Packing A Punch: Wilder-Fury II Set To Break Live-Gate Records
Saturday's Deontay Wilder-Tyson Fury fight at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas is "trending toward becoming the highest-grossing heavyweight fight in U.S. history," according to Lance Pugmire of THE ATHLETIC. The live gate for the rematch of their December '18 fight "will blow by" the $11M UFC 246, which was headlined by Conor McGregor, earned last month at T-Mobile Center, and the joint ESPN-Fox PPV "could exceed 1 million buys, perhaps triple what the first chapter produced." Promoters for Wilder-Fury II are "hopeful this rematch establishes a new Nevada record" by surpassing the $16.86M live-gate mark set with the '99 Lennox Lewis-Evander Holyfield fight. The U.S. record is $17.5M set during the Lewis-Mike Tyson fight in '02, which was held in Memphis (THEATHLETIC.com, 2/19). Meanwhile, in L.A., Norm Frauenheim reported the fight "could be worth huge money for both fighters." Top Rank Chair Bob Arum, who promotes Fury, did not reveal what the guarantees are for either fighter, though he said that Fury "has a chance to get" more than $40M (L.A. TIMES, 2/20).
CHANCE TO REVIVE TO DIVISION: The TIMES' Frauenheim noted Wilder-Fury II "could be a significant milestone" in the "heavyweight revival." It is largely believed that this fight is the "biggest heavyweight match" since Lewis-Tyson (L.A. TIMES, 2/19). THE ATHLETIC's Pugmire noted boxing in recent years has been headlined by smaller fighters like Floyd Mayweather Jr., Manny Pacquiao and Oscar De La Hoya, who drew "massive interest while the dreary, one-sided success of the Klitschko brothers turned the heavyweight division dormant." Wilder said, "We can all recall when it was in a dark tunnel where no one in America knew who the heavyweight champion of the world was." Pugmire notes with Anthony Joshua "regaining his three belts from Andy Ruiz Jr. in December, there's now a heightened possibility that the three elites can stage a round-robin of sorts" similar to what Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier and George Foreman did in the '70s and what Holyfield, Tyson and Lewis did in the late '90s/early '00s (THEATHLETIC.com, 2/19). In Dallas, Calvin Watkins writes American fans "talk of the past when it comes to the heavyweight division," with most of the talk "over the last 20 years or so" revolving around Holyfield and Tyson. Watkins: "That's how long it's been since an American heavyweight took charge of the sport. Now, there is an opportunity for Wilder" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 2/21). ESPN's Myron Medcalf said the sport of boxing "needs this to be a great fight." Medcalf: "This could really save the sport. Floyd Mayweather's gone. You don't really have a big star that transcends the sport, that gets people outside of the sport interested. Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder are fighting for something much bigger than a heavyweight belt" ("The Will Cain Show," ESPN Radio, 2/19).
TAKE IT FOR WHAT IT IS: USA TODAY's Josh Peter writes Wilder-Fury II has "no chance" to "restore boxing to its past glory." However, it is still "worth savoring." Foreman called it the "third best rematch in heavyweight boxing history" behind Joe Louis-Max Schmeling in '38 and Ali-Frazier in '75. Foreman: "This is pure boxing peaking, heavyweight history." Peter notes boxing will "never regain its former stature," but Wilder-Fury II "will command the attention of the sports world" on Saturday (USA TODAY, 2/21).
READY FOR HIS BREAKTHROUGH: In L.A., Arash Markazi noted Wilder can "cement his status as the best heavyweight boxer in the world with a victory over Fury and become a household name around the country" (L.A. TIMES, 2/20). In Ft. Worth, Mac Engel wrote, "We love personality. We love pop. For some reason we don't love Deontay Wilder, who deserves his place in the upper tier of the American sports world." Should Wilder win Saturday's fight, he will deserve his "due as a great heavyweight champion" as well as the "celebrity status that is afforded to the victor of such bouts" (Ft. Worth STAR-TELEGRAM, 2/20). In Birmingham, Joseph Goodman writes Wilder will become an "international superstar" and the U.S. will "crown him its new hero" with a win (BIRMINGHAM NEWS, 2/21).