Ring walks for the WBO light heavyweight title fight featuring Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez and Sergey Kovalev didn’t begin until after 1:00a EST last Saturday night (11.2), one hour and thirty-eight minutes after the last undercard bout. The extended wait – the result of DAZN’s decision to delay their main event until after the completion of UFC 244 (and a 1st round knockout by Ryan Garcia) – understandably upset fans in the building, but collaboration between the OTT streaming service and the UFC enabled fight fans (at least those on the west coast) to watch both the Canelo-Kovalev and Masvidal-Diaz bouts. The Athletic’s Mike Coppinger reported “sign-ups and audience surged [on DAZN] immediately following the end of Masvidal-Diaz.”
Howie Long-Short: The fact that fight fans could watch the main event of both shows does not make Golden Boy Promotions’ decision to schedule a card, featuring their biggest star, head-to-head with the UFC any less foolish. President Eric Gomez arrogantly maintained when the fight was announced that his event was the ‘bigger’ of the two cards on the night (and thus wouldn’t lose prospective viewers to the MMA outfit), but DAZN’s decision to stagger the start time of the Canelo fight was tacit acknowledgement that there are no winners when fight fans must decide between two promotions. It’s worth noting that the November 2nd date was only selected after a proposed September fight with Serhiy Derevyanchenko was scrapped and Kovalev (who already had an August fight scheduled) was chosen as the new opponent for Alvarez.
The boxing media has been critical of DAZN’s decision to start Canelo-Kovalev so late. The narrative has largely focused on population density east of the Mississippi and the likeliness that a large percentage of prospective viewers had gone to bed before the fight began. While logical, the analytics show that “an astronomically high percentage” (75%) of those who previously signed up for a Canelo fight on the OTT service reside outside the eastern time zone. One senior executive at DAZN added that “there is no state with more subs attributed to Canelo than California.” In other words, while much of the country was sleeping, the fight went off in primetime for those most likely to be watching the 4-division champion.
Sure, a one-hour and thirty-eight-minute delay in an arena is miserable (granted, the MGM showed the UFC card on big screens making the experience a bit less painful), but it wasn’t planned that way. Ryan Garcia was scheduled to make his walk to the ring for a 12-round bout at 8:25p PST. Had that fight gone the distance, it would have ended around 9:25p PST; instead, it ended in a first-round knockout. The Masvidal-Diaz fight ended at 9:50p PST and Canelo made his walk to the ring at 9:56p PST. The long wait between the last fight of the undercard and the main event was a matter of circumstance, it was only supposed to be +/- 30 minutes. It’s not the first time prelims for a high profile fight have ended early. Boxing fans may remember that in September 2018, the HBO PPV broadcast of Canelo/GGG II was delayed more than a 90 minutes because three preliminary fights ended prematurely.
There are some on the boxing beat that have suggested DAZN should have used the unexpected window after the Garcia fight – before Masvidal-Diaz started – to get the Canelo fight in. But that wasn’t feasible. Our source explained, “we had an agreement with Dana White on a start time, we give the fighters a 30-minute window [to prepare for both mentally and physically] and had promised to allow fight fans to consume both.” It should also be noted that Canelo-Kovalev took place in Las Vegas, while MSG played home to Masvidal-Diaz; if the two fights weren’t going to go head-to-head, it makes sense that the one on the east coast would take place first.
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