While representatives for Deontay Wilder cling to rapidly fading hopes for a third fight with Tyson Fury, there have been preliminary talks to match Wilder against former heavyweight titleholder Charles Martin in the first quarter of 2021, sources familiar with the discussions told Sports Illustrated.
Last February, Fury knocked Wilder out in the seventh round in a rematch of a thrilling 2018 draw between the two heavyweights, handing Wilder his first professional defeat. A contracted third fight scheduled for the summer was scuttled after the COVID-19 outbreak. Targeted dates in October and December were scrapped as well. In October, Fury announced that he had “moved on” from facing Wilder. Wilder responded by initiating a mediation, hoping to force Fury to honor the contract.
Fury has been adamant in recent months that he has no interest in facing Wilder a third time, citing the bizarre accusations Wilder has leveled at Fury. Wilder has accused Fury of manipulating his gloves, first by positioning them in a way that allowed Fury to cut Wilder’s ear, then loading them with “something the size and the shape of an egg weight” that caused a dent in Wilder’s skull. It was one of several conspiracy theories Wilder argued, without evidence, in the aftermath of his defeat.
In a telephone interview, Wilder’s co-manager, Shelly Finkel, acknowledged that a mediator informed Wilder’s team that Fury was refusing to face him. The plan now, according to Finkel, is take the case to arbitration. Finkel said the plan is to file for arbitration sometime in the next two weeks.
“We’re going to go for everything we can,” says Finkel. “I’m a realist with what I am up against. We have an agreement. Even if we didn’t have an agreement, we gave Fury two shots. He has made more money than he has ever seen. Deontay was very kind to him while he was going through his mental problems. Forget everything else, morally he should give him his shot.”
Fury, however, is deep in discussions to face Anthony Joshua in a title unification fight. Last fall, a financial structure for a Joshua-Fury fight was agreed to. Representatives for both fighters have been sifting through possible locations to hold the fight in late spring.
That scenario would leave Wilder scrambling for a new opponent. Asked about Martin, Finkel said the one-time titleholder was one of several names under consideration for a Wilder fight.
“If we can’t get the Fury fight, Deontay needs to be active,” Finkel said. “If it’s the worst case scenario, we are going to be prepared to get him back in the ring.”