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Canelo vs Kovalev: DAZN claim subscriptions surged for main event after long delay to accommodate UFC 244

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Boxing diehards may have hated it, but the move appears to have paid off. Still, those fans have a right to be mad.

Canelo Alvarez v Sergey Kovalev - Final News Conference Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Last night, boxing fans waited for Canelo Alvarez to face Sergey Kovalev in the DAZN-streamed main event from Las Vegas, one of the biggest boxing matchups of the year. Anything involving Alvarez is a hot ticket, mind you, but this was a legit big fight.

The prelims started at 6:30 pm ET on the streaming service, and the main card at 9:00 pm ET, boasting four fights including the main event.

The diehards tuned in for the prelims, and some were there for the three main undercard bouts featuring Ryan Garcia starching Romero Duno, Seniesa Estrada defeating Marlen Esparza, and Blair Cobbs stopping Carlos Ortiz.

It’s pretty long-established that, if we’re all honest, most fans who turn up for these big fight nights, which used to be exclusively on pay-per-view, don’t really care about even the “main card” undercard. You can go into a million reasons why that has happened over the years, but it’s the reality of things now. That, however, wasn’t the big issue last night.

DAZN faced potential problem from outside, and not even from within boxing. It wasn’t Top Rank’s show on ESPN, which ran a Miguel Berchelt win over Jason Sosa, and certainly not the all-but-ignored PBC on FS1 event featuring Brian Castano pounding out a win over Wale Omotoso in a 154-pound matchup.

It was UFC 244, featuring a highly-anticipated main event between Jorge Masvidal and Nate Diaz. The boxing/MMA fan crossover may not be as enormous as has sometimes been assumed, but it’s not nothing, either, and if you’re investing the sort of money into Canelo Alvarez that DAZN are — $365 million over 11 fights — you don’t want to risk not maximizing every single fight.

So DAZN made the controversial call to wait for UFC 244 to finish before sending Canelo and Kovalev to the ring.

Boxing’s core audience fucking hated this, and I’m among that core audience. I fucking hated it, the same as most of you probably did. It felt ridiculous and sort of insulting for the boxing fans — not to mention Alvarez and Kovalev — to sit around for an hour-and-a-half due to the mere existence of another sport running a show on the same night. If DAZN were that scared of going head-to-head with UFC 244, shouldn’t they have picked another date for Canelo’s return? It’s not like UFC 244 sprung up last week or something.

But the move may have paid off, according to claims being made by the streaming service:

So as much as we all hated it, it might well have been the right thing to do, business-wise. As awful as it was to not have the main event fight actually start until 1:18 am ET, and as much as it feels like having to eat shit a little bit in favor of UFC, the truth — if you take DAZN at their word — appears to be that they made the right call.

If they really got a surge of late subscriptions, if they really made sure the most eyes possible were on Canelo-Kovalev, then yes, the decision may have been worth the fan backlash.

There is one argument against it, though, and it is worth considering, at the very least. That argument would be that they may well have pissed off their core boxing audience enough to have a lot of people decide not to come back next month or whenever their subscription runs out. It’s not impossible, and I’m certain at least a handful of you will comment that this move cost DAZN your money as a subscriber, which is meaningful in enough numbers, of course.

But as with most boxing controversies, my gut feeling is it’ll die down in a couple days, we all move on to the next fights — and DAZN have Inoue-Donaire and KSI-Logan Paul coming up this week — and, well, all the rage just fizzles out. That seems the most likely scenario.

It still sucked to wait that long with that much dead air, though. If this has to happen again in the future, maybe book a bit more for the “main card.” Apparently it’s worth it to wait for the money side of things, but having anything for the hardcore fans to watch while waiting until past 1 am for the main event might be nice.