In what was a stunning turn of events, it was announced on Monday that Tyson Fury and his promoter, Frank Warren, had signed a co-promotional deal with Top Rank that will see his bouts air live on ESPN airwaves. This landmark deal also calls for a minimum of two bouts per year in the United States.
Fury (27-0-1, 19 KOs), who is still the lineal heavyweight champion of the world, was thought to be on the cusp of consummating a deal to face Deontay Wilder in a highly anticipated rematch. Back on Dec. 1, the two fought to a disputed draw at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.
Fury will make millions from this deal and be given vast exposure to American audiences, but when it's said and done, the success of this deal will hinge on just whom the colorful 'Gypsy King' faces in the upcoming years.
So, who is out there for him? And which pairing is the most realistic, given the current landscape of the boxing industry?
Fury vs. Wilder II: Bob Arum, the chairman of Top Rank, has made it clear that this rematch should take place on the largest platform available in America (which to him is obviously ESPN). But Wilder (40-0-1, 39 KOs) and the Premier Boxing Champions -- which is headed up by his adviser, Al Haymon -- have had a longtime association with Showtime, which distributed their first pay-per-view encounter.
It's not clear if Wilder is a television free agent, as he claims he is, or if Haymon would even allow Wilder to wander over to ESPN for a career-high payday.
Though many assumed that this new deal Fury has inked with Top Rank and ESPN would effectively kill -- or delay -- the Wilder rematch, Arum stays positive.
"Deontay Wilder himself said, that as far as networks are concerned, he's a free agent," Arum told ESPN. "Today, we are sending out an offer to Deontay Wilder, which will also go to his manager, Shelly Finkel, and his adviser, Al Haymon, making this offer -- which is a tremendous one -- to do the fight between Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder."
So for the time being, the ball is in Wilder's court.
The bottom line is that a second go-round between these two is one of the most anticipated matchups of 2019. It would be a shame if the usual boxing alliances get in the way of this fight. There is still unfinished business between the two.
Fury vs. Anthony Joshua: If this all-British battle took place, you'd probably need two soccer stadiums to hold all the fans who would want to be there to witness what would be considered the biggest fight in UK history. While Fury has the lineal title (for whatever that's worth), it's Joshua who has possession of the WBA, WBO and IBF titles and is ranked No. 1 by ESPN.com in the heavyweight division. Fury is currently ranked third, and many believe his slippery style and deft movement would trouble the statuesque Joshua.
But again, though this matchup is a no-brainer from a box-office and pay-per-view perspective, there are some hurdles to overcome. Warren and Eddie Hearn (who has promoted Joshua since he came out of the 2012 Olympics with a gold medal for England) are the Hatfields and McCoys of the boxing scene across the pond, but you would hope that with the kind of pounds that are at stake for this fight, they could at least reach across the aisle this particular time.
Though most of the Matchroom Sports stable is under the DAZN banner, it's been reported that Joshua is not exclusively tied to them. With that said, his fight against Alexander Povetkin last September was on this streaming platform, and his June 1 bout with Jarrell Miller at Madison Square Garden will be, too.
Bottom line is that these first two fights feature the top three big men in the glamour division of the sport; it would be a downright shame -- and a monumental failure of everyone involved -- if they do not occur at some point in the future.
Fury vs. Kubrat Pulev: OK, so let's assume that Fury will not face Wilder next and he's going to need a fight in the interim to kick off this new deal. In Pulev (26-1, 13 KOs), he has a opponent with decent credentials, and Pulev is coming off a 12-round victory over Tyson's cousin, Hughie Fury, this past October. Pulev's only loss was to the long-reigning heavyweight champion, Wladimir Klitschko, when he was stopped in five rounds back in 2014.
What makes sense with this matchup is that Pulev (who is rated No. 9 in the ESPN.com rankings) is respectable and just as importantly, he recently signed a co-promotional pact with Top Rank, so that certainly greases the skids for this pairing to become a reality.
Fury vs. Joseph Parker: Parker was the WBO belt-holder coming into 2018, but he lost that belt in what was an overly cautious performance against Joshua last March, dropping a one-sided, 12-round verdict. Then he was defeated by Dillian Whyte by unanimous decision in his next outing, before bouncing back with a third-round stoppage of Alexander Flores in December.
Parker (25-2, 19 KOs) is still considered a pretty solid heavyweight by today's standards and is currently ranked No. 8 by ESPN.com at heavyweight. And once again, given that he has no long-term commitment to any platform in America, he seems to be unhindered in terms of accepting this assignment.
Fury vs. Oscar Rivas: The undefeated Rivas (26-0, 18 KOs) is coming off a big victory, as he halted fellow contender Bryant Jennings in Round 12 in January. Currently, the Colombian is rated in the top 10 by the WBC, WBA and IBF.
Top Rank now has peripheral interest in Rivas after his win over Jennings, so again, this aids the process of making this bout in the immediate future. Rivas is a solid, all-around fighter who doesn't do anything exceptionally well but is more than respectable as a stay-busy type of foe for Fury.
Fury vs. Dillian Whyte: It's not clear at this moment with whom Whyte is aligned. Though his past several fights have been with Matchroom Sports, there are rumors that he could be joining the PBC. With that said, Whyte has crafted a very solid career and gained a reputation as being one of the more crowd-pleasing heavyweights, and that reputation was bolstered by his highlight-reel, 11th-round knockout of Dereck Chisora in December.
Though it may not be of the magnitude of Joshua-Fury, should Fury and Whyte meet, it will be another major English heavyweight pairing that will generate significant interest in that part of the world.
Regardless, Whyte, the fourth-ranked heavyweight by ESPN.com, seems to be in prime position to land a significant bout sooner rather than later, as he is the No. 1-rated contender in the WBC to Wilder, and the WBO to Joshua, who handed him his lone professional loss.
Fury vs. Jarrell Miller: Now, much of this will depend on how well "Big Baby" performs against Joshua, but a solid outing shouldn't hurt his standing all that much. Miller (23-0-1, 20 KOs), a former kickboxer, is one of the most gregarious personalities in the sport, and it would certainly make for a fun promotion between he and Fury (who also has the gift of gab).
Miller's last two bouts have been on DAZN, but it's not clear if he has a long-term agreement with them.
If Miller is able to pull the upset, than he suddenly becomes the guy in the catbird seat in the heavyweight division.