Back in August I covered the story of Canelo Alvarez and the Avni Yildirim fight and the blow back with fight app DAZN. For a refresher https://jerseygeorgesboxingblog.com/2020/08/21/boxing-news-week-3-august-2020/ there is the link to the story. Over the last 48 hours it has broken that Canelo has sued both DAZN and his promoter Golden Boy Promotions for the $280 million still owed on his contract and that he seeks to get out of the deal. The following is going to be an opinion take given the contents of the contract are not publicly available and we have no real way of knowing what is going to happen.
I will preface this article by stating that I enjoy the service that DAZN provides. For $10.00 a month they show over 100 fight cards a year from the opening preliminary of the undercard to the main event. Even better they never charge pay per view for any of their events. With DAZN they also have a fairly deep library of past fights from the 90’s until the present day. This also does not even mention the MMA they show in the form of Bellator which has the same format of full fight cards and no PPV. DAZN shows fights from many different fight markets and covered the World Boxing Super Series tournaments, had the 2019 Ring Magazine Fight of the Year with Inonue defeating Donaire, the massive upset of Ruiz Jr over Joshua and quite a few other big time match ups and title unification fights. Also as someone who cut the chord years ago it is a convenient and cost effective way to follow the sport.
Critics of DAZN have complained about various aspects of their production. Typically complaints lie with the production value however Premier Boxing Champions had the same complaints. The commentary crew has been another point of emphasis for dissatisfied fans. I find the production and commentary to be a superficial unimportant aspect in an app. ESPN has fights on PPV and PBC had quite a few PPV fights in 2019 and even more in 2020 and having to pay a cable subscription and then have to pay $65 or more for a fight card adds up. I will agree with critics that they do not have enough shoulder programming like ESPN would have. This killed them curing COVID-19 as they had very little to offer without live sports. They attempted to entertain with their Saturday Fight Live series which replayed DAZN’s biggest fights with guest commentary. They also have the Ak and Barak show and Mannix and Mora but I am not sure these shows are dragging in enough eye balls to keep the app together.
This is where the Canelo situation comes in. From the news article posted above the key pieces in play are:
-The Canelo deal, the largest in the sport guaranteeing $35 million per fight
-DAZN signing Golovkin to a lucrative deal in the hopes of having a third fight
-DAZN’s continued promise to not do PPV and COVID-19 killing live gates
-DAZN’s premium fighter clause, DAZN approves of an acceptable match up
-DAZN struggling financially and attempting to fund raise money with shake ups at the highest levels of the company
Again, I do not have the contract in front of me and outside of a few leaks and statements from Canelo’s team we do not have everything. Up front I will say that I believe that DAZN overpaid in bringing Canelo over to their service. I also believe that it is great for the fans to kill off PPV but I find it hard to see fighters getting paid that type of money without it. I am torn on the issue at the moment. If Canelo was promised $35 million per fight and DAZN is trying to back away and not hold up their end of the deal I fully understand his desire to get out. DAZN’s inability to get him a fight so far in 2020 even after sports are starting to get back up and rolling is really disappointing. After a solid 2019 Canelo appears to be in his prime and improving in every fight. It would be a shame to lose out on more performances from Canelo. On the other hand, I see where DAZN is coming from given the financial woes and the need for Canelo to fight a big name to help them stay afloat. Now DAZN would not approve Callum Smith as a premier opponent and thus wanted to give a pay cut. For boxing fans the Smith fight is massive as it would be a huge title fight at 168 lbs but DAZN disagrees. Maybe this is just a statement on where boxing is as a popular sport in America. While Smith is a threat to Canelo in the ring and a proven and decorated champion he is a virtual unknown here. That said it is hard to say whether or not DAZN just misread the interest in boxing here in the states, did a bad job getting the brand out or just overpaid in a way to get star power that was never going to be profitable.
Enter Golovkin and his rivalry with Canelo Alvarez. Golovkin was offered eight figures per fight for six fights at a clip of twice a year. The idea was for the two to be put on a collision course with each other. Canelo has since displayed no interest in the fight as he feels he beat him already after drawing with him in the first fight. He believes Golovkin needs to earn the fight. Many have Golovkin winning both fights I know I had him 115-113 over Canelo in the first fight but the rematch was a closer fight that I scored 114-114 the night of and in subsequent viewings have had alternating scores of 115-113 either way. While I would not say Golovkin was robbed both times many fans feel there is unfinished business. I do agree with Canelo that he has fought Jacobs and Kovalev since their second bout and has many big options at 160-175. During this time Golovkin has just kind of waited on the sidelines expecting the fight but has not built up his profile to really generate interest in a third fight.
The question at hand is did DAZN sign either Canelo or Golovkin with any kind of binding deal that they had to fight? If not they just paid a shit load of money to both guys without a guarantee. Now I doubt the DAZN people are that stupid but boxing is the wild west in terms of the way other sports work. Boxing is the one sport without a real league or organization that schedules and makes these things happen. If Canelo signed to DAZN well before Golovkin I doubt they put a clause that he had to fight a guy they did not even have the rights to. If they signed Golovkin with the guarantee to fight Canelo I feel like his team would have to have been consulted and all this agreed on. I don’t want to get too far in the weeds.
So DAZN is in the weird position of being stuck paying Canelo a high guaranteed purse which also prevents how much they can pay opponents. Without a live gate they lose out on all kinds of revenue to put on these fights which is a bigger hit given the purse guarantee. This year two big fights with Callum Smith and Billy Joe Saunders have been elusive. You could blame them for turning down Canelo for the whole problem but that ignores DAZN’s premier fighter clause that may have rejected to pay Canelo the honored contract. My hope is a compromise can be drawn up that keeps Canelo on DAZN and that the streaming service can survive the damage. At the end of the day from a fan perspective I’d rather see Canelo get out of his deal with DAZN if it means the app surviving without drastically raising its price or having PPV. Hell I’d probably pay to watch Canelo if it meant keeping all the other fights off of PPV.
I don’t have too much to say about the Golden Boy Promotions scenario. Canelo wants out, Ryan Garcia hints at getting out and Oscar De La Hoya might be coming back. The Richard Schaefer split hurt the promotional company badly as it saw a lot of star power leave. Losing Canelo and Garcia would be a big blow. It reminds me a little of Top Rank with Oscar and also Floyd Mayweather Jr who rode Arum to the top and when they got big enough got out. Oscar’s promotional company may be in some real danger. Lets see how this all unfolds.