It was less than two years ago that Canelo Alvarez signed an incredible 11-fight, $365 million deal with upstart sports subscription streaming service DAZN, who looked to make boxing one of its biggest selling points in the United States.
After just three fights, none of which could be advertised as blockbuster, the Mexican superstar has filed a lawsuit against DAZN, as well as Golden Boy Promotions and Oscar De La Hoya. The Athletic’s Mike Coppinger broke the story on Tuesday night. According to the filing, Canelo is seeking at least $280 million in damages — the money owed to him for the remainder of his deal with DAZN — plus he wants to sever his promotional ties to Golden Boy and continue his career with a broadcast partner other than DAZN.
“I’m the pound-for-pound No. 1 in the world,” Alvarez said The Athletic in an official statement. “I’m not scared of any opponent in the ring, and I’m not going to let failures of my broadcaster or promoters keep me out of the ring. I filed the lawsuit so I can get back to boxing and give my fans the show they deserve.”
Alvarez was supposed to fight Billy Joe Saunders in May before the COVID-19 pandemic nixed the bout. The plan was for Canelo to fight Saunders, then have a trilogy with Gennadiy Golovkin in the fall. Neither of those things materialized due to the pandemic, and it’s a near certainty that one of the sport’s biggest attractions will go the whole of 2020 without competing.
For those who haven’t been following, tensions have run high between Canelo and De La Hoya for quite some time, and on the DAZN front they have expressed displeasure that a trilogy fight with Golovkin has not yet materialized. It’s been reported by The Athletic that Golden Boy had verbally promised DAZN that a Golovkin fight would happen. However, per Mike Coppinger prior to the lawsuit news, “Team Canelo has never reviewed Golden Boy’s contract with DAZN; attempts by the fighter’s side to obtain a copy have been stonewalled.”
And as for that $35 million per fight guarantee he’s supposed to receive? He got that (plus the $15 million for the Rocky Fielding matchup) for his bouts in 2019 against Daniel Jacobs and Sergey Kovalev, but the pandemic has led to major cost-cutting at DAZN and as such they asked Alvarez to reduce his purse due to the lack of a live gate (which Canelo receives a cut of as part of his agreement with Golden Boy). Per Boxing Scene’s Dan Rafael, “Alvarez agreed to take less than his guarantee but not as much as DAZN wanted to reduce it to.”
Another issue and a point of contention on Canelo’s side over the contractual language is that DAZN has essentially played the role of rubberstamping which opponents Alvarez can face, as they have an interest in him taking on names who would bring subscribers to the platform. Coppinger reported that DAZN never signed off on the middleweight unification title bout vs. Daniel Jacobs, and they didn’t consider his November knockout of then light heavyweight champ Sergey Kovalev to be a “premier” fight.
Prospective matchups with the aforementioned Saunders, fellow English super-middleweight champion Callum Smith, and WBC super-middleweight top contender Avni Yildirim have all been explored. DAZN reportedly considered none of them to be “premier” and outright rejected Yildirim, which is admittedly not remotely compelling compared to Smith or Saunders. Prior to the pandemic shutdown, DAZN is alleged to have only signed off on Canelo facing Saunders with the expectation that Alvarez would face GGG in the fall.
In other words, it looks like DAZN really banked on Canelo taking on Golovkin this entire time and now it’s gotten super nasty.
The lawsuit alleges that DAZN refused to pay the full $40 million license fee to broadcast Canelo’s September 2020 contest, instead offering delayed or alternate compensation. DAZN then apparently offered Canelo a substantially reduced license fee and stock options.
As an aside, considering De La Hoya and Golden Boy have also had a contentious relationship with rising star Ryan Garcia, it looks as if Golden Boy Promotions is at major risk of falling apart regardless of what happens with their already tenuous relationship with DAZN. Canelo intends to have this case determined at trial by a jury, so brace yourselves because Alvarez’s next high profile fight is in the court system.