By Jake Donovan
Boxing fans can now look forward to the “big three” at heavyweight all fighting just weeks apart from another—even if they remain far apart in facing each other anytime soon.
A four-week span from mid-May through mid-June will see Deontay Wilder, Anthony Joshua and Tyson Fury in the ring, in separate bouts and all coming on separate platforms. BoxingScene.com has learned that Fury will return to the ring on June 15, making his first career appearance in Las Vegas atop a card to be staged at the Thomas & Mack Center.
An opponent has yet to be solidified for the event, which will stream live on ESPN+ in the first fight under the unbeaten Brit’s new co-promotional pact with Top Rank and ESPN.
England’s Fury (27-0-1, 19KOs) will fight for the first time since his thrilling 12-round draw versus Wilder last December in Los Angeles, which marked the Pay-Per-View debut for both boxers. The Showtime-distributed event sold 325,000 units, with the commercial success and the manner in which the fight ended arousing enough interest for a rematch.
Fury was believed by most observers to have deserved the decision. Complicating matters, however, were a pair of knockdowns scored by Wilder in rounds nine and 12, respectively. The latter of two had Fury seemingly out, only to miraculously recover in time to beat the count and finish the fight on his feet.
Talks for a sequel appeared far advanced, only for Fury and promoter Frank Warren to catch many in the industry off guard with their signing with Top Rank and ESPN in mid-February. The move functionally killed any plans for an immediate rematch, with a peace offering coming in the form of a multi-fight deal presented to Wilder to join the ESPN family.
The offer was rejected by Wilder (40-0-1, 39KOs), who for the moment is a network free agent. The long-reigning heavyweight titlist will address that very subject during a press conference to take place Tuesday in Brooklyn, New York.
At the session, Alabama’s Wilder will also confirm plans for a mandatory title defense versus Dominic Breazeale, which he had to honor in light of the Fury fallout. The event is tentatively slated to take place May 18 at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, with the unknown quantity being on which platform it will air.
Wilder and his team recently fielded a lucrative offer from sports streaming platform DAZN, which claims Joshua (22-0, 21KOs) and will present his June 1 showdown versus Jarrell Miller. The event will take place at New York’s Madison Square Garden, serving as Joshua’s U.S. debut.
DAZN was hoping to bring its own 1-2 punch to the heavyweight division by also carrying Wilder-Breazeale. However, it is strongly believed that Wilder will not only reject the present offer, but also not at all head to DAZN as he will likely remain on platforms provided by adviser Al Haymon’s Premier Boxing Champions (PBC) series, such as Showtime and Fox Sports and their respective PPV arms.
Meanwhile, Fury will do his best to remain active in an ESPN universe which currently doesn’t boast a deep roster of heavyweights but has been steadily making moves.
One heavyweight who joined the family and was considered a frontrunner to land the plum assignment was Canada’s Oscar Rivas.
However, the unbeaten contender—who is fresh off of a January 18 knockout win over Bryant Jennings on ESPN+—has been ruled out, with Journal de Montreal reporting of his being more likely to instead appear on the June 15 undercard and revisiting such a fight soon thereafter.
In a strange twist of fate, Rivas’ removal from the mix actually strengthens the possibility of his prior conquest surfacing near the top of the queue.
Jennings (24-3, 14KOs) hasn’t fought since his loss to Rivas in January, and in the post-fight aftermath didn’t seem entirely sure about what he wanted to do next. The veteran contender from Philadelphia had been a fixture in the heavyweight division for the past several years, including his valiant-in-defeat title fight losses to then-World heavyweight king Wladimir Klitschko and interim titlist Luis Ortiz in back-to-back fights in 2015.
The setbacks were followed by a 20-month ring hiatus before resurfacing in Aug. ’17 after having signed a promotional contract with Top Rank. Jennings rattled off five straight wins, including a thrilling off-the-canvas knockout of Alexander Dimitrenko last August on ESPN.
His aforementioned loss to Rivas obviously stalled any progress towards another title run—but he is still part of the Top Rank/ESPN family which generally minimizes the hassle of securing an external opponent.
Whomever lands the assignment, it puts Fury back in the ring for the first time in six months, and just more than one year from his triumphant return last June. The 6’9” Brit overcame drug, alcohol and mental health issues to enjoy a celebrated comeback following a 31-month absence, scoring two tune-up wins to secure the eventual Wilder showdown.
In a more ideal world, the thought of the two fighting four weeks apart and with Joshua-Miller wedged in between would be a marketing gold mine for the heavyweight division.
Instead, it will just serve as the latest reminder of—no matter how close they are on the schedule—how far apart they remain of settling their differences in the ring.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox