By Griffin Olah
March 11, 2020
Griffin is a second-year undergraduate BGSU student from North Ridgeville, Ohio. He is a Sport Management major and a Journalism minor. His primary sports interests are baseball and football, both collegiate and professional, but he is also interested in basketball, MMA, boxing and hockey
On February 20, 2020, two of the top heavyweight boxers in today’s game met in Las Vegas for a championship bout. WBC Heavyweight Champion Deontay Wilder stood across the legendary Irish giant Tyson Fury for a rematch years in the making. With the WBC Heavyweight Championship on the line, boxing was ready to shine again.
Wilder and Fury met once before in December 2018, where their bout drew 325 thousand pay-per-view (PPV) viewers, which was the tenth largest PPV audience for a fight since the Paquiao-Mayweather superfight in 2015 (World Boxing News, 2019). Their first fight was a wildly entertaining disputed draw ending that captivated viewers. It didn’t do much, however, to push boxing back to the forefront of the casual sports viewer. It did create a perfect backdrop to a fight that may be able to bring boxing back to its former glory.
After all the announcements and pre-fight press conferences, the hype for Fury-Wilder II was at its peak. FOX and ESPN decided to co-promote the bout, which pushed it to an even larger audience than their first fight. Pre-fight PPV estimates ranged from 1 to 2 million viewers (John Wall Street, 2020a). For context, that would be the most viewed PPV fight since the Paquiao-Mayweather fight that drew in 4.6 million viewers, but turned them away bored and disappointed by their purchase (World Boxing News, 2019). The hope is that this superfight can leave viewers happier than the failings of Paquiao-Mayweather.
Amid all the theatrics of putting on a fight, like Fury coming out on a chariot adorning a crown and Wilder wearing a 45 pound costume that may or may not have slowed him during the fight, was a wildly entertaining championship match. Tyson Fury dominated Deontay Wilder throughout the seven-round bout, and ended the battle in a stunning TKO victory with 1:39 left in the round (Campbell, 2020).
After the hype and dust settled on the Gypsy King’s massive victory, the shine of boxing seemed on the borderline to return. The fight brought in an unprecedented $17 million in gate sales, which passed the gate record set by Lewis-Holyfield II in 1999 (Mazique, 2020). There were also between 800,000 and 850,000 PPV sales of the match, which is the fifth most watched fight since Mayweather-Paqiuao (John Wall Street, 2020b; World Boxing News, 2019). While the number of sales was much lower than initial estimates, it is believed that between 10 and 20 million people illegally streamed the fight (John Wall Street, 2020b). Illegal streams don’t help the sales and money generation for the fighters, promoters and everyone else involved, but they are a large indicator of the interest in boxing. With possibly 30 million viewers, Wilder-Fury II would easily eclipse the known 1.3 million viewers of Mayweather-Paquiao (World Boxing News, 2019).
Twitter seemed to collectively enjoy the fight, with many influential athletes praising Fury’s performance. High-profile athletes such as LeBron James and JJ Watt showed the fight’s successes, along with reactions from other high-profile sportscasters like Jemele Hill.
One fight is not indicative of the return of boxing, but a success like Wilder-Fury II definitely helps. When people think of boxing, the most thought of modern fight is the Mayweather-Pacquiao snoozefest that drove away the hype of the sport. Now, an entertaining, classic title fight has taken the reigns and can drive more people to the sport. So, is boxing back? No, not yet, but the increased interest and media coverage will certainly help the sport return to the forefront of American sports coverage.
Campbell, B. (2020, February 23). Deontay Wilder vs. Tyson Fury 2 fight results: ‘Gypsy King’ obliterates the ‘Bronze Bomber’ for TKO win. CBS Sports. Retrieved from: https://www.cbssports.com/boxing/news/deontay-wilder-vs-tyson-fury-2-fight-results-gypsy-king-obliterates-the-bronze-bomber-for-tko-win/live/
James, L [@KingJames]. (2020, February 23). His corner did he a FAVOR straight up!! No question about it. Equilibrium was super off and he may have…[Tweet]. Twitter. https://twitter.com/KingJames/status/1231455012624027650?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7Ctwcamp%5Etweetembed%7Ctwterm%5E1231455012624027650&ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Fsports.yahoo.com%2Ffans-react-twitter-social-media-tyson-fury-dominant-win-deontay-wilder-rematch-las-vegas-062354330.html
John Wall Street. (2020a, February 21). ‘Unprecedented’ co-promotion should enable Wilder-Fury 2 to hit one million PPV buys benchmark. Sports Illustrated. Retrieved from: https://www.si.com/johnwallstreet/sports-business/wilder-fury-2
John Wall Street. (2020b, March 3). Between 10 million and 20 million fans ripped off Wilder-Fury II, piracy symptom of larger problem. Sports Illustrated. Retrieved from: https://www.si.com/johnwallstreet/sports-business/wilder-fury-piracy
Mazique, B. (2020, February 22). Deontay Wilder vs Tyson Fury 2: Massive live gate breaks heavyweight record. Forbes. Retrieved from: https://www.forbes.com/sites/brianmazique/2020/02/22/deontay-wilder-vs-tyson-fury-2-massive-live-gate-breaks-heavyweight-record/#5dbfde6e12e5
Watt, JJ [@JJWatt]. (2020, February 23). Wow. What a fight.#WildervsFury2[Tweet]. Twitter. https://twitter.com/JJWatt/status/1231454181984276480?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7Ctwcamp%5Etweetembed%7Ctwterm%5E1231454181984276480&ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Fsports.yahoo.com%2Ffans-react-twitter-social-media-tyson-fury-dominant-win-deontay-wilder-rematch-las-vegas-062354330.html
World Boxing News. (2019, September 4). Top fifteen US pay-per-views since Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao. WorldBoxingNews. Retrieved from: https://www.worldboxingnews.net/2019/04/09/top-15-ppv-floyd-mayweather-manny-pacquiao/