Heavyweight world titleholder Deontay Wilder, pursued by various broadcasters and offered deals worth as much as $120 million, has decided to remain with longtime broadcast partner Showtime, at least for now.
Wilder and mandatory challenger Dominic Breazeale, whose long-simmering acrimony will carry the promotion, were on hand at a news conference Tuesday afternoon at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, to formally announce their May 18 fight at the arena where both have fought previously.
The intrigue on Tuesday was the disclosure of which broadcast platform would air the fight. That was answered immediately when Showtime boxing host Brian Custer opened the news conference with the announcement that it would be on Showtime, and not on Showtime PPV as many thought, or even on Fox or Fox PPV, the other broadcast partner for Premier Boxing Champions, which Wilder and Breazeale are part of.
It would also not be on sports streaming service DAZN, which last week offered Wilder his choice of a three-fight deal worth $100 million or a four-fight deal worth $120 million that would include a pair of $40 million paydays to fight for the undisputed title against three-belt titlist Anthony Joshua and a rematch.
Instead, Wilder and his team, managers Shelly Finkel and PBC founder Al Haymon, decided to ride with Showtime. Terms of the fight were not disclosed, but Wilder was offered $20 million by DAZN for the bout, as well as $12.5 million by Top Rank to have the fight on ESPN+ ahead of a rematch with lineal champion Tyson Fury, who fought to a draw with Wilder on Dec. 1, in the fall.
"We have a May 18 deal and we are continuing to discuss what happens after that," Showtime Sports president Stephen Espinoza told ESPN following the news conference.
Finkel told ESPN they are discussing a three-fight deal with Showtime. While he declined to give the value, he said Wilder would "make as much or more than he would have made under the DAZN deal" and that is without a fight against Joshua. Finkel also said that if the Showtime deal is finalized it wouldn't prevent a Joshua fight or Fury rematch on other platforms.
"Deontay is not locked into anyone because he would have outs [in the deal]," said Finkel, adding that he is also still talking to Fury management company MTK Global about a possible Fury rematch later this year.
At the news conference, Espinoza credited Wilder's sense of loyalty -- as well as a good deal -- as the reasons why he chose to remain with Showtime, at least for the fight with Breazeale.
"It would be an understatement to say that there's been a lot of speculation regarding Deontay's future and we are proud to have him back on Showtime," Espinoza said. "And one of the main reasons this fight is back on Showtime is Deontay Wilder. It was critical to Deontay, for the sport, for his fans, for the entire world, that this fight be available not on pay-per-view but on Showtime without the high price tag.
"And because of his insistence that is the primary reason we are standing here today announcing a non-pay-per-view fight on Showtime. We've been together a long time and built something special. ... He's made a decision that demonstrates his loyalty and a decision which guarantees financial success for a long, long time.
"And he's not avoiding the big fights. Deontay isn't the one who walked away from the Tyson Fury rematch. He isn't the one who walked away from the Tyson Fury purse bid. He isn't the one imposing conditions on the big fights. Can you imagine for a moment if Deontay said, 'Anybody who fights me has to sign for three or four fights with Showtime and PBC'? All of you would murder him for that, and yet those are the conditions being imposed on him [for a Joshua fight or Fury rematch]. I'm not going to go into detail, but rest assured Deontay has made a choice that demonstrates loyalty and one that will be financially lucrative for a long, long time."
Wilder declined to discuss specifics of the deal but said he was happy the fight would not be on pay-per-view.
"I've had a long relationship with Showtime. I consider these guys like family to me. We come a long way," he said. "I didn't feel like this fight was a pay-per-view fight. I feel when you have pay-per-view fights they are the special fights, like they're the ones you gotta see, like you'll miss your rent money to see the fight. I don't feel this fight is that type of situation and I don't want people to pay more than they have to pay. I'm the people's champion. I'm not trying to take more than what's due to me. I want to be fair to the people."
Wilder (40-0-1, 39 KOs), 33, of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, will be making his ninth title defense and it will be against an opponent he has history with. In February 2017, Wilder retained his title by fifth-round knockout of Gerald Washington and Breazeale (20-1, 18 KOs), 33, of Eastvale, California, knocked out Izuagbe Ugonoh in the fifth round on the undercard.
Later that night, in the lobby at the fight hotel in Birmingham, Alabama, Wilder, younger brother Marcellos Wilder and Breazeale and their teams were involved in an altercation. Earlier, Marcellos Wilder and Breazeale had argued at the arena. Police were called following the hotel incident but no arrests were made.
"It's no secret there's a personal rivalry between the two of them. It's not going to be, I predict, the kind of friendly promotion that we saw with the Tyson Fury fight," Espinoza said. "There's genuine animosity here."
The 2017 incident has made things personal for Deontay Wilder and Breazeale, both former U.S. Olympians.
"I'm sick of seeing this bum walk around with the belt. I'm gonna put him on his ass," said Breazeale, who had his new trainer, Virgil Hunter, by his side. "Everyone will be sitting in their seat and then will rise up when I knock him down and they gonna stay on their feet."
The title shot will be Breazeale's second. In June 2016 he challenged Joshua in London and got knocked out in the seventh round. Breazeale has won three fights in a row since, all by knockout.
Wilder said he was looking forward to fulfilling his mandatory obligation and moving on.
"It's always a great thing to get the mandatories out of the way because I consider the mandatories like flies. They always buzzing in your ear," he said. "I want to fight the best. I've been trying to prove to the world what I've been saying. Here we are -- another man, the next man in line. I can't wait. This is the only sport where payback is a motherf-----. I'm glad he has Virgil on his side. Maybe he can show him something a little different maybe to not get knocked out.
"It's good to see 12-round fights with skill and some will. But nobody really want to sit in their seat for 12 rounds. You want to see somebody brain get knocked outta their head and I'm literally trying to do that. I'm trying to give you something you ain't never seen. I'm trying to make it PG-13 up in this place. I can't wait. I will knock this fool out. He may not get up. I expect him to make some funeral arrangement because it's going to be crazy. I can't wait. Oh, my God. Although this ain't a pay-per-view fight it feels like one."
Wilder is one of boxing's most devastating punchers and said Breazeale will be on the receiving end of a bad one.
"I'm gonna run this fool over. You know I bring the pain. I bring devastating knockouts," he said. "I can't wait to see what this fool's body does when I hit him on his face, when I hit him on the chin. I try to punch through them so I'm gonna grab his brain and I'm gonna bring it outta his head like it's 'Mortal Kombat.' That's how it's gonna be. I promise you that."