LAS VEGAS, Nevada, February 18, 2020 – For fans who aren’t interested in watching smaller weight divisions in boxing – meaning anything below heavyweight – they haven’t gotten excited about a major prizefight in two decades. Was it Lennox Lewis? Evander Holyfield? For many, it’s Mike Tyson or an aging George Foreman.
If this is your attitude, it’s time to wake up and get excited about a thrilling heavyweight matchup again.
If you’ve watched any sports news or anything on the Fox networks, it’s been impossible to miss the promotion of the rematch between American and WBC Heavyweight Champion Deontay Wilder of Tuscaloosa, Alabama (42-0-1, 41 KOs) and challenger Tyson Fury of Manchester, England (29-0-1, 20 KOs). Wilder and Fury share the single draw on their record. The pair fought to a dramatic draw on December 1, 2018, in which the power-punching Wilder knocked Fury down and out – until he rose from the canvas and nearly came back to win the fight.
The fight takes place at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, and airs on Fox PPV on Saturday, February 22, starting with undercard fights at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT. It also available via ESPN+ and various satellite providers.
If you missed the first fight, get started by watching the highlights.
Heavyweight division again the center of attention
For most of boxing’s history, the heavyweight division was its glamour division. American athletic stars turned to boxing to show off their skills. But as the NFL and NBA began growing in fan popularity and salaries started to skyrocket, Americans who could get a college scholarship and possibly make a better living found ways to avoid the intense training and health risks by playing another sport.
Foreign heavyweights began to dominate boxing, although the influx of foreign-born players in the NBA and the globalization of sport could have also deflected a potential champion we’ll never know about.
Meanwhile, smaller athletes continued to pursue boxing, often because there weren’t many other big money opportunities. The world’s highest-earning boxers of the last 20 years, Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather, competed at weights less than 150 pounds, often far less. Pacquiao began his career weighing 108 pounds.
But the heavyweight division is again the center of attention, thanks to the charismatic American and brash talking Irish traveler who have resurrected the division. Yes, Anthony Joshua and even Andy Ruiz Jr. have helped the resurgence. But the biggest fight that could be made now has been made and is hours away.
Big stakes riding on the big men
Heavyweight championship fights were once a cultural phenomenon beyond sports. But as boxing interest has shifted to streaming services and a niche audience, pay per view sales have dropped.
This clash represents more than titles. It’s a test of the sport’s ability to deliver a significant audience and the revenue to go with it as boxing enters a new decade. Wilder’s promoter Premier Boxing Champions and Fury’s promoter Top Rank Boxing came to an agreement that must make dollars and sense for both of them. Just four years ago, Top Rank’s Bob Arum tried to sue PBC’s Al Haymon in an antitrust lawsuit, although it was dismissed.
In the last six weeks, the co-promoters and networks have leaned in hard to convince Americans boxing still matters with Super Bowl ads, public appearances, YouTube content, features in GQ Magazine, and more interviews than either Wilder or Fury imagined. Thank goodness neither man has trouble expressing himself.
“We talk about boxing having a renaissance, but it’s really about the heavyweight division,” said Todd DuBoef, President of Top Rank. “That’s what is going to create that renaissance more than anything right now.”
“The heavyweight division is still the biggest and most powerful division in boxing. It always will be. Everyone wants to see the fighters throwing the big blows,” said Fury’s trainer, SugarHill Steward.
Now in 2020, the stakes could not be higher. If the pay-per-view gamble on Saturday pays off with one million PPV buys, the reluctance by promoters to work together to make more championship fights will start to dissipate. If you want to see Spence Jr. vs. Crawford, you need to hope WilderFury 2 makes a boatload of money for everyone involved.
WilderFury 2 Fight Week schedule of public and broadcast events
In addition to all the pre-fight feature programming you could ever binge on (check ESPN, ESPN Deportes, Fox, FS1, and Fox Deportes, along with FoxSports.com and ESPN.com), fans in Las Vegas for Fight Week can attend several public events, whether or not they have tickets on Saturday.
The fighters participate in the traditional Grand Arrivals at the MGM Grand Hotel lobby beginning with undercard fighters at 1 pm, with Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder scheduled at 1:45 p.m. and 2:15 p.m.
Undercard fighters hold workouts open to the public in the MGM Grand Garden Arena’supper lobby area (outside Studios A&B) from 3 p..m. to 5:30 p.m.
The official WilderFury 2 weigh-in is open to the public
Friday, February 21 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, with media and fans getting their last close-up look at all the fighters competing on Saturday. The doors open at 12:30 p.m., with the weigh-in scheduled at 3 p.m. It will also air live on ESPN and Fox Sports.
Fans can also watch the final pre-fight news conference live on ESPN2 and Fox Sports 1 on Wednesday, February 19 at 4:30 p.m. ET.
ESPN’s “Sports Center on the Road” and “Max on Boxing” will broadcast live from Las Vegas daily starting Tuesday, February 18. The popular “First Take” show with Stephen A. Smith and Max Kellerman airs live from the MGM Grand Garden Casino on Feb. 20 and 21 at 10 a.m. ET/7 a.m. PT.
Gayle Lynn Falkenthal is a veteran boxing observer covering the Sweet Science for Communities. Read more Ringside Seat in Communities Digital News. Follow Gayle on Instagram and on Twitter @PRProSanDiego.
Please credit “Gayle Falkenthal for Communities Digital News” when quoting from or linking to this story.
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