Back on January 13th Sponichi Annex reported that Bob Arum was in talks for his Japanese Middleweight star Ryota Murata (16-2, 13) [村田 諒太] was in talks to face off with Saul "Canelo" Alvarez (53-1-2, 36) in May for a bout at the Tokyo dome.
The report suggested that Arum has stated "If it does take place, it will take place on Sunday afternoon in Japan time and will be broadcast during prime time in the United States."
At the time the story seemed to fall apart when looking at the schedule for the Tokyo Dome, which is packed every Sunday through May. The first 2 weekends in May are booked with baseball games featuring Yomiuri Giants, on both Saturdays and Sundays. To put it into some context the Yomiuri Giants are Japan's version of the New York Yankees.
The following weekends are then booked up with concerts from RADWIMPS and GLAY, with concerts on both Saturday and Sunday.
This seemed to completely rule out the Sponichi article about the fight taking place in Japan in May...that was until today when Chris Mannix reported that a Canelo Vs Murata fight in Japan, in the Spring was in serious talks.
But the Tokyo dome is booked right?
Looking through the Tokyo Dome schedule the venue is busy most weekends, though it would be available the first weekend in March or either of the first 2 weekends in June. It's unlikely these dates would work for the fight but they are there.
Of course the Tokyo Dome isn't the only venue that would be suitable. An alternative dome would be the 36,000 seating Kyocera Dome in Osaka, that also appears to be booked every Sunday in May.
Outside of the two domes there are, obviously, other massive venues that could, potentially, host the fight, such as the Shin kokuritsu kyōgijō, which held the 2019 Emperor's Cup final earlier this month. This venue will be used for the Olympics, and is much bigger than the two domes, The Nissan Stadium would also be potentially suitable as would the Saitama Stadium 2002. Those 3 are however soccer stadiums, and none of that trio have ever held boxing before.
Interesting there is a potential dome date available for May 3rd, albeit in the Nagoya Dome, which is booked for the Saturday but RADWIMP and on the Monday, for baseball, is available on the Sunday. In fact the Nagoya dome is available on May 3rd, 10th and 17th and is similar in size to both the Kyocera Dome and the Tokyo dome and is only 2 hours from Tokyo.
Broadcasting could be tricky right?
Broadcasting could get very complicated here, but they wouldn't need to be.
Firstly, as mentioned above, the plan would be for "Sunday afternoon in Japan time and will be broadcast during prime time in the United States." This would suit a solid viewing figure in Japan, though not a prime time one, however it would be suitable for the US and Mexico, making it suitable for Canelo's fans.
Fuji TV have backed Murata and have a contract with him, to broadcast his fights in Japan. Fuji TV are backed by the extremely powerful Fuji News Network, and in theory give a nationwide audience base for any fight in Japan, if they broadcast it across their entire network. In Tokyo alone the they have a a regular audience in the multi-million figure for Murata fights. It is however, worth noting that the last Murata fight wasn't exclusive to Fuji in Japan, with it being shown on NHK-8BS, in glorious 8K. In fact that was only the second time, in history, a bout had ever been broadcast in 8K anywhere in the world.
NHK have made it known they are looking to get back into the boxing after years away and their 8K coverage gives them a USP no one else can match, and allows them to work along with Fuji to bring fights out in 8K, something they also did for the Naoya Inoue Vs Nonito Donaire bout.
Of course Canelo has a contract with DAZN, which has heavily bankrolled his fights in the US in recent years. The DAZN rights are thought to be global and would, in theory, extend to this bout being aired to the 2,000,000 or so Japanese subscribers to DAZN. A decent number if they could get them all, though the reality is that boxing on DAZN in Japan is pretty niche, and most big bouts are on terrestrial TV where viewing numbers are much bigger.
DAZN have yet to actually broadcast a Japanese boxing show of any kind, and their boxing content, so far, has been entirely imported. For them to have a fight of this magnitude might help them boost their numbers, but would be unlikely to get anywhere near the figures of a Fuji broadcast. Also DAZN JP will likely have their two biggest sports on during the proposed dates for these, with NPB (Japanese Baseball) and J League (Japanese soccer) series both running through May. If You're a DAZN subscriber odds are these are what you have the service for and adding boxing wouldn't actually help their viewership, especially not by taking it off free TV to do so.
In principle there is actually NO REASON why these contracts can't actually run in agreement with each other. There are other events in Japan which are shown on both terrestrial TV, such as Fuji TV, and another service. For example RIZIN is broadcast on both Fuji TV and GYAO, whilst fights on TBS are also occasionally shown on Paravi.
In theory DAZN would be able to keep the global streaming rights, Fuji the terrestrial TV rights and BS8 would be able to have their slice of the pie with an 8K broadcast. It would, incidentally, be the same 3 companies that worked on the Inoue Vs Donaire bout, and each would have their own selling point.
For DAZN they would be able to showcase the full under-card, something Fuji won't do, for Fuji the terrestrial coverage would be huge, whilst BS8 will only show to a small number of people who have already adopted 8K technology.
One other thing to note is that in Japanese reports the suggestion was that Fuji TV would potentially be getting the rights to essentially cover DAZN financially. Several reports from Japan stated that both Canelo, and Gennady Golovkin (40-1-1, 35), were costing too much. Hence the service showing a willingness to send fighters off abroad, with both men being linked to Murata, where purses could essentially be funded in part by Fuji TV.
So could this really take place in Japan in Spring?
This has long been in the works as a possibility, with Bob Arum talking about the bout way back on December 23rd, the day that Murata beat Steven Butler. (Murata targets Canelo and Golovkin at the Tokyo Dome in 2020!) With GGG now looking set to make a mandatory defense of his title it leaves Canelo as the only target for Arum and Co that is worth paying the big money for.
Finding the right venue in time would be a key issue that needs solving, but as we've seen there are dates available for the Domes, but maybe not the dates they want.
Something you'd like to add?
Well, yes! Whilst Bob Arum did suggest a Sunday it is worth noting that the the first week of May falls in what is termed the "Golden Week" in Japan, where there's a bundle of holidays that all take place together. These include April 29th, May 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th. The big day for Mexican fans in May 5th.
A wild card suggesting is that the bout actually takes place in Japan on Wednesday May 6th in the early afternoon, or Tuesday May 5th, in the early afternoon. This would make the most of the Japanese holidays and potentially work for a Mexican viewing fan base, with public schools in Mexico closed on May 5th.
May 5th is also celebrated, as Cinco de Mayo, in Japan.
Another possibility is that it takes place on a Monday afternoon in Japan. This is notable as May 4th is a Japanese holiday, and it would work for a large American audience on a Sunday night, especially given that there appears to be no major US sporting event on May 4th with NBA taking a break, no WWE and no NFL. This would be an interesting work around but brings the Tokyo Dome into the fold once again.
Of course this isn't the first name we've seen linked to Canelo for a May 2020 date, and there's a chance we'll see another name linked to him soon as well. It is however interesting to see how long this has been in the works for, if we're to trust Bob Arum, and why the Tokyo Dome is maybe not the most likely venue....unless the bout comes on a weekday.
(Images courtesy of Boxmob, Fuji TV, Tokyo-Dome.co.jp, Boxingnews.jp)
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