By Keith Idec
A surprise bidder beat out the promoters of Dillian Whyte and Kubrat Pulev on Thursday to earn the right to promote their IBF-mandated heavyweight elimination match.
Epic Sports & Entertainment, a New York-based company that’s new to the boxing business, submitted the winning offer of $1,500,111 during a purse bid at the IBF’s headquarters in Springfield, New Jersey. The company, with which longtime boxing attorney John Wirt is involved, easily surpassed the offers submitted by Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom Boxing (Whyte) and Team Sauerland (Pulev).
Hearn bid $831,111. Team Sauerland bid $801,305.
Hearn and Kalle Sauerland had been negotiating a deal to stage the fight either in London, where Whyte lives, or Pulev’s native Bulgaria. They requested a one-week postponement last week of the IBF’s purse bid because they thought they could come to an agreement without going to purse bid.
It wasn’t clear as of Thursday afternoon when the Pulev-Whyte fight would take place or where Epic Sports & Entertainment would bring it.
Epic Sports & Entertainment must submit signed contracts from Pulev and Whyte to the IBF by June 8 to move forward with the fight. According to the IBF’s rules, the fight also must take place within 90 days of Thursday, by August 24.
The 37-year-old Pulev (25-1, 13 KOs) is the No. 2-ranked contender in the IBF’s heavyweight rankings. Whyte (23-1, 17 KOs) is ranked No. 4.
The higher-ranked Pulev is entitled to 75 percent of the winning purse bid, which amounts to $1,125,083.25. Whyte would receive 25 percent of that bid, a total of $375,027.75.
The Pulev-Whyte winner would become the mandatory challenger for Anthony Joshua’s IBF title.
Pulev was supposed to challenge Joshua on October 28 in Cardiff, Wales. The once-beaten contender withdrew from that fight less than two weeks in advance due to a shoulder injury.
England’s Joshua (21-0, 20 KOs) stopped Pulev’s replacement, Cameroon’s Carlos Takam, in the 10th round at a sold-out Principality Stadium.
The 6-feet-4, 250-pound Pulev has lost only to former champ Wladimir Klitschko (64-5, 53 KOs). The retired Klitschko stopped Pulev in the fifth round of their November 2014 championship match in Hamburg, Germany.
Pulev hasn’t fought since defeating American Kevin Johnson (32-9-1, 16 KOs) by unanimous decision in a 12-rounder just over a year ago in Sofia, Bulgaria. A victory over Whyte would move Pulev into position to reschedule his shot at Joshua.
The 30-year-old Whyte also is the WBC’s No. 1 contender for its champion, Deontay Wilder (40-0, 39 KOs), of Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
Oddly, however, the WBC recently declared second-ranked American Dominic Breazeale (19-1, 17 KOs) as Wilder’s mandatory challenger. The WBC also ordered an elimination bout between Whyte and fourth-ranked Luis Ortiz (28-1, 24 KOs, 2 NC), who Wilder knocked out in the 10th round of their March 3 battle at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
Hearn has filed an appeal on Whyte’s behalf with the WBC to dispute its order for Whyte and Cuba’s Ortiz to fight for what the WBC declared its second mandatory spot.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.