The Saul “Canelo” Alvarez vs Avni Yildirim fight had it all…
Canelo and Eddie playing golf. Canelo and Eddie wearing pajamas. Canelo and Eddie making an intro video DAZN inexplicably ran from a wide shot instead of a direct feed to the broadcast, J Balvin performing a mini-concert during Canelo’s ring walk; Why this fight had everything except a justification for happening.
A casual observer might be forgiven amidst all the pomp and circumstance and endless adoration from Eddie Hearn’s media puppets that this Avni Yildirim fight was the very same fight DAZN had rejected last fall when Canelo was still contracted to Golden Boy Promotions. That should have raised some questions in the world of boxing punditry but let’s see what was foremost on the mind of the “insiders”.
Well, I guess with the hard-hitting investigative journalists on the sideline it’s up to me to unravel this mess of a card.
DAZN spent most of the last two years seeding the media with stories of how they were unhappy with the opponents GBP was arranging. There was a claim that they wanted a third fight with Gennady Golovkin but were casting aspersions on first Canelo and then GBP for not making the fight. Apparently this was the impetus for DAZN withholding the contracted funding of forty million dollars they were to give GBP. DAZN rejected proposed fights with Anthony Dirrell and Avni Yildirim last fall. These rejections as well as the completely deteriorated relationship between GBP and Canelo is what led to Canelo suing both GBP and DAZN in order to get out of his contract.
Given that Oscar De La Hoya had personally guaranteed Canelo’s $350 million dollar, ten fight deal and DAZN had no contract with DAZN at all, Canelo quickly won a victory against GBP. If the case had proceeded Oscar would have been bankrupted due to him owing the balance of what would have been ruled a failed personal services contract.
At the time it seemed very odd and perhaps a sign of DAZN’s complete ignorance that they had signed a deal only with GBP and not Canelo. Usually when broadcasters engage in exclusive contracts all the parties are involved in a single contract so there is no barrier to communication. Yet DAZN’s “contract” with Canelo was only within language tied to their overall contract with GBP that also guaranteed GBP eighteen million per year for five years.
Given the size of this contract and the falling out, it is rather inexplicable the complete lack of interest the world of boxing punditry had in the hasty resolution that saw GBP lose an exclusive contract with the top boxing draw in the sport. Even more bizarre was how quickly DAZN moved to a deal with Canelo for a fight against Callum Smith.
If forty million to GBP was too high of a price for DAZN, how do they explain paying Canelo at least $28 million, according to sources, plus whatever Callum Smith commanded on top of the fee for Eddie Hearn to organize the rest of the card including marketing costs. Once you start to add these amounts up you will come to a figure that is shockingly close to the forty million DAZN was paying to GBP. All of that for a fight that saw more front row tickets be comped than were actually paid by fans.
Then in continuing the madness, DAZN agreed to an Avni Yildirim bout. The very same bout they had rejected in September of 2020! The tab for this bout was just as ridiculous. $25 million for Canelo and $3 million for Avni Yildirim PLUS a guaranteed return bout for Yildirim to be broadcast on DAZN. If DAZN was so interested in cost-cutting, why did they pay Canelo $25 million for a squash match? The next highest bid Canelo had received was $10 million for this unneeded mandatory. And I say unneeded because everyone in the world of punditry seems to forget that the WBC had declared that Canelo could bypass Yildirim. It was Canelo who insisted on this bout and DAZN who paid $15 million above the next highest offer.
This leads us to the “prize” of the current DAZN,Matchroom and Canelo bromance. A fight against Billie Joe Saunders on Cinco De Mayo weekend. Billie Joe Saunders? This is their crowning achievement? A fighter who struggles to sell seven thousand seat arenas in the UK? A fighter known more for his relationship with the leader of a drug cartel, Daniel Kinahan, than his actual boxing? Why would Americans care more about BJS than Callum Smith?
Was DAZN’s reluctance to fund GBP really a matter of opponent? Or was it a planned move to break GBP’s contract with Canelo? Now that Canelo is working with Matchroom USA, in which DAZN has a forty percent ownership stake, for his bouts I am starting to lean towards the latter. Especially given that during the Canelo v. Yildirim fight week, Eddie Hearn fed internal emails between DAZN and Top Rank to his lickspittle Mike Coppinger which has caused strife between Teofimo Lopez and Top Rank.
After handing over two hundred million dollars to Eddie Hearn and failing to see any of the fights he promoted in the US turn a profit, DAZN has not done any soul-searching. They have just double-downed with Eddie and are now apparently trying to acquire fighters by doing all they can to break existing contracts.
DAZN is a company full of UK talent that has no idea how to market to the US. They are just trying to recreate Eddie Hearn’s UK formula down to buying off the media that covers the sport. Notice that the last three US cards DAZN has broadcast; Alvarez vs Smith, Garcia vs Campbell and Alvarez vs Yildirim were all offered on Pay-Per-View. The very outlet DAZN had declared dead when they launched DAZN in the US. But not a single one of the “name” boxing pundits in the US has released a buyrate for these fights. Odd how writers who claim to have sources within PPV suddenly have no interest in numbers. But I can guarantee you that as soon as a competitor to DAZN does a PPV that source machine will be out of the shop and back in action on Twitter.
DAZN is a spectacular failure. One that only continues to exist because Len Blavatnik believes he will eventually find some rubes to invest in a streaming company that is losing almost two billion dollars a year and is competing against not only traditional media companies but companies like Amazon. And until Len has had enough, this bubble of delusion that surrounds Eddie and his media hype-men will remain un-popped.