DAZN and Matchroom are bullish on their future in world boxing as they shape their present around ‘Canelo’ Alvarez

Saul 'Canelo' Alvarez boxing
Saul Alvarez. Photo by Getty Images
  • DAZN and Matchroom Boxing are bullish on their future in world boxing.
  • Together, they represent one of the three great partnerships in the combat sport.
  • And they are building their strategy of success around the sport’s No.1 fighter.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

LONDON – Promotional juggernaut Matchroom Boxing and market-disrupting broadcaster DAZN furthered their relationship when they announced a new $100 million deal for the UK market this month.

It brought to an end Matchroom’s decades-long presence on Sky Sports, but together they are looking to build on the fervent interest of boxing in Britain, while developing a greater presence in key territories around the world.

Alongside Premier Boxing Champions and its broadcast deals with Fox Sports and Showtime, and Top Rank with ESPN, Matchroom and DAZN represent one of the three great partnerships in the sport.

They are building around two of the biggest names in boxing – No.1 competitor Saul “Canelo” Alvarez, and heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua.

“Canelo is a huge part of our business,” DAZN EVP Joe Markowski exclusively told Insider earlier in June.

Alvarez is a belt-collecting titan of boxing, having won world championships from the super welterweight division to the light heavyweight class.

Since his sole loss to Floyd Mayweather eight years ago, Alvarez has run a gauntlet of top tier fighters, defeating Miguel Cotto, Gennadiy Golovkin, and Sergey Kovalev.

Most recently, Alvarez sent Billy Joe Saunders to the hospital after an eighth-round bludgeoning in which he broke the Briton’s face in multiple places.

Traditionally, Alvarez would be regarded as a pay-per-view fighter in boxing. However, DAZN has an alternative, subscription-based business model – and it sees Alvarez as a key driver for subscriptions.

“We’ve got the best relationship with Canelo we’ve ever had over the last six to seven months, which is something we’re very happy with,” Markowski told us.

A key part of that, Markowski said, is the bond the fighter has developed with Matchroom chairman Eddie Hearn.

Alvarez holds three of the four major championships in the super middleweight division, and is targeting the fourth – currently held by the American champion Caleb Plant. It is a bout that remains in discussion for a September date.

Should Alvarez fight, and beat, Plant, then the world awaits the 30-year-old. He could compete in the US, Central America, or in Europe.

“He is someone who has huge potential internationally beyond his established business in North America,” Markowski said.

“Part of the plan with Canelo, and the appeal he sees in working with Matchroom and DAZN is our global platform – our global network.

“He’s already expressed excitement to us in fighting in all parts of the world. If our ability to help him do that fosters a better relationship long-term, then that’s brilliant.”

DAZN drives subscribers with big-name athletes, and retains them with fan-friendly fighters

Conor Benn at a recent media event.
Conor Benn. Photo by Alex Burstow/Getty Images

Markowski told Insider that a key part of DAZN’s business is not only attracting fans with the biggest names in the sport, like Alvarez and Joshua, but retaining them with fan-friendly fighters.

To do this, DAZN will carefully schedule its fights in the calendar.

Mexican and Mexican American fight fans who subscribe to DAZN will likely tune in to see Alvarez, who most recently competed on the platform in May.

That fan will likely stay for June, so that they can watch Jaime Munguia, who is a power-punching middleweight from Tijuana, Markowski told us.

“Even if a fighter hasn’t reached a major subscription driver level, their ability to retain the interest of our base of subscriptions is huge as well,” said Markowski.

“Jaime Munguia generally fights five or six weeks after Canelo because Mexican American and Hispanic American boxing fans absolutely love Jaime Munguia.

“So our ability to have more months filled with fighters who attract and retain fans around the world is key to who we want our promoters to work, and shape their recruitment drives going forward.”

One athlete beginning to generate a name for himself in the British market and beyond, is the ever-developing welterweight Conor Benn.

The 24-year-old has a captivating personality and a fan-friendly fighting style. He headlines the first Matchroom and DAZN show for the UK market at “Fight Camp” against Adrian Grenados on July 31 on the grounds of Matchroom HQ.

At the media event Insider attended this month both Hearn and Markowski spoke positively of the 147-pounder.

“What a brilliant personality,” Markowski said. “He speaks confidently, a fantastic fighting man’s fighter, and he’s entertaining.

“We’re in the entertaining business, and the numbers around Conor support that. He’s charismatic, good looking, well-spoken, a good fighter, and he’s a promoter’s dream.”

Markowski called Benn one of the most improved fighters in world boxing of late, and said: “We hope Eddie can take him all the way to a world championship shot.

“He’s someone we’re keen to work with and someone I know will drive a lot of DAZN subscribers.”

DAZN’s boxing business was under ‘significant stress’ during COVID

Joe Markowski speaks at a boxing press conference.
Joe Markowski. Photo by John Walton/PA Images via Getty Images

Like many businesses operating in the sports and entertainment sector, DAZN struggled during the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, when live sports was on pause.

“At the start of COVID, the whole sports industry was under significant stress. Our business was under significant stress, and our boxing business could have gone one of two ways to be perfectly honest,” Markowski said.

“We could have exited stage left, or doubled down and refined a few things.”

Markowski told us that DAZN worked on key relationships – specifically that with Matchroom. He said it is representative of how their two companies are aligned on global strategy.

Top Rank was the first major boxing company to usher the sport back behind-closed-doors at the MGM Grand Conference Center in Las Vegas.

Though 2020 was generally quiet for boxing, 2021 is different.

The summer is being spear-head by the Premier Boxing Champions, with major events like the Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder trilogy bout, the Jermell Charlo and Brian Castano super welterweight championship unification, and the Manny Pacquiao vs. Errol Spence Jr. mega-match.

But Matchroom and DAZN are bullish on what they can achieve together, both in the UK market place with “Fight Camp” and then with athletes like Joshua and Alvarez, who have global appeal.

Markowski said there’s been an “uptick” in subscriber growth since this month’s UK announcement on DAZN and Matchroom’s exclusivity deal.

A new subscriber drive is normally seen around fight week, he said. But DAZN has been encouraged by the trends it is seeing in its target markets of late

“Every fight we put on in the UK, with UK-specific interest, the level rises. It grows up, then plateaus to the next fight. Our subscription numbers, hand on heart, are very, very strong.”

Beyond “Fight Camp,” there will be further UK shows, a potential Alvarez mega-fight involving Plant, and the global rights for Joshua’s next fight – likely in the UK against Oleksandr Usyk in late September.

On the Alvarez and Plant fight, Markowski said: “It’s definitely something we’re talking about at the moment.”

He added: “There’s definitely an international angle with Anthony Joshua.”

DAZN regards its Matchroom deal as a big statement in the boxing business, but now it’s about executing what it, alongside Hearn, wants to deliver.

“Increased value, more shows, more original content and more fights at a very affordable price point on an accessible platform that would otherwise have been behind a pay-per-view platform.”

If they execute their plan as well as they announced it, then the future of its boxing business will likely leave that “significant stress” it endured during COVID in the past.