Where Did DAZN Go Wrong? Thoughts on Canelo, The Upstart Network, and Everything
Where Did DAZN Go Wrong?
Was it the overspending?
Was it the lack of pausing annual subscription accounts when no live content was present?
Was it investing in the same roster that say HBO did that found them leaving the sport?
The one thing we do know DAZN seems to be in a tough spot.
Golden Boy Promotions is mixed up in a lawsuit with their marquee fighter Canelo Alvarez, which includes their network, as we will only get into the generalities of that case, etc, but it is clear things are not great on the upstart network.
Now let’s start with the positive, DAZN will exist before, and after this, the big question now is, will boxing be deemed fit for the market place? As I wrote about a year ago, if DAZN were to fail, it would further point the finger at boxing, an already niche sport, being a sport that is not worth the investment, which has it has always been.
Investment In Older Fighters
Sure, you need to sell tickets (subscriptions), but one thing that is clear to me, at least, is they invested too many resources into Canelo, Golovkin, and Anthony Joshua, based off internet impression, social media interactions, and liquid numbers, but didn’t take into that all three are in their thirties and that things can change rapidly and fluidly.
Joshua, a superman heavyweight figure in the U.K. is highly popular there, but not so much here, Canelo is the biggest star in the sport hands down, and Gennady Golovkin in hindsight is looking like Kosta Tsyzu 2.0 with a fun career, but at the tail-end not getting the backing or support that major investment would hope for, as Golovkin seems ripe for his Ricky Hatton versus Kosta Tsyzu moment of his own.
So to counter this, instead of investing in the youth of the sport, they did what I will always find somewhat unforgivable, they made boxing into spectle and to some a joke. DAZN began bringing in YouTube celebs like Logan Paul and KSI, hoping to tap into their fanbase to boast ratings and generate excitement. Instead, it created a sad environment in which life-long boxers with a lot of talent would fight behind novice fighters, who are getting paid more, and came into boxing as more of a ‘this would be a fun experience and make me look badass’ rather than this is their whole life.
The sport component at times became fleeting, it felt as though some members of the media had been weaponized by the network to push certain agendas like Canelo vs Golovkin III, and outside of the big three fighters mentioned like Devin Haney, Ryan Garcia, and Vergil Ortiz continued to fight on upper-mid-level cards despite being the foundation for where the network was going. I never saw the big investment to boast one of the guys into a capital G Guy, trying to create a star on their network along with established fighters, and that means you’re now fighting time.
In hindsight, it looks as though DAZN entered boxing looking to overpay, thinking they could simply buy the best fighters that they could and that five-to-ten-years from now, they’d recoup and it would be deemed a genius move. The problem with high-risk and high-reward moves are things like disasters, pandemics, and other various trouble, create no margin for error.
With Canelo, Golovkin and Joshua all not fighting on this network so far this year that leaves a big question to why most would subscribe. Furthermore, live programming has been getting cut back, more and more, with their latest on paper bout getting canceled after Jorge Linares tested positive for COVID-19, weeks before fighting Mercita Gesta in late August.
Canelo now looking to get fulfilled upon his obligations from his network and his said promoter, Golden Boy Promotions, could cause difference that will not be fixable. DAZN without Alvarez will have a solid heavyweight in Anthony Joshua who is behind Tyson Fury, and even with Deontay Wilder, and Gennady Golovkin who at 39-years-old is an older fighter, who I think the majority of people expected Canelo Alvarez, who has a draw and a close win over Golovkin, would win dominantly in a third fight (to be fair, Golovkin should’ve won the first bout).
To make things more absurd, DAZN per Mike Coppinger of The Athletic and Dan Rafael of BoxingScene.com, reported that DAZN didn’t deem legit world title contenders Callum Smith and Billy Joe Saunders as “premium opponents”, but UFC fighters Jorge Masvidal, Khabib Nurmagomedov, both of whom have never had a professional boxing match and are UFC fighters, or Oscar De La Hoya, who is a 47-year-old pro boxer, who has not fought in 12 years as “premium”. The undertone I read is as follows, it is simply about “clickbait headlines” and views as opposed to putting on a world-championship level product, and when the gimmick wears off, the ones who are expected to fork the bill are the hardcore fight fans, the ones who a lot of the top content had been gearing away from.
DAZN might not go away, but it certainly is weakened as Canelo Alvarez was the future of the network along with Anthony Joshua, but with Joshua losing, and despite avenging the loss, Joshua now has a lot to prove amongst the fight fans as Tyson Fury has become the definitive heavyweight of this generation. Golovkin wanting to defend his world title belt against mandatory challenger Kamil Szeremeta, a guy who I would say 99% of the North American population has never seen fight, is also just as uninspiring.
You read the tea leaves, Regis Prograis recently left DAZN, so did Josh Taylor who fought on the WBSS, as did Maurice “Mighty Mo” Hooker. In fact, it is becoming easier to say who isn’t at DAZN, as opposed to who is there, which is troubling.
When going to their website, despite the lawsuit, their website advertises a fight season line-up that lists Canelo as coming soon, with the fighter heavily featured on their website. What some might fail to realize if Golden Boy or DAZN could come to terms with some sort of opponent along with money payment this all goes away overnight. The reason for the lawsuit is to create change and it appears Canelo felt his side was not being heard so he took legal action.
Oh, and the 35 million was a minimum, and it appears to the best of my understanding Canelo has a contract with Golden Boy that doesn’t match a contract that exists with Golden Boy and DAZN.
So in short, it looks like DAZN built their company around a Canelo vs Golovkin trilogy bout, and even if it happens, it’ll be too late now as Golovkin will be at least 40-years-old by the time they do it.
….and then there is the Ali Act.
If the contracts don’t match up we could be looking at coercive contracts, which would be very bad for all parties not named Canelo Alvarez since that would mean someone would be on the hook to pay a lot of money to the biggest star in boxing. At the very least, someone is responsible for not meeting the services contract of Canelo Alvarez.
What does mean for young fighters?
Three of my favorite young fighters, Devin Haney, Otha Jones III, and Marc Castro all are with Matchroom USA, who though are not involved in this lawsuit seem to be waiting on DAZN’s next move, as they’re U.S. fight distribution is DAZN, which currently is yet to announce a fourth-quarter schedule despite being ten days into September.
One of the unsaid things about what is happening, will be, how many young fighters will be inactive or in hard fights, if DAZN doesn’t have as many fight dates? Yes, this speculative, but think about the young fighters who are on this network, looking to build up their career.
The hope from my end is Matchroom USA keeps going, but compared to Top Rank Inc, the most well-oiled machine in boxing, that churns out high-level fights month after month, and Premier Boxing Champions who are putting on PPV quality bouts with mega-stars, it feels as though time-wasted will be the time you can’t get back, and Top Rank, as well as PBC, are just creating distance while Matchroom awaiting clarity on this situation.
In short, it feels DAZN entered the boxing market arrogantly and aggressively, with the premise of overpaying believing that would create a demand in the boxing market place. It worked at first, but they couldn’t sustain through the COVID-19 pandemic, and the fact that customers couldn’t halt their subscriptions, only ticked off, people who are already struggling to keep their health and wealth. DAZN now will decide what it wants to be in the near future as Canelo Alvarez, the face of the boxing side of their network is forcing that change.