Russian promoter Andrey Ryabinsky of World of Boxing put his money where his mouth is, winning a purse bid Friday afternoon in Miami for the right to promote and control heavyweight titleholder Deontay Wilder's mandatory defense against former titlist Alexander Povetkin in one of the division's most attractive fights.
Ryabinsky, Povetkin's promoter, bid $7.15 million while attorney Alex Dombroff, representing promoter Lou DiBella, who works with Wilder, offered $5,101,000.42.
Promoters of titleholders typically are at a significant advantage because their side is entitled to 70 percent of the money, but Ryabinsky won and now can force Wilder to travel to Russia for the fight.
DiBella said that contrary to rumors circulating, Wilder is not going to give up his title and will fight wherever Ryabinsky decides to stage the bout, though there is a chance he will elect to have the fight in the United States.
"We're very happy to fight for 70 percent of 7.15 million on our side," DiBella told ESPN. "There was never any chance that Deontay was going to vacate his title. The fight is happening. If they put the fight in Russia, then I hope [Russian President Vladimir] Putin can personally attend so he can watch 'Sasha' get knocked out."
Ryabinsky has 90 days to put on the bout and has until March 11 to inform the WBC and Wilder's camp of the date and site of the fight. Signed contracts must be returned to the WBC by March 17.
Had DiBella won the purse bid, the fight was going to be May 21 on Showtime and likely at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. Under a new rule announced by the WBC just hours before the purse bid took place, it said that rather than a 70-30 split of the total bid in favor of the titleholder, 10 percent of the winning bid will be put in escrow and paid as a bonus to the winner of the bout with the rest of the bid total being split 70-30.
That means 10 percent of the winning bid -- $715,000 -- will go into escrow, with Wilder entitled to at least $4,504,500, by far a career-high payday, and Povetkin getting at least $1,930,500.
The fact that the fight wound up at an auction is a mild surprise. Ryabinsky and Povetkin came to New York to watch as Wilder, 30, knocked Artur Szpilka out cold in the ninth round on Jan. 16 at Barclays Center. Ryabinsky spent time conversing to DiBella in what DiBella called positive talks.
Povetkin also professed an interest in fighting in New York.
"I look very positively on this," Povetkin told ESPN through a translator at Wilder-Szpilka. "It's interesting. Secondly, Wilder is a world champion. Thirdly, the United States of America is the center of global boxing. I always want to box the best, and it doesn't matter which country, Russia or USA. It doesn't matter to me."
Wilder (36-0, 35 KOs), of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, will be making his fourth title defense when he meets Povetkin, a 2004 Russian super heavyweight Olympic gold medalist.
Povetkin (30-1, 22 KOs), 36, has won four fights in a row by knockout since a one-sided decision loss to then-heavweight world champion Wladimir Klitschko in October 2013. That fight took place in Moscow after Ryabinsky shocked everyone with a massive $23,333,330 bid, one of the largest in history.
Povetkin's four straight victories all were against well-regarded opposition (Mariusz Wach, Mike Perez, Carlos Takam and Manuel Charr). After he beat Szpilka, Wilder, a 2008 U.S. Olympic bronze medalist, told ESPN he was looking forward to facing Povetkin.
"I'm super confident in that fight," Wilder said last month. "I've been waiting for Povetkin for a very long time, and I'm looking forward to him."