Telegraph Sport understands that the bidding process reached over $28m with the two facing off to broadcast the title fight
Anthony Joshua’s heavyweight title rematch with Ukraine’s Oleksandr Usyk in Jeddah next month has ended up on Sky Sports Box Office with the broadcaster having been locked in a high-stakes bidding contest with DAZN.
Despite the former heavyweight world champion signing a long-term deal with DAZN to follow promoter Eddie Hearn in leaving their previous home, Sky, after nine years, Telegraph Sport understands that the bidding process reached over $28million (£23.3m) on Thursday night with the two going head-to-head for the right to broadcast the title fight on pay-per-view, with Sky delivering a last-ditch coup in the career of Joshua.
With the Saudi Arabian organisation, backed by the government in that country, holding the global television rights to the contest – the Saudis having paid a reported £98m to host the contest in the Middle East – the winner of the television rights battle will broadcast the megafight from Jeddah, with the venue also set to be confirmed in the coming days. The BBC is also understood to have been involved in the bidding process, but has not tabled a bid close to the two frontrunners.
Joshua’s deal with DAZN was announced in mid-June, understood to be a five-year, 10-fight deal which could net the British fighter $100m a year, but with Sky claiming the broadcasting rights, it represents a major boost for the television network given Joshua’s high-profile departure. The non-disclosure of the television deal was the elephant in the room when Usyk and Joshua were in London last week to promote their contest, the most important fight of Joshua’s 27-fight career.
Joshua lost three heavyweight belts to Usyk on points last September in London. Talks are already under way for the winner to take on Fury this winter or early in 2023. Joshua might still get to fight Fury even if he loses again to Usyk because an all-British fight would be a huge box office opportunity, and would still be a “no-brainer”, according to Fury’s promoter Frank Warren.
Usyk and Joshua set to earn around £50m each from global earnings
For rival promoter Hearn, instrumental in persuading Joshua to switch allegiance to digital sports streaming platform DAZN with whom the promoter has an exclusive deal, DAZN failing to win the bidding battle may be a key moment in his career. Sources told Telegraph Sport, however, that Sky mounted an aggressive campaign to secure the rights, with the huge sum of £28m based on Joshua’s selling power in the UK market, as the sport’s second biggest pay-per-view star in the world to the Mexican boxer Saul Canelo Alvarez. Hearn also has a promotional deal with Alvarez.
Regardless of the television rights, Usyk and Joshua are set to earn around £50m each for the contest from global earnings. Usyk, 35, now regarded as in the top four pound-for-pound boxers in the sport, heads into the sequel as favourite to retain the titles.
Elsewhere, Telegraph Sport can also reveal that Hearn is close to completing a deal for one of his Matchroom Boxing stars, Conor Benn, to meet in a blockbuster fight with Chris Eubank Jr, who has moved his allegiance from Sky Sports to DAZN for a fight which will stir memories of their fathers – Chris Eubank Snr and Nigel Benn – meeting in two of the most memorable fights in one of the biggest rivalries in British boxing in 1990 and 1993, in world title contests at middleweight and super middleweight respectively.
It is understood that the contest will be at a catchweight, yet to be agreed. Benn, 25, an unbeaten welterweight high in the world rankings in his weight division, will move up in weight to battle with Eubank, 32, who has campaigned at middleweight and super middleweight in a resume of 34 contests, with two defeats to Billy Joe Saunders, and George Groves.