Top Rank chairman Bob Arum said on Wednesday that despite the decision for lineal heavyweight champion Tyson Fury to pass on an immediate rematch with world titleholder Deontay Wilder, the goal remains to make the fight for this fall.
"I'm assuring you that is the plan," Arum told ESPN in a telephone interview from Dubai, where he and Top Rank president Todd duBoef traveled this week for meetings with officials from MTK Global, which manages Fury, to discuss his future.
On Tuesday, Top Rank informed the WBC that Fury was going to fight an interim bout in May or June instead of taking an immediate rematch with Wilder -- one that the WBC had mandated and that was nearly finalized before Fury signed a co-promotional deal with Top Rank last week that will see him fight in the United States and on ESPN platforms.
"Why we made that determination was, when we analyzed it, boxing people knew Tyson Fury, particularly after the great fight with Wilder," Arum said, citing their exciting draw on Dec. 1 in Los Angeles. "But the truth is, the public didn't really know who he was. They didn't really know his back story. We think Tyson Fury is a larger-than-life character, and we expect that ESPN, leading up to his fight in May or June -- and they've assured us -- will have him on and let him do his thing and everyone will know Tyson Fury for better or worse.
"They will know about his depression after he won the title (in a big upset from Wladimir Klitschko in 2015), about his drug use and his issues and how he overcame them. He is prepared to tell everything, and people will really get to know this guy, who is very articulate and entertaining. And then it will be time to do the Wilder fight."
The Wilder-Fury fight in December generated about 325,000 buys on Showtime PPV. Arum said he thinks an immediate rematch would have generated around 400,000.
"But if people got to know Fury and, hopefully, in some ways people get to know Wilder, this thing should go over 1.5 to 2 million buys on ESPN PPV," Arum said. "We'd make it a major, major event, not just do it because it's there, because fight fans want to see it. I think if it goes in the fall after the tremendous buildup it will be blockbuster. That's the gamble we're taking."
Arum had hoped to sign Wilder (40-0-1, 39 KOs), who says he is a promotional and network free agent, and have him and England's Fury (27-0-1, 19 KOs) fight separate bouts on two different cards on ESPN+ in May or June with a contract in place for a fall rematch.
But Wilder preferred to go directly the rematch, and his team rejected Top Rank's offer, reasoning that they could simply do his next fight on their own without Top Rank. Shelly Finkel, Wilder's co-manager, told ESPN on Tuesday that Wilder will defend his belt in the spring, preferably on May 18, against an opponent to be determined. "Hopefully, they will do the same thing and build up Wilder on whatever platform they have for his next fight," Arum said.
Arum said the offer Top Rank made to Wilder for the interim bout against a regular opponent would have paid him "a lot more than $8 million," although he declined to give the specifics of the offer.
"So let them come up with comparable money for his next fight," Arum said. "Obviously, Wilder was aware of our offer. (We made such a big offer because) we had to get his attention."
Arum also said that any deal for a fall fight between Wilder and Fury would not require Wilder to sign a long-term deal with Top Rank and give up options, other than for a potential third bout with Fury.
"They wouldn't be making a commitment to us," Arum said. "Nothing is required. No options unless there is a trilogy."
Arum said he will now turn his attention to building up Fury's name in the American public and hope the Wilder rematch will be there in the fall.
"We have to look at our guy and we need that runway to really build him and to get across to the public who he is and his personality and we'll be able to do that," Arum said. "And then when he fights Wilder, whether or not they've done the same with Wilder, at least one guy in the promotion will be larger than life and that will send the (pay-per-view) numbers through the sky."
Arum said no decision has been made on Fury's next opponent, but that fight likely would take place in either New York or Las Vegas.
"We're dedicated and (MTK Global is) dedicated to making Tyson Fury as big a name as we can in the United States," he said.