The long-awaited rematch of undefeated World Boxing Council champion Deontay Wilder and the lineal champion Tyson Fury was confirmed yesterday, with the two heavyweights set to continue their rivalry on Feb 22 in the MGM Grand Garden Arena, Las Vegas.
The date and venue had been known unofficially for some time, but it had taken rival US networks ESPN and Fox – with BT Sport broadcasting in the UK – and opposing promoters Al Haymon, Bob Arum and Frank Warren until yesterday, eight weeks from the eve of the fight, to sign off all the documentation for part two in what is likely to be another dramatic night in heavyweight history.
It is only the third time that rival networks on US television have come together to share a contest, with Floyd Mayweather against Manny Pacquiao in 2015, and Lennox Lewis versus Mike Tyson in 2002, shared between HBO and Showtime.
The sequel between Wilder and Fury follows a controversial first contest on Dec 1 last year in Los Angeles, when the 6ft 9in Briton outfoxed and outboxed the Alabaman for almost the entire contest, but was dropped in the ninth round and again, heavily, in the 12th. Fury somehow regained his feet to fight on, and the judges returned a split-draw verdict, with the scorecards at 115–111 for Wilder, 114–112 for Fury and 113–113.
“There’s no more ducking and diving,” Fury said yesterday. He has parted with trainer Ben Davison ahead of this fight and has teamed up with Detroit’s Javan “Sugar” Hill in his corner.
“The date has been set, and the ‘Bomb Squad’ is about to be securely detonated and the real champion crowned as the world watches on for the most anticipated fight in years,” Fury said. “This is unfinished business for me, but come Feb 22, this dosser will finally get what’s coming to him, and I can’t wait …”
Wilder, with a growing reputation as one of the most dangerous knockout punchers, said: “I’m happy and excited that the rematch is finally happening. I want to give the fans what they want to see. I’ve been doing it with my last three outings – Fury, [Dominic] Breazeale and [Luis] Ortiz. They’ve been spectacular events – from my ring walks where I gather all the energy of the people, to my uniforms that I wear to help spread that energy.
“Then I give them what they all come for – the knockouts, and my knockouts have been amazing. I proved myself the first time and I’m ready to do it again. It was a very controversial fight. I promise my fans that there won’t be any controversy with this one. I’m going to finish it.”
Wilder v Fury II has been highly anticipated since their first meeting, one of the most memorable moments in heavyweight history, and has raised the stakes heading into the rematch.
Should Fury claim victory, it sets up the prospect later in the year of the “Gypsy King” meeting Anthony Joshua in the ring. Warren believes such a fight would rank alongside the World Cup final in 1966 as an event, and without doubt it would be the richest boxing match staged in this country.
Joshua said earlier this week: “My preference would be to fight the champion Wilder, because it’s a championship fight, but Fury is so talented as well and it’s the best of British, so why not? I’ll fight either one of them.
“But my dream would be to go for the fifth belt in 2020 [Joshua holds the World Boxing Organisation, World Boxing Association, International Boxing Federation and lesser regarded International Boxing Organisation belt].”
It is set to be a year of reckoning for the heavyweight division.