Former heavyweight world titlist Deontay Wilder is taking world champion Tyson Fury to mediation in an effort to force what Wilder’s team believes is his contractual right to a third fight with Fury next, Wilder co-manager Shelly Finkel told BoxingScene on Tuesday.
Finkel said their contract calls for mediation to resolve any differences and if that does not work the issue would go to binding arbitration.
“In our contract, if there is a dispute it goes to mediation and that’s what’s going to happen,” Finkel said. “And (then) binding arbitration if mediation is unsuccessful.”
He said the mediation “should begin” this week but declined to say exactly when the video conference with representatives from the Fury side and the mediator would take place.
“It’s ludicrous but everybody is entitled,” Top Rank chairman Bob Arum, Fury’s co-promoter, told BoxingScene. “(Donald) Trump is entitled to contest the election. Finkel is entitled to contest the contract. It is what it is.”
At issue is whether Fury is obligated to fight Wilder for a third time in his next fight. They fought to a disputed draw in December 2018 and met again in a much-anticipated rematch on Feb. 22 in Las Vegas.
Fury knocked out Wilder in the seventh round of a one-sided fight to retain the lineal title and win the WBC belt from Wilder. The deal for the rematch contained language entitling the loser to a third fight if he wanted it, as long as the option was exercised within 30 days, which Wilder did.
The contract called for the fight to take place no later than July but also with the typical boxing contract language allowing for a 90-day postponement due to an injury or for some other significant reason. With Wilder having surgery due to an injury suffered in the February fight as well as the coronavirus pandemic, the fight was put off until October, still within the 90-day postponement window.
But because of the pandemic the fight was postponed again. The sides agreed to hold the bout, which was to be a joint pay-per-view between Fury broadcaster ESPN and Wilder broadcaster Fox just like the February fight had been, on Dec. 19 at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas, where they would be able to generate revenue from a limited amount of spectators.
According to Arum, Fury OK’d the move to Dec. 19, which was initially wide open from conflicts but when the college football season was restarted several major games and conference championships were scheduled on that date with both networks televising multiple games. Arum said the networks informed them that Dec. 19 was no longer viable for Fury-Wilder III.
At that point, Fury (30-0-1, 21 KOs), 32, of England, said he would not wait until 2021 and his co-promoter, Frank Warren, began planning a homecoming title defense for Dec. 5 at famed Royal Albert Hall in London, where he is supposed to face unbeaten former European champion Agit Kabayel (20-0, 13 KOs), 28, of Germany.
“They’re supposed to announce that I think (on Wednesday),” Arum said. “Frank is promoting that fight and he’ll announce when he wants to announce. They kept us informed because ESPN is going to televise the fight in the United States, or ESPN+.”
The Athletic was first to report on the forthcoming arbitration.
Finkel declined to discuss what the cutoff date was in their contract, saying “that’s what the mediation is for. (Arum) has his interpretation, I have mine and the mediator will decide.”
Finkel said whatever the legal resolution, Fury still has an obligation to fight Wilder (42-1-1, 41 KOs), 35, of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, again because Wilder gave Fury the opportunity when he was at a low point dealing with substance abuse and mental health problems.
“He gave Fury two shots to fight him,” Finkel said. “One when he was in his dark period. He reached out for Fury, kept in touch with him, said, ‘Come back, I will give you a shot,’ and he did. And when it was a draw he didn’t have an obligation to give a rematch and he gave it to him. And he could have gone another way at that time, but he said he would give him the rematch.”
Wilder had a nine-figure offer from DAZN that he could have taken rather than go in the direction of the rematch with Fury.
Dan Rafael was ESPN.com's senior boxing writer for fifteen years, and covered the sport for five years at USA Today. He was the 2013 BWAA Nat Fleischer Award winner for excellence in boxing journalism.