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NOTES FROM THE BOXING UNDERGROUND: DAZN, PRONOUNCED "DUH, ZONE"

By Paul Magno | September 14, 2020
NOTES FROM THE BOXING UNDERGROUND: DAZN, PRONOUNCED

Canelo Alvarez's lawsuit (which will have to be re-filed, per U.S. District Court, due to jurisdiction problems-- more on that in a later article) against DAZN and Golden Boy has opened a lot of side issues. Like, for instance, DAZN's unhappiness with Canelo's level of opposition and just what, exactly, they expected of him. 

Their reported insistence on Canelo facing "premium" opponents at least once a year got me thinking-- what, exactly, is a "premium" opponent? 

When Alvarez fought Daniel Jacobs in the first bout of his DAZN deal, Jacobs was a legitimate top 3 or 4 middleweight and, arguably, the best realistically available opponent for him. Canelo's next opponent, Sergey Kovalev, was a reigning world champ and a well-known name, two weight classes above Alvarez's middleweight base. 

Apparently, neither Jacobs nor Kovalev met DAZN's definition of "premium."

Closer to the present tense, BIlly Joe Saunders and Callum Smith-- two world title holders at super middleweight who are respectable draws in their native UK and universally ranked among the top 4-5 in their division-- are also not considered "premium" by the streaming service. 

We all know that DAZN has a hard-on for Canelo facing Gennady Golovkin a third time, but Golovkin is just one name, one "premium" foe. Who else did they want Canelo to fight AFTER (or instead of) Triple G?

Super middleweight world title holder Caleb Plant and former champ David Benavidez may or may not be better than Saunders and Smith, but they aren't more bankable names on the world market. Middleweight champ Demetrius Andrade is good, but he couldn't draw flies if he was covered in pig shit and bacon grease. Jermall Charlo may be interesting, but he's not all that much bigger or better than anyone else on this list. Jaime Munguia is not yet a boxing elite in any sense of the word. Light heavyweights Dmitry Bivol and Artur Beterbiev would present intriguing tasks, but are a full step below Kovelv in both drawing power and body of work.

So, what the flying fuck does DAZN consider a "premium" opponent for Canelo?

Former ESPN big shot Dan Rafael was apparently told who they do consider "premium." According to Rafael, the wannabe Netflix of Sports would consider a comeback-minded Oscar De La Hoya a "premium" opponent for Alvarez, as well as UFC stars (and totally not boxers) Khabib Nurmagomedov and Jorge Masvidal. Oh yeah, also Shaquille O'Neal, Vin Diesel, and Keanu Reeves as John Wick. 

Okay, I lied about that O'Neal, Diesel, and Keanu stuff...but that's actually not too far off on the idiocy scale if DAZN was looking to take boxing's top star, arguably the sport's pound-for-pound best fighter, and tie him up with bullshit meaningless exhibition-type fights for half his dates. 

I hate to say "I told you so" when it comes to the boxing brain trust over at DAZN USA. No, who the hell am I kidding? I LOVE saying "I told you so" about that.

It's clear that these people absolutely do NOT know what boxing fans really want and, to be brutally honest, probably don't know a damn thing about boxing or boxing culture, either. 

All of this DAZN stuff was a good idea-- in theory. Embracing technology. Affordable subscription price. Even Canelo as a big-ticket signing was a good idea. But if you give cake mix and a heated oven to a chimp, you're not all that likely to get an actual cake. 

For those angry readers who are surely planning their "I suppose you could do better" emails as they read this-- I don't know, most likely I could do better. To be honest, the bar really hasn't been set all that high. Any reasonably intelligent boxing fan with some moderate first-hand knowledge of the business  could probably have done better. Or, at the very least, they would've known better than to make some of the stupid moves made by the DAZN suits. 

Principally, like, NOT throwing $365 million at a fighter without the ability to firmly control who you want him to fight. And they should've known enough to know that any quality control arrangement with Golden Boy isn't worth its weight in fishnets since Golden Boy doesn't really have the legal ability to dictate who Canelo faces. This setup they had with Golden Boy-- if it's the way it's been reported-- was the equivalent of Shakira's tour promoter promising the owner of Dodger Stadium a blowjob from Shakira if they book her there for a concert. Ummm...no. 

I understand how they overpaid fighters to get a foothold in the industry. That's a reasonably expected necessity, although $1.2 million to Jessie Vargas for an undercard bout is serious mental illness. 

It's all the other stuff that clearly shows their cringe-worthy incompetence. And, yeah, you can count "building a subscription broadcast model without thinking to build a fan base to feed into that subscription model" alongside the Canelo misstep as chief among their bonehead moves.

So, where do they go from here?

The fear I had all along was that this big money venture, with the way they jumped into things and really worked to upset everything from the business structure of the sport to its content delivery system, carried big, ugly implications if it failed. And that massive failure would not only push DAZN out of the boxing business, but also create another knock against boxing as a mainstream-viable entity. Critical eyes won't be seeing DAZN's miscalculations when it comes to the failure, they'll be blaming it on boxing, itself. And a billion dollar failure is not something this sport, at this time, wants to have hanging over its head. 

Mind you, DAZN USA is not dead yet and neither is DAZN Boxing. But both might as well be dead if they don't go back to Canelo, groveling and pleading to make nice. Their 2020, rest-of-year boxing schedule is about as intriguing and star-studded as a Wyoming Boxing Hall of Fame induction ceremony and they really don't have much going on with any other sport in the US, either. Anyone still subscribing to that bunch of nothingness is either a glutton for dead air or someone who possibly died before being able to cancel their subscription. 

We can't kid ourselves anymore about this streaming service and their dedication to boxing. From what it looks like on the outside, they aimed to use boxing as a placeholder sport, to pull a modest profit and make a name for themselves in the States until they could lock in a more mainstream sports league. But their incompetence with the boxing product may make that ultimate goal very difficult.

Boxing, if DAZN fails at its fight efforts, will have to once again take a long, harmful pause as it works to absorb damage and move on from the mess.

Got something for Magno? Send it here: paulmagno@theboxingtribune.com

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