DAZN has been in the headlines already this week for the wrong reasons, and tonight’s news isn’t going to help.
After announcing a round of layoffs affecting dozens, the streaming service is now named as a party to a lawsuit filed by their biggest attraction, boxer Canelo Alvarez.
Canelo also said: “I’m the pound for pound number one in the world. … I filed the lawsuit so I can get back to boxing and give my fans the show they deserve.”
The complaint alleges Alvarez’s multi-fight deal with DAZN was breached and caused damages of at least $280 million https://t.co/X8uLiaXuaL
— Mike Coppinger (@MikeCoppinger) September 9, 2020
Going to take a little time to go through the lawsuit, which I am reading. It's 24 pages.
— Dan Rafael (@DanRafael1) September 9, 2020
This has been brewing for a while; we wrote about Alvarez’s frustration with DAZN over their financial agreement back in July. In short, it’s a disagreement over matchmaking, compounded by the effects Covid-19 has had on DAZN’s ability to stage events and keep their subscriber base without having sports to broadcast.
The inability to host scheduled fights puts a serious damper on DAZN’s bottom line and the company halted boxing matches in February. In March, DAZN announced it was withholding rights fees for canceled content. They also noted that furloughs for employees were coming soon. DAZN paused all scheduled boxing events until at least July which meant that Alvarez’s proposed fight with Billy Joe Saunders, which was initially set for May 2, was off.
Those July plans rolled into the fall and Alvarez was presumably slotted into a match against WBA super-middleweight champion Callum Smith on September 12. However, multiple sources told ESPN that DAZN is expecting Alvarez to take a steep pay cut for the fight, and that’s not sitting well with his camp. His lawyer, Greg Smith, told ESPN that Team Canelo doesn’t seem intent on honoring any discount rates.
“Canelo is in great shape. He’s been training hard, he is absolutely ready and on track to fight in September, ” said Greg Smith, Alvarez’s lawyer. “If it’s up to him — and him only — he would’ve already announced the fight. … There’s obviously other parties and other things involved that are out of his control. But everything he can control, he’s on track and prepared.
“Everybody, including Team Canelo, is waiting to find out if DAZN’s going to live up to its obligations. … I am aware of no other sticking points.”
DAZN appears to be asking for mercy from Alvarez and many of the other fighters it signed to lucrative deals over the last few years in their attempt to corner the boxing market. However, they do themselves no favor by crying poor just weeks after signing a $4.9 billion TV deal with the German Bundesliga.
ESPN reports that, according to a source, DAZN isn’t happy with the matchups Alvarez has been involved in so far under their deal. Alvarez defeated Daniel Jacobs in a unanimous decision in May 2019 and Sergey Kovalev in an 11-round knockout in November 2019, but they appear to want something more high-profile in order to justify their big contract, especially at a time when budgets are tight. They were very interested in seeing Alvarez fight Gennady Golovkin for a third time last year (DAZN signed Golovkin to a six-fight deal in 2019) but Alvarez walked away from the deal, which may have left a bad taste in their mouth as well.
Now, Alvarez has really escalated things (a federal lawsuit is about as escalated as it gets, even for someone who makes a living punching other people), and it’s at a pretty tough time for DAZN. Alvarez initially signed his mega-deal with DAZN in the fall of 2018, and at the time it felt like a win-win; DAZN gets a bankable draw, Canelo gets guaranteed money. 2020 has really changed things, though, and looking at the landscape, it’s hard to make an argument that Alvarez needs DAZN as much as DAZN needs him.
Clearly that’s what he’s thinking, and he’s willing to go to court over it. De La Hoya and Golden Boy Promotions, meanwhile, are also on the hook here, but boxers squabbling with promoters over money is hardly a new development. Whether DAZN can stay afloat is the real question.
[Mike Coppinger/Dan Rafael, Twitter]