fact, it wasn’t until a mid-rounds ringside interview conducted by ESPN’s Bernardo Osuna with Ben Davison, Fury’s head trainer that either camp was made aware of the official call.
While the information influenced corner strategy at that point, the injury itself never worsened to the point of Fury suffering his first defeat. It does, however, raise concern as to whether it affects plans for a long-discussed rematch with unbeaten heavyweight titlist Deontay Wilder (41-0-1, 40KOs).
Their first bout—which ended in a highly disputed 12-round draw last December at Staples Center in Los Angeles, Calif.—marked the U.S. Pay-Per-View debut for both boxers, with the Showtime PPV event selling a reported 325,000 units. The number doesn’t even begin to reflect the amount of interest generated from the event, not only for the questionable scoring but more so for the dramatic 12th round where Wilder rallied to floor Fury for a second time.
Fury somehow beat the count and finished on his feet, only to have to settle for a split decision draw in a bout most felt he deserved to win despite the late knockdowns.
The two were on course to once again collide this past May, only for Fury to walk away from the deal at the 11th hour, instead signing with ESPN and Top Rank. While neither of his past two fights have made a splash at the box office, the Brit’s booming presence has positively impacted streaming subscription rates.
Hall of Fame promoter Bob Arum has recently claimed that Fury’s events generate greater interest among ESPN+ subscribers than for any DAZN-streamed event other than shows headlined by Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez. The bold statement was loosely validated to BoxingScene.com by ESPN representatives, who’ve confirmed a spike in sales for Fury’s events although declining to release final numbers or even offer a ballpark figure.
It’s an important status, as ESPN uses its streaming platforms for subscribers to purchase its PPV events, which will be the route in which to catch a Wilder rematch.
Faith was restored in a return clash of heavyweight behemoths when Wilder went public through his social media channels in claiming he had signed on for not only a rematch with Fury, but also a second dance with Luis Ortiz. His announcement came in late May, with hopes that Wilder-Ortiz II would take place this weekend (Sept. 28).
The date instead went to the welterweight title unification clash between Errol Spence and Shawn Porter, with the two due to collide atop a Fox Sports PPV live from Staples Center. Somewhere during fight week will come the official announcement for Wilder-Ortiz II, which is expected to take place Nov. 23 at MGM Grand live on Fox Sports PPV.
A win by Wilder will preserve plans for a Fury rematch, although the current suggested working date of Feb. 22, 2020 isn’t as set in stone as has been previously suggested. The quick turnaround for Wilder coupled with the continued healing process for Fury could push back their timetable, although Las Vegas is expected to be the final destination for whenever it ultimately takes place.
Unlike Fury’s previous two bouts, a Wilder rematch will land on PPV in what has been reported as a joint venture between ESPN and the Premier Boxing Champions (PBC) platform of choice (Fox Sports more likely than Showtime at the moment) in terms of distributing the event. The likelihood exists for the two heavyweights to produce far better box office results together than from their separate events. Wilder has headlined in Vegas just once before, his virtual shutout of Bermane Stiverne to begin a title reign that is still running strong nearly five years later.
The watershed moment in his career produced a live gate of $755,200 from 4,074 tickets sold amidst an announced crowd of 8,454 on fight night. The bulk of his heavyweight title run has been split between his home state of Alabama—fighting four times in Birmingham, roughly an hour from his Tuscaloosa, Ala.—and at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, which has hosted four more title defenses and having served as a reliable draw in both markets.
Despite the middling box office results produced by both heavyweights this year, the two figure to make far sweeter music the next time they are together. If nothing else, the high drama which came from Fury’s last fight should ultimately convince fans to tune in next time, especially against elevated competition.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox