The third meeting between WBC heavyweight champion Tyson Fury and former champion Deontay Wilder is moving from its planned July 18 date due to concerns over the coronavirus pandemic.

Tyson Fury Deontay Wilder
The third fight between Tyson Fury (left) and Deontay Wilder (right) will now likely take place in the fall, rather than on July 18. (Image: Getty)

While this is hardly the first delayed sporting event due to COVID-19-related concerns, the postponement is notable for an event that is still about four months out, signaling the level of uncertainty over when it will again be safe and acceptable to hold large gatherings.

Uncertainty Plagues Planning for Third Bout

Wilder (42-1-1, 41 KOs) and Fury (30-0-1, 21 KOs) fought to a draw in their first bout, which took place in December 2018. Fury scored a victory by seventh-round TKO in their February 2020 rematch. After that bout, Wilder exercised the automatic rematch clause that was available to either fighter regardless of the result.

The hope was to hold a third fight at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas this summer, with promoters saying that July 18 was the target date. Unfortunately, the current coronavirus shutdown has made it impossible to plan a lucrative prizefight even several months out.

“We don’t even know if the MGM will even be open by then,” Top Rank chairman Bob Arum, who helps promote Fury, told ESPN on Tuesday. “You could not guarantee the fighters that the event would take place on that date. We couldn’t convince them or ourselves … you just have to take a step back. How are you going to sell tickets? It’s absolutely ridiculous to say the fight is on when the Brits can’t even get there.”

Arum went on to say that the fight could possibly move to early October instead.

“[Premier Boxing Champions head Al Haymon] and his people are in touch with us all the time on this,” Arum told ESPN. “We’ll be very, very cautious moving ahead and pray this will be over at a particular time, and we will be able to make smart plans. Nobody has ever experienced anything like this before.”

Fury, Wilder Jockeying for Position with Joshua

Pushing the fight to the fall would likely end any hopes of a heavyweight title unification match between the winner and Anthony Joshua (23-1, 21 KOs) taking place this year. Joshua expects to fight mandatory challenger Kubrat Pulev (28-1, 14 KOs) in Tottenham on June 20, though the status of that fight is no more certain than any other sporting event at this point.

After his dominant performance in the second fight, Fury stands as a significant favorite over Wilder in their third meeting. DraftKings Sportsbook has Fury as a -420 favorite over Wilder (+270). Meanwhile, FanDuel Sportsbook lists Joshua (-1100) as an overwhelming pick to dispatch Pulev (+590).

The results of those two fights should help clarify the logjam at the top of the heavyweight division rankings, though several other fighters – including Oleksandr Usyk and Dillian Whyte – are also still factors in what has become a very deep division over the past two years.