Deontay Wilder will defend his WBC world heavyweight championship against Dominic “Trouble” Breazeale tomorrow night (May 18) live on Showtime. The decision to broadcast the fight on premium cable was a surprise to many – Fox Sports boxing insider Mike Coppinger wrote on March 7th that “Top Rank offered Wilder $12.5 million, and PBC had to contend with the eight-figure payday, necessitating PPV”- but Showtime Sports president Stephen Espinoza explained on March 19th that it was Wilder’s “loyalty” to the network and his insistence that the fight be available “without the high price tag” that drove the change in plans. The sports-centric streaming service DAZN was also reported to have an interest in carrying Saturday night’s bout. It’s been said that the OTT provider offered Wilder $20 million to fight Breazeale as part of lucrative 3 fight ($100 million) or 4 fight ($120 million) pacts that would have included a pair of bouts against WBA, IBF and WBO champion Anthony Joshua.
Howie Long-Short: Wilder’s decision to fight on Showtime tomorrow night means that he’s risking generational money. Sure, by not signing with DAZN he may be a network free agent (more on that in a bit) and with potentially lucrative fights against Joshua and lineal champion Tyson Fury on the horizon there’s value in that (exclusive deals between fighters and broadcast platforms often get in the way of big fights being made); PPV fights against competition of that caliber could net the American heavyweight more than he would have earned under the terms of the deal with the OTT provider. But those fights (and the dollars that come with them) are only a possibility if Wilder beats Breazeale (he’s a -$1,000 favorite) and fight fans know that a single punch can alter even the best of plans.
Even if you believe that Wilder was right to bet on himself and walk away from the DAZN deal, I’m struggling to grasp the logic behind airing the fight on Showtime. Wilder fights under the banner of Al Haymon’s Premier Boxing Champions brand which has broadcast deals in place with both Fox Sports and Showtime. If the fight wasn’t going to air on PPV, why not place it on the Fox network and maximize its (and Wilder’s) exposure? Fox is available is in +/- 120 million homes, Showtime is available in +/- 30 million.
Coppinger said that Wilder’s $12.5 million purse would have pushed the fight out of Showtime’s budget and it’s believed that the heavyweight champion was able to parlay the DAZN meeting into a bigger payday (in the neighborhood of the $20 million offered by John Skipper & Co.), so it’s certainly worth wondering how the fight landed on premium cable. Considering Showtime had NEVER paid out a licensing fee even close to that figure for a live fight airing on the cable network, even if the company is paying a record fee there remains a $10 million to $15 million shortfall.
Whoever is investing $10 million+ into this fight isn’t doing it to turn a profit on Saturday night because as one industry insider explained, “there is no economic route to breaking even on this fight”, so there must be a longer-term plan in place. Multiple sources told JohnWallStreet that they believe Al Haymon is bankrolling the fight to keep Deontay on his side of the street. The prevailing thought is that Premier Boxing Champions may be for sale (or raising capital) and that Haymon needs his heavyweight champion – arguably his greatest asset – to pull down the highest multiple. Of course, that would also mean Wilder isn’t a broadcast free-agent at all – he’s tied to PBC.
Fan Marino: While fans are clamoring for Wilder vs. Fury II or Wilder vs. Joshua and Deontay’s status as a network free-agent makes those fights logistically feasible, I’m hearing his next 2 fights are “preordained.” Expect to see Wilder vs. Luis Ortiz II and Wilder vs. Adam Kownacki. Both guys passed on the opportunity to replace “Big Baby” Miller in Anthony Joshua’s U.S. debut on June 1.
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