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Canelo vs GGG 3 PPV buys and a breakdown of boxing’s recent numbers

DAZN are happy enough with the Canelo vs GGG 3 numbers to release them.

Canelo vs GGG 3 did numbers DAZN were pleased with across the world
Canelo vs GGG 3 did numbers DAZN were pleased with across the world
Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images

DAZN have officially announced that last Saturday’s third fight between Canelo Alvarez and Gennadiy Golovkin “saw a global audience in the millions, with more than 1.06 million buys generated worldwide including PPV and DAZN subscriptions.”

To be extremely clear here, because sometimes people see a number and stop reading to go yell on social media:

  • That includes PPV and DAZN subscriptions worldwide; this fight did not do 1.06 million PPV buys in the United States. Dan Rafael is reporting the fight did 550-575,000 buys in the United States, for what it’s worth, but more on that in a moment.
  • That said, DAZN say it is the No. 2 “biggest boxing event” on the platform in the United States since launching here in 2018, and that it is No. 3 “biggest boxing event” globally on DAZN to date.

They’re also reporting a strong rise in numbers across bars, restaurants, casinos, and cinemas compared to Canelo’s May fight with Dmitry Bivol (which did a reported 520,000 buys in the U.S.), and big numbers on social media and in app stores, which, you know, whatever, that’s a thing you say to sound current and hip.

The big argument about it all

Canelo was paid a reported $45 million purse, and Golovkin a reported $20 million. That is a lot of money spent just on the two purses.

Promoter Eddie Hearn has gone back-and-forth with Rafael on social media about the whole thing. He cites the live gate as helping with the money, which obviously it would to whatever degree, and that the “vast majority” of buys — he is suggesting that means higher than Rafael’s sources say — were from the United States.

The fight was available on pay-per-view at much lower prices in the United Kingdom and Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand, notably, and was also on pay-per-view at a similar price in Canada. In other DAZN territories, it was subscription, and they did not have the fight in Mexico, Latin America, or Kazakhstan, but to be fair, the amount of buys or subscriptions anywhere but the U.S. would be expected to be significantly lower than the U.S.

DAZN have not reported any overall income number from the fight or any exact breakdown of buys vs subscriptions, where these things came from in x amount of numbers, etc., so it’s all “he said, he said, sources say, no that’s wrong but I won’t elaborate” stuff without that.

All of this is an argument that can be framed with comparisons to past Canelo vs GGG PPV numbers, and will be by some, but while it’s maybe not quite apples to oranges there, it’s also not apples to apples. The market for and the distribution of boxing has changed drastically since 2017-18, when Canelo vs GGG fights did 1.3 and 1.1 million buys through HBO pay-per-view.

But nobody is selling a million boxing pay-per-views in the United States anymore; the Tyson vs Jones exhibition in late-2020 reportedly did 1.6 million, and the Mayweather vs Logan Paul exhibition in mid-2021 reportedly did a million, yes, but those were novelty events not sold directly to the boxing audience, and the consumer expectations would also be different.

For all it matters, they were not really boxing events, even if there were real, sanctioned fights on the undercard. The suggestion of boxing was the selling point for these events, but it wasn’t boxing like your normal boxing show. With Tyson vs Jones, the Jake Paul vs Nate Robinson fight probably did up the numbers, but it’s the rare thing where any undercard fight would have any real impact on sales.

Let’s run down the reported numbers of major boxing pay-per-views after Canelo vs GGG 2 in 2018, including those events so you can see plainly how it has laid out the last few years:

  • We have to absolutely stress that these are reported buys from various sources; almost all of them would be quibbled with by distributors or promoters, but they also don’t follow that up by releasing any “official” number anymore. They just say it’s wrong and wait for people to stop talking about it, which they will every time within about a week.
  • I don’t want to seem like I’m excluding Jake Paul’s other fights, but the chatter around the other two was so all over the place and hard to believe that I didn’t want to put them on the chart. The claim for Jake Paul’s Triller PPV fight in April 2021 with Ben Askren was 1.2 to 1.6 million buys, which would be another novelty-style event even though it was a sanctioned fight. Reports for Paul’s second fight with Tyron Woodley on SHO PPV in Dec. 2021 were so inconsistent I don’t even want to bother trying to figure it out; one report was 65,000, which seems absurdly low, and I’ve been told Showtime were happy with whatever the number was, but I also wouldn’t really be told they weren’t. At any rate, Jake Paul is a different market than boxing, but I included the first Paul vs Woodley number because it doesn’t seem like either insane exaggeration or a media hit piece.

In short, comparing what boxing PPV is now to what boxing PPV was even in 2017-18 without taking into account the massive changes in the industry is kind of pointless, other than to say PPV was bigger and stronger then than it is now, particularly for the big event fights. Nobody is doing a million buys in the U.S. for a straight-up boxing match anymore. It hasn’t happened since HBO got out of the sport. Almost no fights have even come close. Nobody is selling a PPV in 2022 expecting they’ll get a million U.S. buys.

And yet, everyone seems happy enough with the returns to keep doing PPVs, particularly in a case like with Gervonta “Tank” Davis, whose every fight is pay-per-view despite so many people loudly proclaiming each one is a devastating flop. On that note, we also never really know the exact expectations of anyone important — by which I mean anyone making money from the event — and everything obviously varies by event, too. Perhaps 200,000 is really good for some things; maybe 500,000 is a disappointment for other things.

How many PPV buys did Canelo vs GGG 3 really do? We’ll never have a concrete answer. Truthfully, we’ve never had concrete answers about any of this stuff. There just eventually becomes a number everyone accepts.

In this case, Rafael’s number will probably wind up being the one everyone accepts, unless DAZN release a different direct number of U.S. PPV buys or even the exact number of global PPV buys, and they very purposely did not do that with their press release.