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Fox Sports, ESPN to Lace Up for Wilder-Fury III

Fox Sports and ESPN will again team up to co-promote a third Tyson Fury-Deontay Wilder pay-per-view fight which will take place later this year, according to Fox Sports executives. 

The announcement comes two weeks after the two popular heavyweight boxers fought for a second time in what turned out to be one of the biggest PPV heavyweight fights in decades. A reported 800,000 to 850,000 PPV viewers watched Fury defeat Wilder via a seventh round TKO. The fighters’ 2018 inaugural fight ended in a controversial draw.

RELATED: Tyson Fury Defeats Deontay Wilder in Big PPV Heavyweight Fight

Fox Sports would not disclose a date for the third bout, which was set after Wilder -- as the loser of the second fight -- exercised a rematch clause in the Feb. 22 fight contract.

I recently talked to Fox Sports executive VP and head of programming and scheduling Bill Wanger about the performance of Fury-Wilder II as well as prospects for the third fight. An edited version of the interview appears below.

Will there be a third Fury-Wilder III fight and if so, when would it take place?

The rematch clause has been triggered. The parties involved are still discussing the date.

Do you think Fury’s dominating performance in the fight hurts the PPV appeal for a third fight?

No, we think the third fight will be just as popular. There will be some time between the second and the third fight, but it just wasn’t Deontay’s night. We expect there to be a different fight.

Can you confirm the reported 800,000 to 850,000 PPV buy figures for Wilder-Fury II?

We’re not going to get into the numbers. We view the success of the event based on the great promotion we had. We had a great partnership with ESPN and [boxing promoters] PBC and Top Rank, and that’s how we judge a successful event. From our perspective the outcome didn’t work out in terms of Deontay losing, but hats off to Tyson Fury -- he fought a great fight and there will be a trilogy fight.

A third Fury-Wilder fight would bring together Fox Sports and ESPN as co-promoters. Will the industry see the same promotional commitment for the third fight from the two TV sports powerhouses?

The thing that made [Wilder-Fury II] feel big and have a lot of gravitas was the combined talent effort between Fox and ESPN. We thought it worked well and served the viewers quite nicely.

Did the massive promotion for Wilder-Fury II put boxing back on the TV sports map in terms of the sport’s awareness and excitement among sports fans?

I think so. You had two of the biggest sports companies out there talking about, analyzing and promoting this fight for months, along with spots in the Super Bowl [and] the College Football Playoffs Championship game. You had the fighters on [Fox broadcasting’s music competition series] The Masked Singer. I think it elevated boxing to another level with the cooperation that we had with ESPN in the promotion. At the end of the day it's good for the sport and great for the long-term health of the sport.

Is Fox Sports looking to distribute any other PPV boxing matches in the interim?

There’s nothing to talk about right now. We have a bunch of fight cards coming up and dates that will be filled, but no PPV boxing events that we can talk about right now. 

R. Thomas Umstead
R. Thomas Umstead

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.