On Fury Road
Were it not for all the money heavyweight boxing makes, it would be a terrible way to make money.
Tyson Fury’s evisceration of unbeaten WBC champion and feared knockout artist Deontay Wilder will go down as a performance for the ages, and it set records outside of the ring as well.
The Briton’s remarkable comeback from severe substance addiction and mental illness has made the business of showing heavyweight boxing less predictable all around. There is a suspicion – shared by Fury himself – that ahead of their initial split draw in 2018, Wilder saw a bout with a ring-rusty Gypsy King as a low-risk route to credibility and UK visibility in negotiations for a unification bout with Anthony Joshua.
That has backfired and then some, leaving the option of a second rematch with Fury – a contest with far less sporting merit at this point – as his best route back to respectability. That, for now at least, would block the path to the fight most now want to see.
Fury versus Joshua would unify the division and create by far the biggest – and arguably highest-calibre – all-British boxing match of all time. Joshua’s promoter, Eddie Hearn, and Fury’s representative, Frank Warren, are both open to a 50:50 split for their men.
Yet there is one final obstacle back across the Atlantic. Joshua is signed in the US to DAZN, while ESPN+ used its current deal with Fury to draw pay-per-view buyers to its platform. With the battle for American OTT supremacy still at such an early point, what would it take for these two pioneers to meet in the middle?
English soccer’s players’ union, the PFA, has warned of a number of professionals struggling with negative feedback and racist abuse on social media. It said the number of members accessing PFA counselling services rose almost 50 per cent to 643 in 2019, partly as a result of those cumulative interactions. According to sports psychotherapist Gary Bloom, quoted by the BBC at a conference in Oxford last week, English soccer is still “ten to 15 years behind” sports like cricket and rugby union when it comes to players’ mental health.
Much more social
File under warm and fuzzy: Premier League soccer club Manchester United replaced infant mascots with older guests ahead of their 3-0 win over Watford on Sunday. 11 mascots aged between 61 and 87 greeted the players on the Old Trafford turf as part of a campaign with confectioner Cadbury’s and the Age UK charity aimed at addressing loneliness by encouraging conversations with older people.
It follows similar activities from Manchester City and Burnley in the Premier League and Swedish club AIK. Earlier this month, meanwhile, golfer Phil Mickelson was unveiled as the face of an Amstel Light campaign that hopes to help older men overcome their difficulties in making new friends.
A stranger’s just a friend you haven’t Mets
The New York Post’s weekly attempts to stir up discomfort among fans of Major League Baseball’s (MLB) Mets have continued. After sharing rumours that former New York Yankee Alex Rodriguez might form part of a new ownership group, the tabloid has now linked James Dolan – owner of the National Hockey League’s (NHL) Rangers and the National Basketball Association’s (NBA) perpetually underwhelming New York Knicks – with an interest in the Wilpon family’s properties. The tabloid, though, has suggested Dolan is more interested in expanding his MSG Network media operation by adding the Wilpons’ US$900 million SNY network than he is in taking on the Mets. MSG has said it does not comment on ‘rumour and speculation’.
IOC what you did there
Mattel has agreed a licensing agreement with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to produce a range of official toys highlighting some of the new sports in action at Tokyo 2020. These include a range of action sports-ready Barbie dolls, specially branded Uno card games and, er, limited edition branded Hot Wheels miniature cars.
NBC line change
US broadcaster NBC Sports has confirmed it will use a league-first all-female crew for its coverage of the NHL game between the St Louis Blues and the Chicago Blackhawks on 8th March, International Women’s Day. The on-air team will be led by commentator Kate Scott and studio anchor Kathryn Tappen, with a range of other shoulder programming planned to mark the occasion.
Prediction of the week
When I started I’d say a quarter of the middle-aged white men in blazers sitting in this room before got up and walked out. I bet you US$1,000 that in ten years that most of them will be out of business.
The ever-bullish Overtime chief executive Dan Porter pulled no punches at OTT Summit USA
MMA/Apprentice crossover of the week one
MMA/Apprentice crossover of the week two
UFC president Dana White stumps for Donald Trump, former host of the US version of the loosely business-related game show.
Bonus Donald Trump sports content of the week: Indian edition
SportsPro was sorry to hear this weekend of the tragic death of Amr Fahmy, the former general secretary of the Confederation of African Football (CAF), after a two-year battle with cancer. He was just 37, and is survived by his wife and three-month-old daughter.
Fahmy’s grandfather was a founder member of CAF and, along with his father, also served as general secretary of the African soccer confederation. Amr Fahmy’s own term lasted just 18 months from November 2017 to April 2019, when he was dismissed in unclear circumstances soon after making an official complaint to Fifa about possible corruption within the organisation. He later announced his intention to run for CAF president in the next elections in 2021.
An official CAF statement on Sunday said it was ‘shocked’ by the news extended ‘deepest condolences to his family, especially his parents, his spouse and his daughter’. We echo those sentiments here at SportsPro.