DAZN EVP Joe Markowski gives Boxing Social his take on the streaming powerhouse’s upcoming schedule as well as the latest updates on the broadcaster’s relationships with Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez and Ryan Garcia…
As part of its global launch late last year, streaming provider DAZN was able to boast a powerful schedule centred around Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez’s showdown with Callum Smith and Ryan Garcia’s contest with Luke Campbell.
Speaking to Boxing Social, the company’s EVP Joe Markowski expressed his satisfaction with how DAZN has been faring since its aggressive global push.
“The challenge we had in December was launching a platform globally,”
Markowski explained. “A large number of people took up the service in December and January during that run of fights we had in those four or five weeks. Our retention metrics, which obviously are an indicator of whether or not consumers are enjoying the service, are among the best in our business historically.
“A very high percentage of those who picked us up in December and early January are staying with the service, which is very encouraging data for our business. That is now backed up by our schedule which has been announced for the next few weeks, starting with [Joseph] Diaz vs [Shavkatdzhon] Rakhimov [last weekend] and then continues with Canelo vs [Avni] Yildirim at the end of the month, and then [Juan Francisco] Estrada vs [Roman] Chocolatito [Gonzalez] and [Vergil] Ortiz vs [Maurice] Hooker.”
Markowski is honest enough to admit that not everything went to plan for DAZN in 2020.
“Being completely candid, we ended 2019 in a really strong way, but obviously because of the pandemic in part but also general boxing market challenges, the start of 2020 sort of checked the progress we made at the back end of 2019.
“But we’re really happy with the way that our schedule for the first half of the year is panning out. The biggest and most difficult part of my job is scheduling boxing events to meet our subscription model. It’s a fundamental challenge. So to have already a solid schedule of fights all the way through to the back end of March is exciting and we’re going to announce more in the spring and the back end of the second quarter.
“I think we’re getting better at scheduling events that work for subscribers – namely fights that people want to see. We’re pushing our promoters harder and harder to do that and I think our schedule speaks to quality over quantity.
“From a business perspective, that gives me more and more confidence in our ability to keep growing our business in the US and outside of the US. All things considered I think it’s a very solid and strong start to the year.”
Although Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez was released last year from the eleven-fight, five-year contract he signed with DAZN in 2018, the Mexican’s last fight – against Callum Smith – was screened by DAZN in most territories.
His next fight – in February against Avni Yildirim – will also feature on DAZN. Both contests have been promoted by Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom Boxing, who also have Canelo under contract for a third fight.
“It’s great to have Canelo back in the ring after such a short lay-off,” Markowski stressed. “The more these guys can fight the better it is for fans. His fight against Yildirim is the fifth straight Canelo fight that we’ve had on DAZN – going back to his fight with Rocky Fielding. That’s awesome.
“We’re very happy that Eddie has got another two fights to work with Canelo. It’s testament to the quality of the Matchroom operation – so hats off to Eddie and [Matchroom UK CEO] Frank [Smith] especially for locking in another two fights with Canelo.
“Personally, I can’t understand anyone countering the opinion that Canelo is the pound-for-pound king right now. That performance against Callum Smith was a masterclass. His ability to turn around and fight again so quickly is remarkable.
“I continue to be impressed by him as an athlete and a commercial partner. I’m very happy that DAZN are carrying on our working relationship with him. What happens in the future we’ll see but we’re very happy to be working with Canelo right now.”
Ryan Garcia trains alongside Canelo under Eddie Reynoso, and Markowski admits that the lightweight sensation and the fanatical Mexican-American boxing fanbase he and Canelo bring to the company are a crucial component in their plans.
“Mexican-Americans are a huge cohort of subscribers for DAZN,” he said. “Ryan is a transcendent star, clearly. Despite all the distractions he has in his life and all the opportunities he has, I am very impressed by his discipline and commitment to his craft. He is so well honed by the Reynoso-Canelo team down in San Diego.
“He’s also a lovely young man and an excellent marketeer. Looking at our numbers and analysing the data as we do, we can see his ability to engage two groups of people. He increasingly appeals to the hardcore Mexican-American fanbase that we’ve built up in the US, but he also engages – unlike most boxers – a completely different cohort of people.
“His ability to grow audiences internationally, his ability to bring younger demographics into the sport is of material significance to the future of boxing. As long as he continues performing in the ring as he has been he’s going to be involved in bigger and bigger fights and as long as he’s doing that the number of people he’s going to bring in to consume boxing is going to grow and grow, which will be great for boxing and our business. Hence our excitement about him and our relationship with him.”
Garcia recently became the first ever boxer to sign an endorsement deal with sports drink giants Gatorade, a development which Markowski heartily welcomes.
“The Gatorade deal is great,” he said. “When I came into boxing I was surprised at how limited in the US sponsorship activity was among top level boxers. Boxing hasn’t been the first point of call for major brands when it comes to sponsoring athletes.
“For Ryan to have a brand like Gatorade attached to him is testament to everything I’ve said about his marketability and the attractiveness he carries to commercial partners. I’d love to see more boxers get the same treatment. Garcia will help bring boxing more into the mainstream and that’s exactly what we want – boxers who can help grow the sport.”
Back in the ring, it is unclear who Garcia will fight next – although he has been linked to possible fights with Manny Pacquiao and Gervonta Davis.
On this subject, Markowski plays his cards close to his chest. “We’re engaged in a conversation about how many times Ryan will fight this year and who he will fight as part of our regular conversations with Golden Boy.
“We have big anchors in the schedule around our big tent-pole fights – we’ve got Canelo at the end of the month and obviously we’re engaged in the Fury and AJ conversation. We’re also involved in a conversation with Golden Boy about where Ryan Garcia fits in this year date wise and fight wise.”