Deontay Wilder’s long-awaited return to Las Vegas marked a quicker night in the ring and a far more lucrative run at the box office. (photo by Ryan Hafey)
The unbeaten heavyweight from Tuscaloosa, Alabama racked up his 10th successful heavyweight title defense following a one-punch 7th round knockout of Luis Ortiz. Their Nov. 23 Fox Sports Pay-Per-View headliner live from the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada generated a live gate of $4,063,141.50, as confirmed to BoxingScene.com by the Nevada State Athletic Commission.
The box office total was derived from 7,403 tickets sold, with another 1,726 complimentary tickets issued to total a confirmed in 9,129 attendance. The announced fight night crowd was in excess of 10,000 according to post-fight media reports.
Final ticket sales mark a 538% increase from the last time Wilder (42-0-1, 41KOs) played the MGM and Las Vegas, which came in his 12-round title winning effort over Bermane Stiverne nearly five years ago. The Jan. 2015 event produced a live gate of $755,200 from 4,074 tickets sold amidst an announced crowd of 8,454 on fight night.
Ortiz (31-2, 26KOs; 2NCs)—a 40-year old southpaw from Miami by way of Cuba—had only fought in Las Vegas once before, a Sept. 2014 bout versus Lateef Kayode, which he initially won by 1st round knockout but was changed to a No-Contest after testing positive for a banned substance. He’d since won 10 of his last 11 starts—the lone loss coming in his first fight with Wilder last March in Brooklyn, New York—but his well-earned place as a top-rated contender had never translated into box-office gold on his own.
The confirmed figures shoot down grossly exaggerated rumors of tickets for this event being discounted or entirely given away at an alarming rate. It’s worth nothing that the sources of such rumors also call into question whether such a declaration came with an ulterior motive.
The final box office total comes shortly after BoxingScene.com first reported the PPV event trending just north of 275,000 units sold, giving the heavyweight title fight rematch in excess of $25 million in revenue between PPV and ticket sales.
Wilder’s return to Sin City comes on the heels—and more than doubles the combined totals—of unbeaten divisional rival Tyson Fury’s pair of fights in the boxing hotspot.
England’s Fury (29-0-1, 20KOs) made his Las Vegas debut in June, which came six months after fighting Wilder to a disputed 12-round draw last December in Los Angeles, California. That event drew an announced crowd of 17,698, with audiences for their subsequent bouts paling in comparison.
The unbeaten Brit topped a June 15 card at MGM Grand, stopping Germany’s Tom Schwarz in two rounds on a night producing $882,145 from 5,489 tickets sold. A slight upgrade in overall sales came of Fury’s latest Vegas party, along with a larger attendance though fewer paying patrons. A 12-round decision win over Sweden’s Otto Wallin headlined a Sept, 14 show at T-Mobile Arena, which generated $999,722.50 from 3,577 tickets sold, along with 3,898 complimentary tickets issued for a total of 7,475 in attendance.
While the year has been spent by both heavyweights building their respective brands on separate platforms, the two figure to make sweet music together for their return battle in early 2020.
The MGM Grand is the frontrunner to land the Feb. 22 Pay-Per-View event, which will be a joint venture between Fox Sports—who, along with Showtime serves as the preferred content providers by Premier Boxing Champions, which represents Wilder—and ESPN, which carries Fury’s fights through its exclusive output deal with Hall of Fame promoter Bob Arum’s Top Rank. One venue which has already been ruled out is the T-Mobile Arena, which hosts the National Hockey League’s Vegas Golden Knights home game versus the Florida Panthers.
The first fight between Wilder and Fury—which was distributed and produced by Showtime—generated a reported 325,000 PPV units sold. Industry expectations call for the rematch to potentially triple that total, given the aggressive push that will come through cross-promotion during the National Football League (NFL) playoffs, and with Fox prime hosting Super Bowl LIV live from Miami, Florida.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox