Bob Arum, CEO of boxing promotion company Top Rank, said the upcoming fight between Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury could be the highest-grossing heavyweight title fight of all-time.
Arum, who turned 88 this month, said the Feb. 22 rematch between the two undefeated fighters should gross “well in excess of $100 million.”
The previous match between Wilder (42-0, 41 knockouts) and Fury (29-0, 20 knockouts) last December ended in a split draw, the only draw of both fighters’ career. That fight reportedly had roughly 325,000 pay-per-view buys. Arum expects the second fight, which will take place at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, to see even more pay-per-view buys, he said in an interview with CNBC.
Wilder and Fury will fight for the WBC title, with the winner expected to face WBA, IBF, WBO and IBO heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua.
The highest-grossing pay-per-view heavyweight fight ever was Mike Tyson vs. Lennox Lewis in 2002, which grossed roughly $110 million. The other pay-per-view heavyweight fight to gross close to that amount is the second Tyson vs. Evander Holyfield bout in 1997, which grossed approximately $100 million, according to Business Insider.
“We are looking forward to doing record business with that fight,” said Arum, noting that Top Rank will need to split the fight’s revenue with Premier Boxing Champions, who manages Wilder.
Floyd Mayweather Jr.’s defeat of then-UFC lightweight champion Conor McGregor in 2017 was the highest-grossing boxing fight of all-time, generating roughly $500 million in pay-per-view sales. Mayweather’s 2015 fight against Manny Pacquiao is second on the list, bringing in roughly $410 million, according to Business Insider.
“While we may be somewhat less than those events, it’ll still be probably the biggest grossing heavyweight championship fight of all-time,” Arum said.
Top Rank signed a 7-year exclusive deal with Disney-owned ESPN last year. The agreement allows the network to show 54 events, including 18 of Top Rank’s premium fights that will air on ESPN. Two dozen of Top Rank’s international events will also be streamed on ESPN+.
The legendary promoter has been on a media run to garner more attention to Saturday’s premium fight, featuring Terence Crawford defending his World Boxing Organization (WBO) Welterweight championship belt against challenger Egidijus Kavaliauskas at Madison Square Garden.
Crawford is currently ranked the No. 2 welterweight in the world by boxing publication The Ring, while Kavaliauskas is ranked eighth. Arum said the fight would be tough a challenge for Crawford, but added, “I don’t think there’s a welterweight around that can beat Terence.”
Should Crawford defeat Kavaliauskas on Saturday, it will likely set up a match with fifth-ranked welterweight opponent Shawn Porter, another PBC-managed fighter. In a recent interview with ESPN, Porter took issue with Arum, who admitted he didn’t give Porter “much of a chance,” in his previous fight.
“Within the last year, Bob has said I’m not a good boxer and has said that Errol Spence Jr. would be a much better, competitive and entertaining fight [for Crawford] than I could give,” said Porter to ESPN. “And now he has reneged on those previous statements and has declared me the best fighter PBC has.”
When asked about Porter’s remarks, Arum told CNBC he felt Porter would lose the contest against Spence, which he did by split decision. Porter’s showing in the fight convinced him a showdown with Crawford could be a draw.
“It was a fight-of-the-year candidate, and Porter did extraordinarily well,” Arum said of the Sept. 28 match. “That performance really propelled me into saying that Porter would be a terrific opponent for Terrence Crawford. Before that, I wasn’t so sure whether it would be a competitive fight, but based on his fight with Spence, I can clearly say it would be a competitive fight.”
Asked if a Crawford-Porter bout is on the menu for 2020, should Crawford win on Saturday, Arum said: “It takes two to tango, as they say. If Porter is interested in the fight, we’ll talk to his people, and we’ll try to arrange it.”
Saturday’s fight will be broadcast on ESPN after the network airs the Heisman Trophy presentation.