By Jake Donovan
By March 19, we will learn whether Deontay Wilder will become the next high-profile network free agent to sign with DAZN, or if he’s prepared to leave upwards of $100 million on the table for the sake of autonomy.
The reigning heavyweight titlist was barely a day removed from his team having met with DAZN boss John Skipper in New York City when he revealed—through the press office of Swanson Communications—his intentions to provide full details for his next fight. A press conference will be held next Tuesday in Brooklyn, New York, where he will announce the particulars for a mandatory heavyweight title defense versus Dominic Breazeale.
Given the location of the press conference and mentioning of his opponent, the only question—assuming it still lands on May 18 at Barclays Center—remains which platform will host the event. In effect, it will reveal just how well his meeting went with DAZN.
“Obviously, we have a lot to think about,” Shelly Finkel, Wilder’s co-manager told BoxingScene.com of Team Wilder’s meeting with the sports streaming platform on Tuesday. “They presented us with an offer and we will continue to discuss amongst our team before reaching a decision.”
Finkel declined to discuss the particulars of the meeting, other than to loosely confirm a breaking news entry by Fox Sports boxing insider Mike Coppinger, who tweeted on Tuesday of a possible three-fight deal worth close to $100 million.
“It’s in the ballpark,” Finkel noted. “With Deontay, though, his fights are never just about the payday. So there are several other things from the meeting that we need to consider.”
Finkel joined Wilder, adviser Al Haymon and Lou DiBella—who has been involved in a promotional capacity for Wilder’s past eight title defenses—in meeting with Skipper at DAZN headquarters on Tuesday, with little confirmed details coming of such session other that “it went well.”
The meeting came on the heels of Wilder (40-0-1, 39KOs) turned down an offer from Top Rank and ESPN to join heavyweight rival Tyson Fury on the platform. The two were discussing a rematch almost immediately after fighting to a disputed 12-round draw last December in Los Angeles.
A deal was thought to be reached, only for Fury and promoter Frank Warren to throw the industry for a loop in mid-February with the announcement of having joined the ESPN family. The declaration functionally killed any hope for a rematch, but with a glimmer of hope restored after Wilder revealed 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 came as a shock to most in the industry, given that Wilder has fought exclusively under the Premier Boxing Champions (PBC) umbrella since its formation in 2015. The entirety of his title reign has aired on Showtime (and its Pay-Per-View arm), NBC and Fox, with PBC having recently re-inked lucrative long-term deals with Showtime and Fox Sports.
Given his bold revelation to the contrary, an offer was presented by Top Rank founder and CEO Bob Arum to bring the long-reigning heavyweight titlist to his side of the street.
Had Wilder accepted, he would have been guaranteed $12.5 million for his first fighter under such a deal, which would’ve come versus Breazeale in a mandatory title defense. The 6’7” heavyweight titlist from Alabama ultimately left the offer on the table, which for the moment leaves any talks of a Fury rematch a non-starter.
However, the boxing industry collectively grew excited over the possibility of his finally squaring off with Anthony Joshua upon the reveal of DAZN being prepared to up the ante. The pair of unbeaten heavyweight titlists have spent the past three years circling one another, including a two-year period where both regularly fought on Showtime.
Joshua’s deal, through promoter Eddie Hearn, and its options finally ran out after his 12-round title unification win over Joseph Parker last March, just weeks after Wilder rallied to knock out Luis Ortiz to retain his title. The undefeated Brit took his services to DAZN, launching the USA model with his 7th round knockout of Alexander Povetkin last September.
It led to Wilder securing the services of Fury for his first career Pay-Per-View headliner, with plans for their rematch believed to go that route until ultimately falling apart. Suddenly, a showdown with Joshua became more likely, although such a fight not realistically happening any sooner than later this year or early 2020.
At this point, though, it would be contingent upon Wilder signing with DAZN, which he’s not yet ready to do. Whatever discussion takes place through the weekend will determine the final decision to be revealed next Tuesday.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox