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What Fury's deal with Top Rank, ESPN means for the heavyweight division

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Fury: I'd love to fight Wilder again (0:30)

Tyson Fury tells Steve Bunce he would jump at the chance to get back in the ring with Deontay Wilder. (0:30)

There was a fixer, an invisible man, a fighter, two veteran promoters, a baffled mediator, two television companies, a pile of cash and a lot of confusion and uncertainty after Monday's heavyweight announcement in the boxing business.

At dawn in New York and midday in London, it was revealed that Tyson Fury had agreed terms for a series of exclusive and lucrative fights on ESPN in the United States under the skilful eye of Top Rank promoter Bob Arum, the veteran's veteran. Fury will still be co-promoted by Frank Warren and all his future fights will continue to be screened on BT Sport in the U.K.

There is no reliable figure for the cash he will make, and claims that he is guaranteed $80 million sound grand, but that would be a tiny total for five fights if it included world titles, a rematch or two and potential unified title fights. Cash totals are the jokers in any boxing tale, played by novices too soon to grab the eye.

The announcement was a surprise to Deontay Wilder's co-manager Shelly Finkel, the extraordinary fight fixer, and Mauricio Sulaiman, the president of the WBC, the sanctioning body. Finkel had been working on the rematch since early December when Wilder and Fury fought to a draw in Los Angeles while Sulaiman had sanctioned the fight and was working as a mediator to help facilitate negotiations. There was a degree of shock and awe in both of their responses -- they had no idea.

On Monday Warren claimed that there had been no dialogue with Wilder's representatives for seven days, which can happen in complex negotiations for massive fights. Finkel was told of the Fury deal early the same morning and admitted he had no clue it was happening, but confirmed he would be calling Warren immediately. It is not often that Finkel is caught off guard in the fight game and from all of the secret action that makes the giant machine tick.

Sulaiman left a meeting in Mexico City on Monday morning to take a call and be told of the news that was coming out of London. Sulaiman had twice extended a proposed deadline for purse bids -- the archaic business method in boxing where rival promoters submit bids to stage a fight and the highest bid wins -- because he believed that everybody involved was getting closer and closer to a final deal. The rematch was part of modern boxing's heavyweight remedy, a glorious sign that champions would take dangerous fights and would then agree to do it all again.

Then the ESPN deal was revealed and the shift took place: In simple terms, which is never easy in the darkest of sporting trades, the deal gives Fury much more power and potential influence at the negotiating table for a future fight with Wilder. According to insiders, there were problems with the percentage for the rematch, the venue, the tricky issue of neutral judges, various secret clauses -- in short, the deal most people thought was done and dusted, was a long, long way from completion.

"I want Wilder, but now I have options," Fury said. Now that Fury has a signed and sealed broadcaster in the U.S. in ESPN and arguably the world's greatest promoter in Arum, he can sit down with Wilder and not have to concede on too many points for the rematch.

You see, Wilder and Al Haymon, Wilder's adviser and co-manager, can simply trawl through the ratings and select another fighter and get on with business in much the same way they have been since Wilder won the title in 2015. The defence against Fury was Wilder's eighth and there are plenty of heavyweights out there for Wilder to meet and beat. Haymon, who is never seen at ringside, does not respond to pressure and is unlikely to be rattled by Fury's powerful new alliance.

The addition of Arum to Fury's team will also inevitably hinder future deals with Haymon. Arum has repeatedly been critical of Haymon, suggesting several times that the mysterious music promoter does not exist. "I have not seen him in three years," said Arum, who is adamant that the rematch would be shown on ESPN.

If the Fury and Wilder rematch vanishes, it will be a great pity because the heavyweight division rediscovered glamour and pure, raw excitement when Fury and Wilder met. It was an old-fashioned fight for a new market with two big, fearless, swinging and vulnerable heavyweights rolling back the years and thrilling the fans like heavyweights are meant to do. It was arguably the best heavyweight championship fight to take place in the U.S. involving an American since Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield in their first fight in 1996.

Now, the rival teams with their rival backers, fighters and different broadcasters will sit and plot the future of the heavyweight division. The WBC could order a purse bid, set a date and create a dramatic deadline. If Fury's team win that bid, which is surely part of the reason for the new alliance, then it will be Wilder's decision to fight or take flight. That's a dilemma for another day.

Fury, meanwhile, will need to find an opponent for his May return to action and unbeaten Oscar Rivas would be a good fit for the first fight of his ESPN deal -- Wilder might just be chasing to secure the same man.

It's a brand new deal, but it does not yet feel like a brand new day in the heavyweight division.

Information from ESPN's Steve Kim contributed to this story.