By Jake Donovan
Whatever point Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury have currently reached in negotiating a rematch, the World Boxing Council (WBC) is doing its part to expedite matters.
Or so suggests public perception.
The Mexico-based sanctioning body—which recognizes Wilder as its heavyweight champion and had already approved a rematch with Fury—has now offered a February 5 deadline for such talks to commence.
In a statement through its press office, theWBC noted that “the free negotiation period is opened and if there is no agreement between the parties a purse bid will be conducted by theWBC on Tuesday February 5th.”
Wilder (40-0-1, 39KOs) made the 8th defense of his heavyweight strap, surviving the toughest scare of his 10+ year pro career in escaping with a split decision draw versus Fury in their 12-round thriller last December in Los Angeles.
The unbeaten fighting pride of Tuscaloosa, Ala. fell behind early, but relied on his celebrated punching power to rally back. Knockdowns in rounds nine and 12 turned an apparent boxing clinic by Fury (27-0-1, 19KOs) into a major scare late in the fight for Brit, who was all but out in the 12th and final round but somehow rose to his feet and finished the fight strong.
In the days following their Showtime Pay-Per-View headliner—generating roughly 325,000 units sold—the WBC unanimously approved an immediate rematch, with the two camps since engaging in talks.
Should the unlikely occur and the bout go to a purse bid, Wilder wouldn’t be entitled as much of the take as normally afforded a defending titlist. Given Fury’s standing in the market place, the WBC “has modified the 70-30 split and has confirmed a 60-40 split.”
All that said, the ordered free-negotiations period and threat of a purse bid will likely result in little more than generating a few headlines.
There is potential concern on the WBC side that the two head in a different direction for their next adventure—specifically Fury, in a bout that wouldn't carry WBC sanctioning. The 6'9" Brit has been rumored as a candidate of interest for countryman Anthony Joshua, who remains without a dance partner for a set-aside April 13 defense of his slew of heavyweight titles.
In a recent interview with BT Sport, Fury also openly spoke about the possibility of a UK homecoming prior to facing Wilder a second time, in the event that a rematch couldn't be firmed up in a timely fashion.
Such concerns are seemingly unnecessary, as sources from both sides of current talks have indicated that a sequel is already being targeted for mid-to-late spring.
Of course, if it were up to the fighters, it would take place a lot sooner.
“I’m willing and ready to give Fury the opportunity ASAP,” Wilder said during a media conference call just days after their 12-round thriller, even before the WBC became officially involved. “If you have so many different sides, it’s only right to give Fury a rematch as soon as possible.
“I’m ready whenever to do it whenever he’s ready to do it. I’m ready to give the fans what they wanna see and end this talk once and for all.”
From a logistics—and health—standpoint, running it back in the 1st quarter of 2019 is a non-starter. Showtime and Premier Boxing Champions (PBC) are already presenting a PPV event this weekend, with eight-division titlist Manny Pacquiao set to take on former four-division beltholder Adrien Broner this Saturday in Las Vegas.
Outside of the Showtime scope, another PBC-branded PPV event will come in March, when unbeaten pound-for-pound entrants Errol Spence Jr. and Mikey Garcia collide in a 12-round welterweight title fight which serves as broadcast network Fox’s debut in the PPV market.
A more realistic timeframe of mid-May to mid-June is far more in with the Showtime brass.
“For us, the overriding priority, really, is the health of the fighters,” said Stephen Espinoza, Showtime’s president of sports and event programming back in December. “And that was a tough, tough fight. So we’re not gonna rush anything to fit anything into a specific timetable. Both of those guys earned a long, long rest.
“But you can hear in Deontay’s voice, that rest isn’t gonna last too long. So if they said May, [it] would be great. June would be great. If it’s later, after that, personally, April sounds a little quick to me. But if both of the guys feel like that gives them an opportunity to recover and go into it, [we could do it].”