A boxing match has never before gotten the kind of promotion that the rematch for the WBC and lineal heavyweight title between Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury that is set for Feb. 22 in Las Vegas at the MGM Grand is receiving.
The pay-per-view is a joint production of Fox and ESPN+, and Fox aired the Kansas City Chiefs’ 31-20 victory over the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl LIV on Feb. 2. Wilder appeared on the pregame show and several ads for the fight were broadcast before and during the game.
The fight commercial was aired eight times — at 12:56 p.m. ET during the Road to the Super Bowl; at 1:50 p.m. during Super Bowl Kickoff; and at 3:45 p.m., 4:45 p.m., 5:50 p.m., 6:10 p.m., 8:02 p.m. and at 8:37 p.m. Wilder appeared during a segment at 3:10 p.m. with former Boston Red Sox star David “Big Papi” Ortiz. There were 9.3 million people watching when Wilder appeared with Ortiz.
Those eight commercials and the Wilder-Big Papi segment combined for 105 million views, according to Nielsen Media Research’s minute-by-minute rating of the game. The spot at 8:02 p.m. ET came during a time when the viewership was at 103.5 million. Fox said that 148.5 million viewers watched all or part of the game.
That is astronomical, particularly given that the total television reach for boxing in 2019 was 35.7 million.
No fight has ever gotten this kind of exposure, and that doesn’t count what has already happened — there was a live one-hour news conference on Jan. 25 on Fox and on ESPNEWS — or what will come.
That is why promoters are optimistic that the pay-per-view will post extraordinary numbers. Bob Arum of Top Rank, the fight’s co-promoter, predicted more than 2 million viewers during a Jan. 25 interview with Yahoo Spots in Los Angeles.
If it surpasses 2 million on PPV, it would be the greatest-selling heavyweight bout in history. The only fights which have ever done more than 2 million on PPV were Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao at 4.6 million in 2015; Mayweather-Conor McGregor at 4.44 million in 2017; Mayweather-Oscar De La Hoya at 2.46 million in 2007 and Mayweather-Canelo Alvarez at 2.13 million in 2013.
Awareness and name recognition are the biggest factors in selling pay-per-view, and the two networks have done more than their share in getting the word out about the Feb. 22 bout.