One of the most highly-anticipated fights in decades will see WBC heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder return to the ring on Saturday night to face Tyson Fury, with millions of people around the world expected to tune in to watch – though not all of them legally.
The Las Vegas showdown comes 15 months after their first fight, which was watched by nearly 10 million people illegally though free live streams shared online.
The hype surrounding the latest fight is even greater, pushing up the price of the pay-per-view to watch the fight. Experts have warned that the increased hype and price will elevate the likelihood that boxing fans will seek out pirated links to watch the fight for free.
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It is expected to take place at 6pm PT (5am GMT, Sunday), depending on the undercard. Fans in the UK can watch the fight on BT Sport Box Office through BT TV, Sky or Virgin Media, with the price set at £24.95 – fairly typical for this type of event.
In the US, however, joint broadcasters Fox Sports and ESPN+ are charging $79.99 (£62) for the privilege of watching the fight. It is estimated the fight will achieve two million pay-per-view sales in the US alone but millions more are expected to seek illicit websites and links shared across social media and sites like Reddit.
“For those wanting to watch the Wilder vs Fury rematch this weekend, many will be looking for the best ways to watch the fight in the comfort of their own home,” John Fokker, head of cyber investigations at McAfee antivirus firm, told The Independent.
“However, as the event costs £24.95 to purchase, many may head over to online streaming sites to avoid missing out on one of the most anticipated fights of the year.”
The cyber risks involved are significant, with illegal broadcasts often littered with pop up ads that could lead to a viewer’s device being infected with viruses or malware. Some users may even be tricked into sharing their payment details with criminals.
Not only are viewers of illegal streams putting their online safety at risk, Mr Fokker also warned that they may also be breaking the law.
“It’s important to remember that these streams are illegally broadcasting live content so by accessing them you’re putting yourself at risk of prosecution as well as opening yourself up to risk from cyber criminals. It’s just not worth it,” he said.
“To avoid your device being infected with viruses or malware and the legal repurcussions, you must stream the fight from a reputable source.”
Whichever fighter remains undefeated after Saturday’s clash could be in for an even bigger payday, with the potential opportunity to unite the division for the first time in nearly 20 years.
Any contest against Anthony Joshua, who holds the other three major belts, would likely be broadcast through pay-per-view platforms, meaning all the same issues surrounding piracy will once again resurface.