Canelo vs Bivol: DAZN’s Neverending Folly
For Saul “Canelo” Alvarez there was a lot to celebrate on the evening of November the sixth. Not only did he see great success in the ring in stopping the IBF middleweight champion, Caleb Plant, and becoming the undisputed super-middleweight champion but the promotion headed by Showtime produced his biggest live gate in three years and seven bouts.
This event was so successful that it nearly doubled the live gate produced earlier in the year when Canelo faced off against Billie Joe Saunders in Arlington, Texas. This despite selling a quarter of the tickets in Las Vegas at the MGM Grand compared to Dallas Stadium. Canelo vs Plant also saw the return of Canelo to Pay-Per-View as well as having closed circuit viewing across all the MGM Resort properties.
While the Nevada State Athletic Commission no longer provides purse or ticket information due to lobbying by the UFC, Showtime Sports President, Stephen Espinoza, stated that the live gate for Canelo vs Plant would fall somewhere in the range of $15-20 million with the final amount being closer to twenty million than fifteen million. This also lined up with ticket tracking on the primary ticket sale website that suggested a live gate of at least $18 million.
The success of the event also made one thing clear, DAZN would convince themselves that they could replicate this success of Showtime and would throw a ridiculous amount of money at Canelo once again. The exact same faulty logic that convinced them they could take over the US marketplace in boxing at the beginning of their foray into the sport. They witnessed Floyd Mayweather sell over four million Pay-Per-View buys fighting Conor McGregor and thought it would be no problem at all to sell the US public at $20 dollars a month. Except this go-around, DAZN has introduced some new wrinkles to their plan.
If at first you do not succeed…
DAZN’s first fresh innovation is that they will no longer attempt to offer Canelo’s fights for $20. They are rolling out Pay-Per-View for these fights. Now, I could make fun of DAZN reversing course from their “PPV is dead” model but at this point making fun of DAZN is almost like kicking a puppy. Also, DAZN eventually having to do PPV was clear from the day they held their first press conference in the United States.
There’s also something much funnier at play that most pundits have ignored, probably because they have DAZN affiliate links and get paid each time someone uses that link to sign up to DAZN. Of course they would not want to give up this lucrative financial stream worth upwards of tens of dollars to point out the biggest issue with DAZN’s new kick at the boxing cat.
When DAZN announced that they were going to PPV there was a moment where you thought they had finally figured out how to approach boxing in the United States and they were going to start doing greater business with the traditional PPV providers. DAZN previously had a limited PPV offering for several fights last year through DirecTV. But no, for the DAZN “PPV” is being offered exclusively on DAZN’s platform! So instead of paying twenty dollars to see a Canelo fight, people can now pay eighty dollars to see a Canelo fight.
Now the very first question one should have is, “If people did not want to sign up to DAZN to see Canelo for $20, why would they sign up for $80?”. Thankfully for my writing needs no one in the executive offices of DAZN thought to ask this question. They are just plowing ahead on the premise that this time people will definitely sign up to see fights in their glorious 720p resolution at four times the previous offer and everything will be alright. I mean, they have the world’s greatest promoter Eddie Hearn in charge, what could go wrong?
This increase in price has also been paired with a two-fight announcement of Canelo facing off against Russian fighter Dmitry Bivol and for some reason, a forty year-old Gennady Golovkin. DAZN has long held that a third fight with GGG is the one that will drive millions of viewers to their platform and save the day. This flies in the face of boxing reality where the majority of rematches and trilogy fights have done diminishing business from the first meeting. Even the second meeting between Canelo and GGG saw a drop-off in attendance, live gate and PPV buys.
Another thing DAZN has realized is that in announcing that Canelo is going to fight GGG and placing their focus on that fight, they immediately diminished the Bivol fight to also-ran status. They have signaled that Bivol is just a fight to be endured because GGG has not fought in over a year and has to tune-up against Murata to even hope to look competitive in September.
So I cannot see how Canelo vs Bivol will be anything but a massive loss of money. A fight against Bivol would be a tough sell in normal times, let alone the present where the larger sporting world is enacting bans against Russian athletes. DAZN is going to throw over $50 million dollars at a placeholder bout just so they can get their dream fight. There are rich kids with massive drug addictions who live in awe of DAZN’s ability to waste their daddy’s (Len “Don’t Call Me Oligarch” Blavatnik) money.
But in the end it does not matter, for the very same pundits who were on podcasts like Chris Mannix’s and were pondering if FOX was able to make money on a Keith Thurman fight will not even broach the subject at the financial losses occurring at DAZN, losses which stood at $1.3 billion in their last report covering the 2020 financial year. This is boxing, a sport where the backers of the sport who are financially secure companies are denigrated while fly-by-night operations like Triller and DAZN are celebrated.