BoxingFight Previews

The debut of DAZN starts with Anthony Joshua on Saturday

WBA, WBO and IBF heavyweight world champion Anthony Joshua has been a frustrating puzzle so far. For all the grief, Deontay Wilder gets, Joshua is just as much to blame. In a rather lifeless heavyweight division, that is top heavy amongst the three best fighters; Deontay Wilder, Anthony Joshua, and Tyson Fury, Joshua in recent times has shown apprehension about unifying or making fights beyond fights that he is a solid favorite in.

Look at this weekend, for example. Joshua fights a tough, but unlikeable Alexander Povetkin. You might ask, why Povetkin is unlikeable? Well, that is because he has multiple drug test violation, the most notable being when Deontay Wilder was willing to fight him in Russia before a drug test failure canceled the bout.

Joshua after his dramatic and amazing win over Wladimir Klitschko has been a steady diet of good opponents, who are worthy of a title defense, but not necessarily interesting to an American boxing fan base that has yet to truly get to know him. I understand the beauty of Joshua is he is a truly European superstar, one who is void of having to cater to the American market, but at the same time, minus fighting the top two guys in the division, Wilder and Fury, it makes Joshua’s bout something to get around to watching rather than event viewing.

This mindset might be helpful though since the launch of DAZN, a streaming sports app, that will be home to all of Matchroom Boxing’s U.S. content. The big plus to this service is that you can watch the U.K. based fight at whatever time you’d like whether live or at a later date, but the bigger question will people purchase the service?

It will be hard to tell with the first fight, but over the next few months, we will see if the fights on the streaming app, will be watched by the public as a whole make an impact on the culture of boxing and pick up traction from event to event. ESPN+, a direct competitor, has had success in its infancy, but it also has had the luxury of using a brand (ESPN) that most people associate with sports as well as golf, college sports and much along with boxing to build its viewership. DAZN is mainly, if not entirely focusing on boxing and MMA to carry the load for the service…the problem being boxing fans are some of the most archaic, un-tech savvy of any sports demographic, meaning that word of mouth from the first few fights would have to be so strong it would work as an advertisement that would force fans to have get over the learning curve of technology.

We also have the elephant in the room…Deontay Wilder. Wilder is vocally calling out Joshua, whereas Joshua after facing Klitschko, has looked to maximize his earning potential before a clash between the two heavyweights. The end result, or at least with myself, is indifference. Even in a fairly good match with Povetkin, a fighter of adequate skill and a former world champion, comes off as playing second fiddle when not facing, the unorthodox heavyweight knockout artist.

I should also clarify my displeasure for Povetkin, who failed drug tests twice in 2016, never really got hounded the way he should have and was given the benefit of the doubt. Povetkin has just one loss, that being to Wladimir Klitschko, but the rest of his resume is very inspiring. Essentially, Povetkin is a world-level fighter, who based on my boxing tier system, feels just outside of the elite tier and comes off as unlikeable.

Joshua choosing to fight a forsaken fighter who is not very beloved is not very inspiring, but Joshua is one of two fighters in the sport of boxing who is pay-per-view worthy. So, in essence, anything Joshua does is noteworthy, based on the media and casual fanbase he demands by his fighting.

The big question now is; will Joshua help Dazn become much more known to U.S. fight fans.

photo: Cynthia Saldana / ITRboxing.com
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Lukie Ketelle

Lukie Ketelle