The COVID-19 pandemic has taken the world out of its comfort zone and sports have had to adjust rapidly to maintain.
However, the pandemic has been especially hard on the combat sports business. The UFC lead on how to operate globally during a pandemic aside, boxing took more time to ensure safety and keep its fighters active.
But that was inconvenient, especially for its biggest star, Saul “Canelo” Alvarez who has decided to take his disgruntled disposition towards his inactivity to the Courts.
Remember when Canelo’s deal was first announced?
He was associated with having a baseball-style deal, the richest ever in boxing, and that ideology was used to bolster the confidence in the DAZN brand and take fans away from the pay-per-view system.
Then COVID-19 came through.
The four-weight world champion filed papers with the US district court in California who is suing streaming service DAZN for “breach of the single largest contract in the history of boxing”.
In 2018, Alvarez signed a $365 million deal for 11 fights licensed by subscription streaming service DAZN.
The Alvarez claim details 11 complaints, including breach of contract, negligent interference, and fraud. According to reports, the legal documents request a jury trial, stating that both DAZN and his promoter Golden Boy Promotions, headed up by Oscar de la Hoya, have “broken the promises they made to each other, Alvarez, and boxing fans”.
After the first of his 11 fights were completed, according to reports on the court papers, DAZN would pay Golden Boy Promotions $40 million for each of the remaining 10 bouts with $35 million to be passed to Canelo.
However, only three of the proposed 11 fights have happened but there is no agreement reached for his fourth bout.
Canelo, now 30 years-old, claims that DAZN replied to a letter, sent by his team in June, that the $40 million fees would not be paid to Golden Boy Promotions for his next contest.
But Canelo isn’t having it.
The short bag has prompted him to sue both the former big homie, Oscar de la Hoya for breach of contract, and DAZN for “at least $280 million” in damages.
One Man Shouldn’t Have All That Power
The lawsuit gives us a peek behind the veil of boxing’s new rules. Case filings claim that DAZN feels that Alvarez’s refusal to fight Gennady Golovkin in 2019 as one of the reasons not pay him for his next bout.
DAZN insistence that the deal it struck with Golden Boy Promotions included approval rights on the fighter’s future opponents, pulls back the curtain of control in Canelo’s career.
Unlike Floyd Mayweather, Jr., who had the autonomy to choose his opponents with impunity and cooperation of the sanctioning bodies, DAZN felt it needed to play a part in matchmaking.
However, Alvarez claims his original agreement with Golden Boy “did not mention that DAZN would have any right to accept or reject any opponents”. That would position Oscar de la Hoya’s company as withholding crucial information that could delay the payments from DAZN.
He is therefore taking action against Golden Boy Promotions for fraud-concealment, alleging the company made promises or representations to DAZN that were inconsistent with the contract he signed.
British fighters like WBA world super-middleweight champion Callum Smith and WBO world super-middleweight title holder Billy Joe Saunders were considered the next opponents for Canelo. However, reports indicate that DAZN didn’t feel these fights were big enough to generate the subscription sales sought.
Golden Boy Promotions told media outlets that no one “ever promised anyone that Canelo would fight any specified opponent”.
The company added that DAZN is refusing to honor Alvarez’s contract by “by not approving the outstanding opponents we have presented to them and by refusing to pay the contractually required amount”.
With Canelo as the poster boy for DAZN and boxing, the lawsuit tests the mettle of the new distribution method for boxing and exposes a power struggle within.
Although DAZN has been hosting fights with Matchroom Boxing and British promoter Eddie Hearn, Canelo Alvarez is the sports biggest star and without a fight on the calendar and with a lawsuit on the docket, the sport’s new direction is also on trial.