By Jamie Savin @JamieSavin
Tyson Fury has signed an exclusive contract with ESPN and Top Rank, this means all of his fights will be shown in America on the ESPN platform. On first glance it’s a great platform and a rich reward for his performance against Deontay Wilder last December. It also brings him into the homes of more viewers, alongside his deal with BT Sports in the UK.
At the top of the heavyweight division also sits Anthony Joshua, who has an exclusive contract with DAZN in America and with Sky Sports in the UK. There is also Deontay Wilder who is linked to Showtime in America but a free agent I the UK. Wilder has since come out and said he is a network free agent but given his ties with Al Haymon you’d have to question how true this is.
Unfortunately this isn’t where the situation gets clearer, with each of these men there are different promoters, more than one in some cases. The more egos you get the more difficult it will be to make the fights we all want to see. People such as Andre Ward have said that cross network fights can happen, but they are a rarity to say the least and took months of negotiations.
With Fury and Joshua the waters are even muddier as if in a turn of events that ESPN and DAZN struck a deal in America for them to fight, BT Sports and Sky Sports would both want to show the fight in the UK. To this day there hasn’t been any cross network deals between the two albeit BT Sports is still very much in its infancy.
Politics and the fear of losing that “0” can be bad for the sport
The biggest worry of all of this is now that Fury, Joshua and Wilder are all on 3 different networks we’ll be treated to a pattern of a top 10 guy at best vs one of them. Followed by a post fight talk where they big up their platform and say this is the place to fight, see Mayweather vs Pacquiao circa 2010 – 2012 for examples.
Money talks and you can’t blame the fighters for signing exclusive contracts as they are putting their health at risk for our enjoyment. The downside is having to put up with substandard fights, Canelo could go with this way but anyone should have granted him a free pass following Golovkin. His fight with Jacobs is a great fight but it’s where does he go after that is worrying, as all his fights are exclusive to DAZN.
Boxing can be the most wonderful sport when it gets things right, but politics and the fear of losing that “0” can be bad for the sport. The fear is that the fights people are desperate to see such as any combination of Joshua, Fury and Wilder, Crawford vs Spence, Garcia vs Lomachenko and so on will fail to happen due to networks.
One of the few hopes is that if fights go to purse bids, then one network can bid big and steal the show. The last thing boxing needs is another Mayweather vs Pacquiao situation where the fight happens 5 years too late to really matter. In the meantime strap yourself in for Fury vs Pulev, Wilder vs Whyte (at best) and Joshua vs Miller…