EXCLUSIVE: DAZN want Canelo back but respect free agency for legacy

Canelo Alvarez

Michelle Farsi

Since HBO exited the boxing business at the end of 2018, just three months after Canelo Alvarez eked out a majority decision over rival Gennadiy Golovkin in their middleweight championship mega pay-per-view rematch, the Mexican star has fought only on streaming service DAZN.

He had six consecutive bouts, all wins, on DAZN: Rocky Fielding, Daniel Jacobs, Sergey Kovalev, Callum Smith, Avni Yildirim, and Billy Joe Saunders. Until now.

When the pound-for-pound king and three-belt super middleweight champion Alvarez squares off with titleholder Caleb Plant in the first-ever undisputed 168-pound world title fight on Saturday at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, the fight will be carried by Showtime PPV.

Alvarez’s two-fight deal with DAZN ended with the victory against Saunders in May, and while DAZN wanted to retain his services, he is taking his talents to Premier Boxing Champions and Showtime PPV, for at least the one fight with Plant.

DAZN executive vice president Joe Markowski, who has worked closely with Alvarez during the course of his time with the company, of course is not happy to see him leave but believes he will eventually be back.

“He structured his broadcast and promotional relationships like this for the right reasons from his perspective,” Markowski told World Boxing News. “He’s doing it to ensure that he gets to continue the legacy he wants to build. I personally respect that.”

In late 2018, after Alvarez’s deal with HBO was up, Alvarez, who was then promoted by Golden Boy, went to DAZN for a then-athlete record contract: five years, 11 fights, and $365 million.

He fought three bouts under that deal but eventually had a bad falling out with Golden Boy, which led to a since-settled lawsuit against the Oscar De La Hoya’s company and DAZN.

As part of the settlement, Alvarez became a promotional and broadcast free agent. It was a move that has allowed him to sign short-term deals and seek the best promotional and broadcast deals possible.

Although he was not bound to DAZN after the settlement, he did a one-fight deal with Matchroom Boxing promoter Eddie Hearn and DAZN to fight super middleweight world titlist Smith last December. Alvarez routed him via lopsided decision to take his WBA title and claim the vacant WBC belt.

Then Alvarez (56-1-2, 38 KOs), Hearn, and DAZN agreed to a two-fight deal, which first saw Alvarez destroy WBC mandatory challenger Yildirim in the third round on Feb. 27. That victory was followed by Alvarez forcing Saunders to retire on his stool with a broken orbital bone after the eighth round on May 8 as Alvarez took Saunders’ WBO title to further unify the division.

That left only Plant (21-0, 12 KOs) and his IBF belt for Alvarez to conquer in order to achieve his goal of becoming the undisputed champion.

That is also where Alvarez’s free agency worked exactly how he wanted it to. Plant is affiliated with Al Haymon’s Premier Boxing Champions, which has broadcast deals with Showtime and Fox. In order to get the fight he wanted against Plant, Alvarez did not do a new deal with DAZN and Hearn and left for the opportunity to work with Haymon, PBC, and Showtime on a one-fight deal for the Plant fight. Alvarez previously worked with Showtime for three fights in 2012 and 2013, network fights against Josesito Lopez and Austin Trout, followed by one of the biggest pay-per-view fights in history against Floyd Mayweather.

Markowski said he always knew Alvarez leaving DAZN was a possibility once the long-term deal was canceled as part of the lawsuit settlement.

“As soon as we entered the new world of working with Canelo (after the settlement) at the end of last year, we knew that this was a possibility,” Markowski said. “And we went into that with eyes wide open. And, obviously, we wish him all the best in his fight coming up. I think he’s pound-for-pound No.1, in my opinion. He’s performed admirably for us inside the ring and outside it from a promotional perspective over a three-plus year relationship.

“We’ve very confident and happy to work with him again in the future. I’m sure he’ll come back to market with his team after the fight he’s taking on (Saturday) and assess what his options are. We’ll be an active participant in those conversations. We look forward to them. In the meantime, we wish him well in the fight coming up. I know he’s very focused on that, and we look forward to talking to talking to him about what the future will hold for us and for him and us together.”

Joe Markowski DAZN
Melina Pizano

PBC DEAL

Markowski insisted those at DAZN are not disappointed that Alvarez left the service for the Plant fight, which might only be the first of multiple fights with PBC.

“Disappointment is the wrong word,” Markowski said. “Clearly, we want to work with Canelo Alvarez as often as we can because he’s the biggest name in the sport. We’ve had great success with him. He’s had great success with us. So, on that level, disappointment maybe. But we knew it would happen, as I said that this was a possibility.

“I think more broadly, our business is not one man or one fighter. Our business is increasingly delivering, both globally and in the U.S. We are building a regular, very strong, high-quality boxing schedule. Yes, it ebbs and flows because that’s the nature of the sport.

“But the announcements we’ve made recently, the commitment we’re making in markets like the U.K., Ireland, as well as other markers in the world, we’re delivering value. So, I would be concerned if we weren’t doing that. But we are, and the way that we interact with our subscribers is getting increasingly better. We’re seeing increasing loyalty from subscribers because they understand that.

“As a result, our business is getting healthier and healthier, allowing us to continue doing what we want to do. So, on an individual stand-alone, would we like to work with Canelo in this fight? Of course, the answer is yes. It’s never going to be no. But there’s a broader game at play that’s getting better and better managed by our business, and that gives me confidence that we’re doing the right things.”

Award-winning writer Dan Rafael is the Lead Boxing Contributor for World Boxing News. Follow Dan on social media @DanRafael1.