WBC World Heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder finds himself with a decision to make. Earlier today, Russian promoter Andrey Ryabinsky submitted the winning purse bid to secure the rights to promote Wilder's next fight, against Alexander Povetkin. His bid was reported to be in excess of $7 million, topping rival bidder Lou DiBella's offer of roughly $5 million.
Wilder has been looking at Povetkin as his mandatory challenger for the WBC belt, and after Wilder took a few softer title defenses, it appeared as if the two would finally meet.
We last saw Wilder stop Artur Szpilka this past January. In the post-fight press conferences, Wilder expressed that it was time for Povetkin to fight in the United States. Wilder was clear that he did not want to go to Russia to fight Povetkin, even quipping "it's too cold in Russia" at one point. Wilder has not changed his public stance since.
Wilder has already passed on Povetkin's mandatory challenge, making three title defenses since winning the belt in January of 2015. To do so again would mean being stripped of the belt by the WBC. One way to avoid being stripped is to vacate the title, and ominously, Povetkin's team stated that they feared that Wilder would do just that. Obviously, Povetkin and company were comfortable that Ryabinksy and his deep pockets would come through at today's purse bid.
Wilder however, may want to reconsider the idea of fighting in Russia. The amount put in by Ryabinsky means that Wilder will make no less than $4 million dollars for the fight. Wilder would clear $5 million with a win. That would certainly represent the biggest payday of Wilder's career, and it is a lot more than he can make fighting anyone else. If he were to vacate the WBC title and choose to go his own way, he would certainly make a lot less money for his next fight.
Wilder's last fight was on Showtime and the live event was at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Though the fight was televised and the live event saw Wilder headlining New York City, it was still considered something more akin to a first appearance on that stage for Wilder. DiBella, Showtime and an array of people interested in keeping the WBC belt around Wilder's waist fell short on their purse bid by more than $2 million dollars. This tells us that while Wilder is the WBC Heavyweight Champion, he is nowhere near the drawing card or household name commanded by American heavyweight world titlists of the past.
So Wilder is now in a position where in order to keep the WBC belt, he may have to fight in Russia. Though the value of the "alphabet soup" belts is low in this day and age, Wilder's rise to national and international stature as a boxer is deeply tied to the WBC belt. Would he really vacate the belt to avoid fighting in Russia?
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