By Jake Donovan
When all was said and done, Deontay Wilder chose loyalty—and refused to put a price tag on that belief.
Even with all of the details previously revealed or leaked out regarding his next title fight, Tuesday’s press conference at Barclays Center–which will host his May 18 showdown versus mandatory contender Dominic Breazeale—still managed to provide a plot twist. The forthcoming event will air live on Showtime, as opposed to going the Pay-Per-View route which was previously believed to be the case.
“Not on PPV but on Showtime, without the high price (of ordering a PPV),” Stephen Espinoza, president of Showtime Sports proudly revealed during the presser. “Deontay demanded that this fight take place on Showtime, not Pay-Per-View, which is why I stand here making this announcement today.
“On Showtime is where this fight belongs. This is where a world heavyweight championship fight belongs, not on a streaming platform with a limited audience.”
The latter line was a thinly veiled reference to a previous offer presented to Wilder (40-0-1, 39KOs), as sports streaming platform DAZN sought his services with the intention of matching him with unbeaten, unified heavyweight titlist Anthony Joshua.
Two separate offers made left the potential for Wilder to clear nine figures, although each contractually tying him to a rematch with Joshua on terms beyond his control. The first fight under either submitted offer would have guaranteed the 6’7” Alabama native $20 million for a fight with Breazeale (20-1, 18KOs), and double that for a fight with Joshua, who first has a June 1 date with unbeaten Jarrell Miller at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
It was an offer that Wilder was always prepared to leave on the table, as his preference has been to fight under the Premier Boxing Champions (PBC) banner and the networks that come with such an arrangement. The entirety of his heavyweight title reign has taken place on Showtime, NBC and Fox—the latter two coming as the result of time-buy arrangements.
Showtime has personally been involved in eight of Wilder’s past 11 fights, including the last three. The most recent came on its PPV arm, with Wilder fighting unbeaten Tyson Fury to a 12-round draw last December in Los Angeles, California. The event sold roughly 325,000 units, the commercial success coupled with the dramatic close and disputed outcome providing grounds to do it all again.
The two sides were believed to have come to terms for a rematch, which was destined for this very date and venue on Showtime PPV. Those plans collapsed, however, when Fury (27-0-1, 19KOs) and promoter Frank Warren entered a co-promotional pact with Top Rank and ESPN.
Wilder did his best to keep the fight alive, going public with his lack of contractual attachment to any network.
“I’m a (network) free agent; I can fight anyone,” Wilder proclaimed shortly after Fury announced his ESPN deal. “I just don’t have to necessarily fight on the networks that I’m on. I can fight anywhere. That’s what so great about me.”
The news prompted Hall of Fame promoter Bob Arum to present a lucrative deal to secure Wilder’s services on ESPN, for which he is the primary content provider. The defending champ heard what that side had to say before declining the offer.
From there, DAZN entered the picture, with the heavyweight titlist along with adviser and PBC creator Al Haymon, manager Shelly Finkel and Lou DiBella—who has promoted several of Wilder’s fights but not contractually his promoter—sat down with DAZN head John Skipper, where they were presented the type of contract offer that would greater tempt most other boxers.
Just not this boxer.
“I’ve had a long relationship with Showtime,” Wilder explained, although not revealing the terms which kept him on this side of the street, other than keeping the fight off of PPV. “I consider these guys my family. I came a long way with them. As they displayed my talent, I helped make their network rise (in prominence).”
With all of the money that was being offered by external platforms, the belief was that a Wilder-Breazeale clash with Showtime’s involvement could only go the PPV route to help supplement his income for such a fight.
However, Wilder—who has held his title for more than four years—was never feeling the additional cost that would come with a mandatory title fight.
“I didn’t feel this fight was a PPV fight,” Wilder confessed. “For me, PPV fights need to be those special fights, those fights you’re willing to miss your rent money to see. I don’t feel like this type is that type of situation. I’m the people’s champion. I want to bring my fights to all the people.”
And in the end, those who have always been along for the ride.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox