Los Angeles Times

They give DAZN a puncher’s chance

Alvarez and De La Hoya are critical to streaming service’s success in the U.S.

- By Lance Pugmire

For the DAZN streaming service to reach the heights envisioned by its deep-pocketed owners, it will need the help of two of boxing’s biggest stars.

The path to success is clear — middleweig­ht champion Canelo Alvarez must participat­e in the fights that widely resonate with fans, while promoter Oscar De La Hoya must add more firepower to his stable of fighters.

“We have an obligation to work with our partners and our responsibi­lity and purpose is to deliver the best product, the best fights and the best fighter on the planet,” De La Hoya said in a recent visit to Alvarez’s gym.

There, the former world champion observed Alvarez’s sparring session as he prepares for a May 4 unificatio­n bout against Daniel Jacobs that will stand as the truest measure yet of streaming’s ability to capture a wide audience.

DAZN’s Executive Chairman John Skipper also was there, a gesture “to show Canelo he matters, that we appreciate it, and to illustrate to him that we expect to do very good business.”

The latter suggestion was made last fall in DAZN’s 10fight, $365-million investment in the 28-year-old Mexican star.

“We needed the prestige of this to get others to follow,” said Skipper, the former head of ESPN. “Because if the biggest guy in the business is willing to work for us, everybody will.”

Alvarez opened his relationsh­ip with a commercial declaring pay-per-view was dead, then won a third division belt by knocking out super-middleweig­ht champion Rocky Fielding on Dec. 15 at Madison Square Garden.

Instead of treating his extended deal as a security blanket that frees him of dangerous bouts, Alvarez selected Jacobs (35-2, 29 KOs), who has lost only once since 2010, to Alvarez’s fierce rival Gennady Golovkin by a narrow decision in 2017.

“This relationsh­ip is one of trust,” Skipper said in reference to Alvarez’s contractua­l agreement to meet fighters aligned to, or approved by, DAZN. “We both have some leverage, but if we each don’t want to do something, the outcome is stalemate, so we have to figure out how to do something that is beneficial to all … it’s mutually assured destructio­n if we don’t make it work.”

Alvarez insists he’s eager to do his part to help bring new life to boxing and DAZN.

“I want to be remembered as the best in the history of boxing. This is my way of doing that,” Alvarez said of fighting Jacobs and connecting with DAZN.

That pursuit falls in line with what DAZN requires to widen its reach to the U.S. consumer.

Already establishe­d internatio­nally in countries including Spain and Japan, DAZN is starting its U.S. push with combat sports — beyond boxing, it has a deal with the mixed martial arts promotion Bellator. It also streams live look-ins of Major League Baseball with its “Changeup” show and is eyeing more rights deals with U.S. sports.

The Alvarez fight starts a fervent push for subscriber­s, who can choose from a $19.99 monthly fee or a $99 annual bill. After Alvarez-Jacobs, charismati­c heavyweigh­t champion Anthony Joshua makes his U.S. debut June 1 at Madison Square Garden and Golovkin, who like Alvarez left his HBO deal to join DAZN, meets Steve Rolls on June 8 at the Garden.

Golovkin’s three-year, six-fight deal has the potential to exceed $100 million, an industry source said.

Golovkin said Tuesday at an appearance at L.A. Live that he aligned with DAZN because of its depth of middleweig­ht talent, which includes a fourth champion, Demetrius Andrade, and its vision to connect with a younger audience that is familiar and comfortabl­e with viewing streamed events.

Three other industry sources familiar with DAZN’s business plan report it wants its subscriber base to top 1 million following the Golovkin bout.

Skipper, De La Hoya, Alvarez and Golovkin all have strongly indicated Alvarez and Golovkin will meet for a third time in September should both win these coming bouts.

Alvarez beat Golovkin by majority decision last year, following a draw in their first fight.

“I can assure you it’s going to be a major fight once again,” De La Hoya vowed.

Skipper said he’s convinced “Canelo doesn’t want to coast … Our goal is to assemble a collection of fights — eight to 12 a year — that are pay-per-view quality.”

Joshua’s promoter, Eddie Hearn, whose Matchroom Boxing is staging a DAZNstream­ed card Friday at the Forum headlined by super-flyweight champion Srisaket Sor Rungvisai in a rematch against Juan Francisco Estrada, also will work to provide those high-quality cards.

De La Hoya will receive license fees from DAZN to stage 10 fights annually for the first five years of the Alvarez-DAZN deal. De La Hoya said that backing would allow him to stage world championsh­ip fights and beef up his stable of fighters.

“Anybody not tied to a promoter: If you’re good, have charisma and have the potential to be a superstar, we want to sign you, and we’ll go after you with great offers,” De La Hoya said. “That’s what DAZN has allowed us to do.”

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