By: Jake Donovan
From the moment they announced their commitment to boxing earlier this year, the brass at DAZN insisted they were in it for the long haul.
So, too, is the entire Golden Boy Promotions family, including its biggest star Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez.
The reigning World middleweight champion has committed to a long-term deal with the sports streaming service, according to overnight reports from ESPN.com’s Dan Rafael and The Los Angeles Times’ Lance Pugmire. The reported $365 million deal is the richest in sports history, with Alvarez’ per fight guarantee surpassing that of Floyd Mayweather’s previous six-fight deal with Showtime.
Photo Credit: Golden Boy Promotions Twitter Account
BoxingScene.com senior writer Keith Idec was the first to break the story of Alvarez heading to DAZN, with specific terms of the deal since revealed by Golden Boy Promotions through its press office.
News of the record-breaking contract comes ahead of a scheduled Wednesday press conference in New York City, originally intended to formally announce Alvarez’ forthcoming December 15 challenge of secondary super middleweight titlist Rocky Fielding.
“I’ve always liked a challenge, and this is yet another challenge in my career,” said Alvarez, in a statement that can point to both the incredible deal and his quest for a title in a third weight class.
Their bout—which will headline at Madison Square Garden, where Alvarez will fight for the first time in his career—had yet to disclose which network or platform would carry the event, which was supposed to be revealed on Wednesday. Golden Boy fielded offers from several outlets, including HBO which had presented Alvarez’ last seven bouts and 15 overall through its various networks and Pay-Per-View Arm.
HBO remained in the running to serve as the broadcast provider for Alvarez-Fielding, but removed its name from the fold after declining to match DAZN’s lucrative offer. The development means Alvarez appearing on a platform other than HBO, Showtime (where Alvarez appeared five times from 2012-14) or their respective PPV arms for the first time this decade.
Alvarez’ lucrative deal with HBO expired following his narrow points win over previously unbeaten and unified middleweight titlist Gennady Golovkin in their rematch this past September. The event generated more than 1.1 million PPV buys, slightly down from the 1.3 million units sold for their controversial draw one year prior.
The two events managed to generate more than $180 million in PPV revenue, with Alvarez (50-1-2, 34KOs) alone clearing in the neighborhood of $50 million for the rematch between his guaranteed purse and PPV incentives.
Now armed with the richest sports contract ever, the 28-year old superstar from Guadalajara, Mexico will only have to worry about his name helping drive subscriptions to his new boxing home.
“We are thrilled to be exclusive partners with Golden Boy Promotions and Oscar De La Hoya,” said John Skipper, DAZN Group Executive Chairman who previously headed programming at ESPN. “By bringing Canelo’s fights to DAZN, we will turn his pay-per-view success into a growth engine for subscribers – a truly transformational moment for our business and the entire industry.”
DAZN entered the boxing fray earlier this year, cutting a deal with leading UK promoter Eddie Hearn for up to eight years worth $1 billion for the service to be available in the US market. The sports streaming app has already proven successful in several other markets throughout Europe and Asia, and its USA launch has so far been embraced by boxing fans.
The US-brand officially launched in September, with its first card available to North American viewers on September 22. The event aired live from London, starring unbeaten and unified heavyweight titlist Anthony Joshua—easily the biggest star on that side of the pond—in his thrilling 7th round knockout of Alexander Povetkin.
It was a smart way to launch a new service, which had also armed itself with the entire schedule for season two of the World Boxing Super Series which spans three weight classes (bantamweight, super lightweight and cruiserweight). However, less inspiring was the name recognition that came with the first two shows from Hearn’s Matchroom USA company.
The October 6 show in Chicago provided plenty of thrills, far exceeding the notoriety that came with the night’s full lineup. Three separate title fights graced the undercard, but the event drew criticism for its choice in a headlining act between Jessie Vargas and Thomas Dulorme. The fight surpassed expectations, with post-fight buzz supplanting any pre-fight criticism that came with claims of the event failing to move the needle.
Still, another speed bump came ahead of this weekend’s scheduled show in Boston. The originally scheduled main event between unbeaten middleweights Billy Joe Saunders and Demetrius Andrade endured a major facelift when Saunders—who was due to defend his portion of the middleweight title—was scratched from the card after a failed pre-fight drug test resulted in his being denied a license by the Massachusetts State Athletic Commission.
Andrade will now face unbeaten but unheralded Namibian contender Walter Kautondokwa, with the now vacant title at stake but carrying far less intrigue.
That dynamic dramatically changes now that the winner can now position himself for a very makeable fight with the division—and sport’s—biggest draw.
Alvarez’ arrival adds to an already increasing middleweight pot on the DAZN side of the street. His old home, HBO is still the network provider for the October 27 vacant title fight between Daniel Jacobs and Sergey Derevyachenko. Jacobs is promoted by Hearn and Derevyachenko by Lou DiBella, who has shown a willingness to work with all promoters, as evidenced by entering a co-promotional deal with Hearn for 130-pound titlist Tevin Farmer, who defends on this weekend’s card in Boston.
Any mixing of matching between Alvarez and the winners of the aforementioned middleweight bouts will at least now come without network roadblocks.
Meanwhile, Golden Boy Promotions—who cut its own deal with DAZN in lieu of a co-promotional pact with Hearn—also finds a new home for the rest of its stable.
“This is easily one of the best days in the growing history of Golden Boy Promotions,” said Oscar De La Hoya, Golden Boy Promotions Chairman and CEO. “We are committed to making this sport as accessible as possible and at an affordable price for all the fans.
“My dream has been to make boxing a sport for all. DAZN has the perfect platform to make this dream come true, and with the biggest star in the sport at the helm of this journey, I have no doubts that we will succeed in unimaginable ways.”
With HBO announcing its exit from the sport—due to come by year’s end—after 45 years in service, Golden Boy lost out on several fight dates. The company was also faced with the burden of its own four-wall deal with ESPN expiring at the end of 2018.
That is no longer a concern. According to ESPN.com, Golden Boy secured a pact with DAZN—separate from Alvarez’ deal—due to begin in the first quarter of 2019 and guaranteeing ten fight nights per year. This opens the door for several notable fighters either promoted or affiliated (through co-promotional deal with other companies) by Golden Boy, including current titlists Rey Vargas, Alberto Machado and Angel Acosta, former titlist Jorge Linares and rising contenders and prospects like Diego de la Hoya and Ryan Garcia.
Linares and Garcia recently appeared on Golden Boy’s current Facebook Live series, but would stand to benefit from a bigger budgeted promotion that would come with DAZN, who between Joshua and now Alvarez can boldly proclaim itself as the home for the two biggest stars in the sport today.
“Being part of this historic deal will require me to prepare myself even more and offer fans even better performances,” Alvarez insists, quite the claim since he’s already led a Hall-of Fame worthy career. “At the same time, I am humbled to be selected to lead this new vision for the sport of boxing, which will without a doubt be for the benefit of the fans.”