Yet another development threatens to stand in the way of Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder meeting for a third time.
The oft-postponed trilogy bout between the pair of heavyweights is once again in limbo, amidst reports of a COVID outbreak in Fury’s camp. The two are presently scheduled to collide July 24 live on a Pay-Per-View event jointly presented by ESPN and Fox Sports from T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, although a report from ESPN’s Mike Coppinger suggests that the fight is officially in jeopardy.
Event handlers continue to gather information regarding the reported development.
“We continue to monitor the health status of Tyson and his team,” Top Rank officials told BoxingScene.com in a provided statement. “[T]he status of the event has not changed to date.”
Insiders from Wilder’s camp declined official comment, other than to note that Wilder does not intend to break camp and will proceed as if the fight is still scheduled for later this month. BoxingScene.com has learned, however, that there is a far greater chance of the fight being postponed until September or later.
Hall of Fame promoter Bob Arum confirmed to reporters last month that Fury was fully vaccinated, although the matter was never verified beyond that claim. BoxingScene.com has been unable to determine who in Fury’s camp has tested positive.
The bout in present form comes more than 17 months after their rematch last February 22 at MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. England’s Fury (30-0-1, 21KOs) stopped Alabama’s Wilder (42-1-1, 41KOs) in the seventh round to win the WBC heavyweight title while reestablishing heavyweight championship lineage atop a PPV event which generated $16,916,440 in ticket sales and well north of $60,000,000 in PPV revenue although final figures for the latter were never released.
Fury and Wilder have not fought since then, with the pandemic twice postponing plans for a contractually bound third fight. Wilder exercised the clause roughly one week after enduring the lone loss of his career. He has since severed ties with Mark Breland, Wilder’s longtime co-trainer who signalled for referee Kenny Bayless to stop the fight.
Far greater accusations came of the fallout, with Wilder tightening up his inner circle. Malik Scott—a former Wilder opponent and longtime member of his team—has since received an elevated role and has largely taken over his training camp in preparation for the third fight.
The bout was formally announced earlier this spring, on the heels of a months-long arbitration hearing to determine whether the aforementioned contract clause had expired in light of the multiple postponements.
Fury was convinced of no longer owing Wilder a third fight, to the point of moving forward with talks for an undisputed heavyweight championship showdown versus countryman and WBA/IBF/WBO/IBO heavyweight titlist Anthony Joshua (24-1, 22KOs). Terms were reportedly agreed to in mid-May for the fight to take place August 14, pending the outcome of the arbitration. The official ruling was handed down just days later, stating that Fury was on the hook to face Wilder as explicitly stated in the contract.
The original meeting between Fury and Wilder took place in December 2018, with the two fighting to a disputed 12-round split decision draw atop a Showtime PPV event. Efforts to make an immediate rematch were thwarted when Fury walked away from a nearly finalized deal to instead sign a lucrative six-fight, nine-figure deal with Top Rank and ESPN+. Both went on to fight and win twice before their February 2020 rematch.
Should another postponement occur, efforts to reschedule can prove problematic. Wilder is a centerpiece attraction for Premier Boxing Champions (PBC), which is already deep into promotion for the welterweight championship showdown between Errol Spence (27-0, 21KOs) and Manny Pacquiao (62-7-2, 39KOs), which takes place August 21 on Fox Sports PPV from T-Mobile Arena.
Also currently in development, global superstar Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez (56-1-2, 38KOs) is eyeing a September ring return. The pound-for-pound king and reigning WBC/WBA/WBO super middleweight champ is currently in talks for an undisputed championship showdown with IBF titlist Caleb Plant (21-0, 12KOs), who also fights under the PBC banner.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox