Tyson Fury’s star power is only just starting to be realised in the United States, according to the former head of HBO pay-per-view Mark Taffet.
‘The Gypsy King’ signed a five-fight deal with ESPN in 2019 worth a reported £80million, and his rematch with Deontay Wilder in Las Vegas in February had the combined might of both ESPN and Fox behind it.
Despite their promotional efforts, Fury’s crushing seventh-round stoppage of ‘The Bronze Bomber’ drew around 800,000 pay-per-view buys in the United States, well short of pre-fight predictions from experts like Fury’s co-promoter Bob Arum.
But Taffet, who built the broadcast behemoth that was HBO PPV and worked with all the world’s greatest fighters over a quarter of a century, is not downbeat at all about Fury’s future either in the US market or from a PPV perspective.
He believes it is still early days for the reigning WBC, lineal and Ring magazine world heavyweight champion, and that his potential is only just starting to be unleashed.
Taffet told furyjoshua.com: “It takes years to become a PPV star. Fury has made big impressions with his persona and his victories. His star power is just beginning to be realised. In PPV, you go from mid-six-figures to seven-figures overnight... it’s just a matter of which night that will be.”
Fury’s next fight of course is expected to be a third meeting with Wilder, and potentially will take place on Saturday December 19.
Given the one-sided beating Fury dished out in the rematch, and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, many experts are downbeat about the potential for the fight from a pay-per-view perspective.
But Taffet is not one of them, explaining: “I think the third fight will outperform the first two. It takes years for fighters to become PPV stars. Fury was in effect introduced to the US market through the Wilder fights; he has a larger-than-life presence both physically and character-wise, and the exposure of the first two fights was very helpful for him. I believe Fury PPV fights with Wilder or Joshua would be very successful in the US PPV market.”
That potential showdown between Fury and Anthony Joshua is of course the biggest fight out there for British fight fans, but Taffet clearly believes it will resonate Stateside as well. He regularly used his brothers as the barometer of a fight’s potential success when at HBO, and says they would definitely give it the thumbs-up.
He said: “I’m not close enough to the situation and the nuances to know if Fury vs Joshua will happen in 2021, but as a fan I sure hope it does and I would surely be a PPV buyer for that fight. And yes, my brothers would be buying that fight also!”
Taffet was hugely instrumental in all the massive pay-per-view fights between 1990 and 2015, from George Foreman vs Evander Holyfield right through to the record-shattering Floyd Mayweather Jr vs Manny Pacquiao in 2015 (4.6million buys).
But one negotiation in particular stands out to him, and it involves another British world heavyweight champion - Lennox Lewis.
“The Lewis vs Tyson negotiations stand out for me, because it was the first time HBO and Showtime put their interests aside and gave the biggest fight in the sport to the fans who wanted it and the athletes who deserved it,” he explained.
“Lennox Lewis had said to us that he didn’t get to fight (Riddick) Bowe, and didn’t want to leave boxing having fought just one (Holyfield) of his big three opponents (Holyfield, Bowe and Tyson). That resonated loudly with the senior team at HBO, and was the biggest factor in pushing us to make the deal.”
Floyd Mayweather Jr of course was the biggest driver of PPV buys in boxing history, and Taffet believes he assumed that mantle thanks to an utterly unique package from a talent and personality standpoint.
He said: “Floyd is not only one of the greatest fighters in history in the ring, he also is one of the best characters outside the ring. His bravado, presence, unique style, and ability to show his 'insides' immediately connects with fans; you simply can’t get enough of him.
“He also has as much appeal as someone you want to root against as he does as someone you want to root for, so no audience stone was left unturned. That is a very very unique combination of attributes. Floyd made 24/7 (HBO’s smash-hit behind-the-scenes boxing show), and Floyd is the best total package ever for PPV.”