The undisputed heavyweight world championship fight between Tyson Fury and Anthony Joshua, which is close to the finish line on a site deal for the bout to take place this summer in Saudi Arabia, will be delivered to an American audience via ESPN+ pay-per-view in the United States, Top Rank chairman Bob Arum, Fury’s co-promoter, told BoxingScene.com on Monday.
“The traditional pay-per-view outlets will be part of it, like DirecTV, In Demand, etc.,” Arum told BoxingScene, noting that because of the time difference between Saudi Arabia and the United States the telecast would begin in the late afternoon Eastern Time. “It will be a normal pay-per-view here (in the United States). ESPN will be the distributor.”
Joshua’s last four fights have been shown on streaming service DAZN in the U.S., but that will not be the case for the fight with Fury.
As for the United Kingdom, the home country of both Fury and Joshua, Arum said it will also be on pay-per-view but with a twist.
“Obviously, the big market is the U.K., where everyone is talking it will do 3 million homes,” Arum said. “Sky and BT both will have it on pay-per-view.”
Sky Sports is where Joshua has an exclusive deal for his fights in the U.K., and Fury’s fights are on BT Sport. Both have pay-per-view arms that will carry the fight, Arum said.
“You will be able to buy it on BT or buy it on Sky,” Arum said. “It can’t be exclusive to either.”
As for the price points, Arum said that had not yet been decided.
“I have no idea. We’ll work it out with ESPN, with In Demand,” Arum said. “(Joshua promoter) Eddie (Hearn of Matchroom Boxing) has to be consulted. It has to be a price that everybody agrees to.”
Arum said the site for the fight likely will be a new indoor stadium in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, although the precise location has not yet been decided nor is it spelled out in any of the paperwork for the site deal that the sides have been reviewing.
“We have (site deal) contracts now that we are marking up and so forth,” Arum said. “It’s a big step. We’re just doing the paperwork now with the Saudis.”
Arum has long been skeptical of offers from overseas, typically telling reporters when the topic is broached about a major fight that “I’m not packing my bags yet.” That is a reference to needing to make sure the offer and money are legitimate. Asked about the offer to have Fury-Joshua in Saudi Arabia and if he was getting ready to pack his bags, he firmly said, “Yes.”
Saudi Arabia has long been the expected location of the fight, although Fury and Hearn both said last week that there were offers made from various locations around the world, including Qatar, Uzbekistan, Russia, the United States and United Kingdom.
This past weekend the offers were presented to the fighters and Arum said everyone decided to accept the one that would put the fight in Saudi Arabia this summer. With the coronavirus pandemic still not allowing for full capacity at events in the U.K., it meant looking elsewhere for Fury-Joshua.
Arum also confirmed an earlier BoxingScene report quoting Hearn saying that the fight would take place on one of three dates: July 24, July 31 or Aug. 7. The specific date and location is up to the Saudi Arabian investors, Arum said.
Arum said that while he was sure the fight would take place this summer he was not sure when it would be formally announced.
“It’s going to have to be within the next 10 days, maybe two weeks,” Arum said. “It’s a massive economic deal.”
The last major fight in Saudi Arabia was outdoors when Joshua regained his belts by lopsided decision in a rematch with Andy Ruiz Jr. at a temporary outdoor stadium built for the bout in Diriyah in December 2019.
But Arum said having Fury-Joshua outdoors in Saudi Arabia was not feasible in the summer. In Jeddah, for example, temperatures in July and August typically range between 80 and 100+ degrees.
The camps signed contracts for the fight in mid-March but it was contingent on securing a site deal that satisfied both sides within 30 days. Although 30-day window is up, both sides are in agreement on the Saudi Arabian site deal, Arum said.
It’s all part of a two-fight deal that calls for a 50-50 split of the revenue for the first fight with the rematch, which is supposed to take place near the end of the year, being 60-40 in favor of the winner of the first fight.
Fury (30-0-1, 21 KOs), 32, has spoken out about being frustrated because he has not fought since February 2020, when he knocked out Deontay Wilder in the seventh round of their championship rematch of a previous draw, but now apparently he is satisfied with the site deal and schedule.
This past December, Joshua (24-1, 22 KOs), 31, returned from a one-year layoff following the rematch with Ruiz to knock out mandatory challenger Kubrat Pulev in the ninth-round of a one-sided fight at the SSE Arena, Wembley in London, where about 1,000 spectators were allowed.
If, as Arum expects, the fight does land in Jeddah, a port city on the Red Sea dotted with resorts and beaches, it won’t be the first time the city has hosted a world championship fight. In September 2018, Callum Smith knocked out George Groves in the seventh round to win the WBA super middleweight title in the World Boxing Super Series tournament final at the King Abdullah Sports City in Jeddah.
Dan Rafael was ESPN.com's senior boxing writer for fifteen years, and covered the sport for five years at USA Today. He was the 2013 BWAA Nat Fleischer Award winner for excellence in boxing journalism.