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Canelo Alvarez and DAZN reportedly at odds over payday for potential September return

The streaming service and its prized star are having trouble finalizing a return deal.

WBO light heavyweight title bout in Las Vegas: Canelo Alvarez vs Sergey Kovalev Photo by Valery Sharifulin\TASS via Getty Images
Scott Christ is the managing editor of Bad Left Hook and has been covering boxing for SB Nation since 2006.

When Canelo Alvarez signed an 11-fight, $365 million deal with the new streaming service DAZN in Oct. 2018, just as the service was launching in the United States with boxing as its core offering in the wake of HBO leaving the game, there were plenty of questions about how smart the deal was — if the company would really get a return on that investment, if they were going to really wind up overpaying him, etc.

But nobody much expected a global pandemic to shut boxing down for months less than two years later, or for the “soft” re-open of the sport to come without fans, meaning no live gates or anything to help balance the budget.

That’s where we are, however, and though Canelo wants to fight in September, reports that the fighter and the platform are having trouble putting it together. Alvarez’s lawyer Greg Smith is holding firm, while the word going around has been that DAZN want Canelo to take a substantial pay cut for this next outing:

“If it’s up to [Canelo] — 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.”

The reality here is that Alvarez (53-1-2, 36 KO) almost surely just isn’t going to get a roughly $33 million payday, the average per fight for his DAZN deal, or probably anything close to it. But you can likely also understand why Team Canelo are holding firm on a contractual agreement.

Golden Boy promoter Oscar De La Hoya, meanwhile, has put the blame on potential opponents for “pricing themselves out” — something he’s said repeatedly — while Callum Smith has reportedly emerged as the leading candidate. Canelo would be a favorite, but Smith is big and good enough at 168 to be seen as a legitimate risk, too, meaning Alvarez surely doesn’t want to take too much of a pay cut if he’s willing to entertain the idea at all, and his lawyer’s comments don’t give any indication that he is. Others, including Jason Quigley, have said they’ve been made what you might call preliminary offers they would gladly accept.

To date, Alvarez has really not had a truly huge fight since signing with DAZN, facing Rocky Fielding, Daniel Jacobs, and Sergey Kovalev, and while the latter two were definitely good matchups, they just weren’t sincere blockbusters, and DAZN obviously would like a sincere blockbuster. They’ve wanted to make a third fight between Alvarez and Gennadiy Golovkin, which would be a huge fight, but that hasn’t happened, though the most recent reports are that both sides are interested for 2021.

In the meantime, fiftysomethings Mike Tyson and Roy Jones Jr have swooped in and scheduled an exhibition pay-per-view fight for Sept. 12, which was reportedly the date Canelo was targeting. While Tyson-Jones is meaningless as far as the current boxing landscape and also, as an exhibition, just kind of meaningless entirely, there’s no doubt that there is some public interest in that fight.

That’s not to say Canelo can’t or won’t return on Sept. 12 anyway, but we’re also hitting that mark where that date might just not be doable for any number of reasons, and Tyson-Jones being out there the same night could understandably make DAZN queasy, since the hope for Canelo fights is that you’ll get a slew of new subscribers that evening. If DAZN suspect — reasonably, mind you — that Tyson-Jones could cut into potentially interested fans, it might be smart to not have Canelo go on that date in the first place.

Long story short, it doesn’t seem as though we’re particularly close to getting a Canelo return finalized. We’re getting some nice fights coming from both PBC and Top Rank, but the sport’s true biggest stars — the likes of Canelo, Anthony Joshua, Tyson Fury, Deontay Wilder, Gennadiy Golovkin, Manny Pacquiao, Terence Crawford, Vasiliy Lomachenko, Errol Spence Jr — still haven’t had anything announced. Some of them could soon. Others have things reportedly in progress. But nobody has anything finalized as of this moment, and boxing needs these fighters in action.

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