I. How We Got Here
May of 2018 Matchroom Boxing and the DAZN streaming service announced an
eight-year deal worth a potential billion dollars to enter the United States
boxing market. A new entity was created as a result of the deal, Matchroom
Boxing USA, a joint venture between Matchroom and DAZN. As part of the deal
Eddie Hearn of Matchroom would be the figurehead and de facto leader
of the new venture with the goal of signing and promoting top U.S.-based boxers
and for them to fight on DAZN.
a few months after the original announcement, the initial U.S. boxing framework for
DAZN changed as they entered into a long-term agreement with Golden Boy
Promotions and with that deal, DAZN gained access to the number-one boxing star in North America, Saul
"Canelo" Alvarez. Whereas Hearn had originally been the exclusive
promoter for DAZN-based events in the U.S., now he had to compete with Golden
Boy for dates on the platform. And although Hearn quickly emerged as the lead
promoter on DAZN, Golden Boy was able to establish a presence on the streaming
Flash forward three years later and it's safe to say that the three-pronged relationship in the U.S. between DAZN, Matchroom and Golden Boy hasn't cohered smoothly. Golden Boy has often struggled to get commitments and dates from DAZN for their non-Alvarez broadcasts (Canelo has subsequent left Golden Boy). And when they were able to get dates, they were often assigned a lesser broadcast team and the production values on their shows often trailed those that were provided for Matchroom USA's broadcasts.
|Matchroom's Eddie Hearn
Photo courtesy of Ed Mulholland
Although armed with a wave of publicity and backed by buckets of money, Hearn has only had mixed results in recruiting American talent to his stable. Throughout the last three years, his roster has included fighters such as Demetrius Andrade, Jessie Vargas, Tevin Farmer (co-promoted with DiBella Entertainment), Danny Roman (co-promoted with Thompson Boxing), Daniel Jacobs, Mikey Garcia (on a short-term deal) and Devin Haney. Hearn was able to sign or co-promote several capable fighters, but few who moved the needle in the North American boxing market.
2019 Gennadiy Golovkin made a deal with DAZN and started working with Hearn.
However, that relationship has yet to produce the mega-fights
envisioned when the signing was announced. Hearn currently does have a working
relationship with Canelo, but his stable of marketable fighters within the U.S.
II. The Current Scenario
the last three years DAZN's priorities have shifted. The service was able to
survive the pandemic despite burning through loads of cash. They closed their
New York offices, leaving behind just a skeleton staff. Among the layoffs in the DAZN/Matchrook USA retraction was matchmaker Eric Bottjer. Public relations guru Greg Domino left to join
a position with Showtime.
The network launched their global service in December of 2020. Earlier this year
they announced a new deal with Matchroom for DAZN to become their exclusive
provider of boxing content in the U.K and Ireland (the deal didn't include
Anthony Joshua or Dillian Whyte).
But what will become of DAZN's investment in America?
the formation of Matchroom USA, Hearn signed a number of North
American amateurs, including Diego Pacheco, Austin "Ammo" Williams,
Marc Castro, Nakita Ababiy, Raymond Ford and Otha Jones III. Almost all of
these fighters still remain singed to the company.
of publication, there is not one Matchroom card officially scheduled for the
USA. Certainly, there are plans in the works and there was a rumor circulating
that Dillian Whyte would headline a U.S. show in August, but still, for a
company that had grand designs on conquering the American market, their recent
actions demonstrate a retrenchment, or at the very least a recalibration of
losing Canelo, Golden Boy continues to promote shows in the U.S. on DAZN. With
emerging stars such as Ryan Garcia and Vergil Ortiz, the company has two
eminently promotable figures for the next few years. But still, dates seem hard
to come by and from the outside, it still doesn't seem as if Golden Boy has the
full weight of DAZN behind them. For now they seem to be tolerated, but I'm not
sure if they are thought of us as a long-term strategic partner for the future
of DAZN the way that Matchroom is.
III. A Possible Solution for all Parties
is no doubt that cracking the American boxing market is an uphill battle for a
new company. Top Rank has been at it for over 40 years, Golden Boy for 20 and
Al Haymon has been intimately involved in the U.S. boxing scene for 15 or so.
The hardest part isn't getting network distribution or even signing fighters,
it's creating an infrastructure to succeed. Professional boxing is built on
relationships. It's connections with managers, trainers, talent scouts, gyms,
amateur coaches and sponsors. The successful company knows that talent can come
from anywhere and only by having multiple avenues available can companies
acquire and cultivate a collection of fighters that can sustain a company.
Matchroom USA has only been in the U.S. market for three years. It's unreasonable to suggest that they should have been able to build a sustainable infrastructure in just that short of a time. But still, I'm not sure that the right kind of progress has been made. Yes, Hearn has definitely established a beachhead in America, but I'm sure both he and DAZN expected more by this point. They wanted to dominate, not just be a player.
|Golden Boy's Oscar de la Hoya
Photo Courtesy of Stacey M. Snider
Despite staging several fantastic boxing cards in the U.S. over the past three years, Matchroom has not been able to assemble a roster that has many top attractions. In addition, its pipeline of prospects has been less than advertised. Jones has already lost, Ford has been spotty, Williams has had out-of-the ring difficulties. There doesn't seem to be a next wave coming. And one can't be a long-term player in the U.S. market without a developmental pipeline. It's too difficult and exceedingly expensive to have a long-term business strategy tied to poaching available veteran fighters.
while it's clear that DAZN has refocused its priorities on international
territories and markets, it seems unlikely that the organization would abandon
the U.S. market outright. There's too much money to be made for big fights. In
addition, for a company that wants to have a worldwide presence in the sport,
the U.S. market can't be ignored. Plus, American boxing fans have been
conditioned for generations to pay hefty fees for boxing, whether for pay per
views or network subscriptions. There are lots of potential paying customers in
There is a simple solution for the Matchroom USA conundrum: buy
as much drama that occurs within Golden Boy, and let's face it, that
organization is one of the best soap operas in the sport, their ability to
identify, sign and develop talent is fantastic. With deep connections in the
number-one boxing market in the U.S., Southern California, Golden Boy has been
able to replenish and restock its roster despite notable defections. And for
all of the out-of-the-ring difficulties that Oscar de la Hoya has faced over the past decade, he still retains a significant amount of goodwill. When
he's right he's a major asset for the sport of boxing.
Matchroom USA to sustain a presence in America, it needs infrastructure and
a developmental pipeline for success. Say what you want about Oscar or Eric
Gomez, but they continue to sign talented fighters year after year. Roberto Diaz is fantastic at developing fighters. He will know which ones can fight,
which ones need time, who are the good "B-sides" to sign, and who should
go to the scrap pile.
sure that there would be significant cultural differences to bridge between
Matchroom and Golden Boy, but there could be real areas for synergy. Although
Golden Boy can sign and develop fighters, they struggle to promote more than
their top couple of guys and a hot prospect or two. There are a lot of talented
fighters on their roster who have not gotten the attention that they should.
Matchroom's excellent creative team and their digital P.R. assets could
certainly help provide additional exposure for several under-the-radar
fighters. Fans need to find out about these boxers and Matchroom can
Boy may also be running a little too lean. Too many fighters have complained about
their treatment or communication issues with the company. With additional
corporate resources to play with, some strategic new hires can be made to
create more stability within the organization.
this deal to work, all parties (Matchroom, Golden Boy and DAZN) will have to
swallow some bitter medicine. Hearn will have to realize that despite his considerable promotional skills, more is needed to
build a sustainable boxing organization in America. The guys at Golden Boy know
talent and they can provide the fighters needed to make Matchroom USA a success
for many years to come. For Golden Boy, they need to acknowledge that they're
never going to have long-term sustainability as long as they are a junior partner. Golden Boy's expertise isn't running a finely-oiled machine. They
have had too many peaks and valleys throughout their history. If they want
their instability to end, Matchroom USA could be a great way to achieve that
also has to utilize Hearn and Golden Boy more strategically. Together they
could make for a winning entity. But the current model is a half measure. Hearn
hasn't been able to sign enough of the fighters that he needs and Golden Boy can't necessarily capitalize on
many of the talented ones that are part of their organization. They both bring different
skills to the table and an entity that reflects that would be far stronger than
the status quo.
have no doubt that a merger/buyout has already been discussed. It makes too
much sense for all parties for it not to have been broached by now. But, like
all deals, it's about terms. What should be done with De la Hoya? Clearly,
he has a lot of value, but he's too unreliable to be at the top. Would he
accept a board position? Could there be a non-executive (but lucrative) role
that doesn't embarrass him and acknowledges his importance? What might that be?
What to do with Roberto Diaz? Should he be bumped up to head matchmaker for
the entire Matchroom operations? And would Hearn be deployed best as the head of the Matchroom
USA/Golden Boy entity or are there other more strategic priorities for
him around the globe. Maybe he becomes President of the Board and they hire a
new CEO who will be solely focused on the American market.
are fascinating scenarios to contemplate. But however it could wind up, there's a
strong business case for it to happen. The move will create a much stronger
entity in the U.S., one with deep pockets and expertise in the market. It can
sell young fighters not just on the promotional savvy of Hearn and the business
opportunities presented by DAZN, but the developmental talent of Roberto Diaz,
Eric Gomez and crew. Fighters will know that they will be seen, but more
importantly, that they will be developed
course, this is boxing, where the smart move isn't always the one that is
made. I hope that the parties can come together and explore a merger in
good faith. Maybe it happens and maybe it doesn't, but it's worth looking into.
I think that DAZN, Matchroom and the principals at Golden Boy can all emerge on
stronger footing with a deal.