The expected immediate rematch between heavyweight world titleholder Deontay Wilder and lineal champion Tyson Fury won't happen next.
With a purse bid looming, a deal for a rematch was nearly complete when Fury unexpectedly signed a co-promotional deal with Top Rank last week that would bring his fights to ESPN platforms. There remained hope the rematch would still be next, with Top Rank offering promotional free agent Wilder a multifight deal that would consider an immediate rematch or a scenario where both fighters would have interim bouts this spring or summer before facing each other again in the fall.
The WBC, which sanctions the belt held by Wilder, set a Wednesday night deadline to hear from the camps on how they planned to proceed with the rematch it had ordered.
On Tuesday, the answer came: Fury decided not to fight Wilder next and will instead fight an opponent to be determined in May or June on ESPN+. Fury still hopes to face Wilder again before the end of the year.
Once that was made clear, Wilder co-manager Shelly Finkel told ESPN his fighter would make his next defense this spring, likely on May 18, against an opponent to be determined, most likely on either Showtime or Fox -- the two outlets that Wilder co-manager Al Haymon's Premier Boxing Champions has deals with.
Top Rank president Todd duBoef emailed WBC president Mauricio Sulaiman and Wilder's team on Tuesday afternoon to inform them of the decision.
"We've spoken to Tyson and he has made the decision to go forward with another fight and to address a Wilder rematch after that," duBoef wrote in the email, which was copied to Fury and obtained by ESPN. "We all appreciate the WBC and the tremendous role it has played in Tyson's career and hope the WBC will remain involved."
DuBoef declined to comment further to ESPN.
Shortly after receiving duBoef's email, Sulaiman responded to him and the others copied on the original email.
"The WBC has received the official position from both sides regarding the Deontay Wilder vs. Tyson Fury rematch," Sulaiman wrote in the email, which was also obtained by ESPN. "While Deontay Wilder confirmed that his only interest was to honor the WBC mandate for a rematch against Tyson Fury, Tyson Fury has confirmed that he would take a fight against a different opponent in his immediate future, hoping that after such, a rematch with Wilder can be considered. Consequently, the WBC is hereby cancelling the Wilder vs. Fury rematch mandate and process. We wish the best of luck to both fighters."
Fury posted to social media Tuesday afternoon.
He tagged Wilder in the tweet and elicited an angry response from him.
"You sorry muthaf----. We knew you only said this [because] you knew you wasn't fighting me next," Wilder wrote. "You requested a warm-up fight first. I don't blame you. I probably would too if I saw my brains splashed all over the canvas."
Wilder was likely making reference to their exciting fight on Dec. 1 at Staples Center in Los Angeles, where they fought to a draw in a fight in which Fury outboxed Wilder for long stretches but also suffered a knockdown in the ninth round and a massive one in the 12th round that he somehow managed to survive.
In the end, the judges ruled the fight a split draw -- 115-111 for Wilder, 114-112 for Fury and 113-113 -- prompting both fighters and fans to immediately call for a rematch. They were close to finalizing it until Fury and promoter Frank Warren made the deal with Top Rank.
Top Rank chairman Bob Arum said after the signing that he would send Wilder's team "a tremendous offer" for a multifight deal that would include a rematch with Fury later this year. Wilder, who has said he is not tied to any network or promoter, wanted to fight Fury again next and not wait.
"It's obvious that Fury doesn't want to fight us next," Finkel said. "Hopefully, we will get the next fight after that. So, in the meantime, we will do our own fight. We wanted to fight Fury next. We had no interest in another fight first. The proposal Top Rank sent was for a fight first and there's no reason we can't do our own fight if we're not fighting Fury next.
"Everything that we heard from Tyson Fury was that he wanted to fight Deontay next and we were willing to do that. Fury wasn't."
Finkel said Wilder's next fight will be figured out in the coming days.
"He will fight in May and we will announce it shortly," he said. "May 18 is our preference. We will know Friday or Monday and then we will announce his next plan."
Wilder's mandatory challenger is fellow PBC fighter Dominic Breazeale (20-1, 18 KOs), who could be the opponent. When it appeared as though Wilder (40-0-1, 39 KOs), 33, of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and Fury (27-0-1, 19 KOs), 30, of England, would fight next, the WBC ordered Breazeale and Dillian Whyte to fight for the interim title. Since the Wilder-Fury fight is no longer next, the WBC probably will rescind that order and give Breazeale the next shot.