Over the last few years we've seen DAZN become one of the main players in boxing distribution world wide, working with Matchroom and Golden Boy Promotions, as well as the WBSS to show a lot of action. The service, at least in some regions, the best value for money for boxing fans, and their recently rumoured deal with Matchroom, which will see them replace Sky as Matchroom's UK distributor, is huge for British fight fans.
Whilst it has certainly been a breath of fresh air in many ways, DAZN has been very much a mixed bag, with some great things, and some absolutely terrible things about the service. We've going to take a look at some of those here as we take a look at the good and the bad of DAZN so far.
Showcasing the lower weights
One of the standout things about DAZN is the fact they've active shown a lot of lower weight fighters. Over the last few years they have given us some of the best Super Flyweight, Flyweight and Light Flyweight action, and snapped up many of the top fighters between those two weights. The likes of Hiroto Kyoguchi, Elwin Soto, Felix Alvarado, Hasanboy Dusmatov, Julio Cesar Martinez, Juan Francisco Estrada, Roman Gonzalez and Srisaket Sor Rungvisai have all had bouts shown on their service.
As someone who actually follows these divisions it's been great to see these fighters getting a large platform to showcase their skills on and hopefully that is something we'll see continue well beyond the pandemic, rather than be used as relatively cheap action bouts by the promoters. Hopefully we'll also see the Minimumweight division get a chance to be showcased on the service as well.
Smartly the promoters at DAZN have realised these little men can put on fan friendly bouts and those will help build the fanbase of the division's, and the fighters, leading to relatively cheap but fan grabbing bouts.
Showcasing female boxing
As with the little men the service has also done well in showcasing a lot of female boxing. We've had Eddie Hearn responsible for that on the whole, but Golden Boy may well have the pick of the female fighters in Seneisa Estrada, who has all the tools to become the face of female boxing for the next 4 or 5 years.
The female fights, like the lower weight fighters, are cheaper than the big names, but have provided some of the best action that DAZN have managed to give us. It has also helped "normalise" female boxing, something that has long been over-due in the west. Fingers crossed that the fighters showcased now on the service will lead the way for a true women's revolution in the sport over the next 10 years.
We know some fans are still not interested in female, and that's fine, though we suspect as the depth of female boxing improves, inspired by the current fighters, we'll begin to see more and more notable female fighters, more interesting match ups, and an overall much better quality and consistency of bouts. DAZN need to be given a heads up here.
Boxing from around the world!
DAZN is a global platform, in fact in many ways it's boxing's only global platform right now, and it's embraced that well with shows from a host of countries. They have had the US and UK obviously, but their deal with WP Boxing in Thailand is great, and they have touched on shows in places like Italy and Gibraltar, of all places, as well as a recent show from Uzbekistan. The platform is, by far and away, the most adventurous when it comes to their range of shows and that's something to be really appreciative of. Fingers crossed however that more countries begin to have shows aired on the service.
Regularly content from places like Japan, Germany, Russia and Canada would be hugely welcome, and would genuinely add a lot to the service. And would also help build on solid DAZN subscriptions in some of those places. It would be great to see Western fans get a chance to experience the shows from Korakuen Hall, and hopefully that will happen sooner rather than later. Even if it's only low level cards to begin with.
Arguably the best thing about DAZN is the pricing of the service, even if the price has changed somewhat in some regions over the last year or two. The service is much, much cheaper than a typical PPV event, and it provides genuinely good value for money. In fact it's probably the best value for money service in boxing right now. That's not to say it's perfect, but it is allowing the sport to be accessible at a solid price point, for a lot of good fights. How long it can maintain a price advantage over things like Showtime, ESPN+, Sky Sports and BT Sports is questionable, but at the moment it is still easy the best value for money.
Our major gripe with DAZN, and one we suspect many share, is the commentary which is terrible show after show, after show. The service employs some really poor commentators, that don't seem to fit well together, spend more time bickering like a married couple and don't add to the bout. They also don't let the bouts talk for themselves, and often seem to distract from the in ring action. The likes of Sergio Mora, Chris Mannix, Todd Grisham, Nick Halling and Paul Smith really have been poor and it's often been really hard to note wish that their was a commentary free feed.
Whilst the bickering between them is one thing, other issues are factual inaccuracies and issues which really shouldn't be aired. For example the homer-isms of the British team, which often seem more like cheerleaders rather the commentators, and the almost ignorance that certain commentators have of the lower weights, despite the fact the service has been showing a lot of heavy handed little guys. It may be the researchers aren't giving them the right information to go off, but we suspect that in some cases it's a more just ignorance on how boxing is right now. If we were in charge we would give a massive shake up to their broadcasts, bring in Chris Algieri and Gabe Rosado a lot more often, as they are very good, and bring the US team down to just 2 men, not three.
Not enough content
Whilst certain regions are different here, the UK DAZN has got boxing as it's bread and butter, strangely alongside some recent video game content. Sadly though there simply enough content to really work. To go with the live fights the service does have things like The DAZN boxing show, Training Room, press conferences, and weigh ins. But it feels like there is so much emptiness on their schedule.
It would be good to see in depth shows looking at some of the less known fighters and their lives, something A-Sign boxing did last year to great success. Sit down sessions with fighters in a round table discussion format, maybe with former fighters discussing their rivalries. More interviews. A documentaries on more fights from the past and fighters from yesteryear. More magazine type shows would also add to the service. The world of boxing is huge and yet the focus of a lot of these shows is really limited, mostly US and UK centric and mostly focused on modern history, and it would be great if they began shining lights on the non-stars or fighters from more than 15 years ago or stuff from Mexico and Puerto Rico, or Germany. Expand the scope of what's being talked about, massively.
Some will point to "Boxing with Chris Mannix" and "Jabs", the "Playbacks" and the odd documentary, which is great as a start but nothing to get too excited about. The service might provide the best value for money live boxing, but it provides very little in terms of shoulder programming, and we suspect that a change their could help massively with the feeling of emptiness the schedule has.
The way the service promotes future events
For some customers the service is one that they will be paying in advance, and that certainly stung last year when DAZN had a lack of content due to the pandemic and really should have paused the subscriptions of users until sport returned, but for others it's a monthly service. Sadly the way they promote to monthly customers is generally really poor.
Quote often they will put up on screen graphics of what they have lined up, but will only include their supposedly biggest shows, even if they are several months away. It makes sense to tell monthly subscribers what they are getting next month as well. If we're in March I want to know why I should subscribe through April, not what you have in May. Show me what's to come in May during April. Work with the monthly cycle to show me what's going to be coming up before I pay next, and let me decide if I want to stop and start the subscription. This is actually the same issue, in some regards, to what Boxing Raise has, and it seems a really easy fix. Simply show me what you are showing next month, and the rest of this month! Viola!
This is the stupidest thing DAZN do, and that is not show the full event. This is just a bizarre one, given that they aren't stuck by the typical broadcasting limitations of TV but still, for whatever reason, don't always show the full event. This mean two bouts from a recent Uzbek card weren't aired and the big upset loss for Otha Jones II wasn't broadcast. We know some shows go long, and some do drag, especially when most the bouts are predictable, but there's no reason to not show the bouts on events you're covering! It happens regularly and there's not really any good reason for it.
Overall I think DAZN are a really good thing for boxing, I think so far their foray into the sport has generally been a success, but there is a lot of of areas where they can improve. And lot of those improvements are easy to make. Genuinely very easy to make. A change in the way future shows are promoted, a change in commentary and showing all the fights isn't a massively difficult thing for them to do. We understand that increase in extra content will be costly, but is certainly not an impossibility, and would help fill out some barren scheduling issues.
Picking up more international cards is unlikely, unless Matchroom or Golden Boy expand into some territories that seem unlikely for now, but there's little reason that local promoters shouldn't be given a chance on DAZN, where Matchroom or Golden Boy could potentially see them feeders for their bigger events. Showcasing some more of the Cruisers, Super Flyweight and Light Flyweights from around the planet before matching them with their own fighters would be a great way to introduce new fighters and legitimise less well known future challengers.
The service is good, the service is fantastic value for money, and it's given us a chance to enjoy fights that typically wouldn't have had many eyeballs on them. But it's still got a long way to go to become the focus point of world boxing. For now it's a service that is behind where it should be, though we do expect rapid improvements over the next 12 months, but is one that has shown a lot of promise.
Is DAZN good for boxing fans? Yes. Can it do better? Certainly! Are we fans despite incessant complaints? Yes!
Over the last few weeks we've seen DAZN snapping up talent and building a very strong stable of fighters to work with through different promotional tie ups, notably working hand in hand with Matchroom US, World of Boxing and Golden Boy Promotions. They have seen the streaming service become more talked about than almost any fighter in the sport right now. One market they've not yet cracked, at least for boxing, is the Japanese market, despite being available in the country for quite a while now.
DAZN is available in Japan, and is relatively big there with rights for things like the NPB (Nippon Professional Baseball), UEFA Champions League, La Liga, Premier League, the J League, F1, various Tennis and Rugby competitions, a number of MMA companies and even some professional darts. Their content library is solid in several areas, but not in boxing.
They do also show some boxing, but by some I really do mean "some". Most of their boxing content is from the US, and whilst that has shown some Japanese fighters, including Ryota Murata, Ryohei Takahashi and Takeshi Inoue, they haven't exactly been shown at prime time. Instead they have been shown live, at the same time as their bouts have taken place in the US, giving them a mid-day type of time slot. The idea seems to be for the channel to appeal to Japanese audiences on the value of Western fighters, which does have it's place with Japanese fight fans, though maybe not as big of a place as DAZN would like.
This means that not only are the fans rarely able to see Japanese fighters on the service, but that a lot of the fights they get on the service aren't at a great time for their audience numbers, and there is actually a pretty good reason for this.
The rather unique thing about Japanese boxing is that, for the most part, their biggest fighters are available on free TV. Fighters like WBA "regular" Bantamweight champion Naoya Inoue, WBO Super Featherweight champion Masayuki Ito, WBC Light Flyweight champion Kenshiro, WBC "interim" Bantamweight champion Takuma Inoue and former WBA "regular" Middleweight champion Ryota Murata are all linked to Fuji TV, for fights held in Japan. On the other hand WBA "super" Light Flyweight champion Hiroto Kyoguchi, former 3-weight champion Kazuto Ioka, former unified Light Flyweight champion Ryoichi Taguchi are all inked to TBS, and WBO Flyweight champion Kosei Tanaka is inked with TBS' affiliate CBC, which allows TBS to show his fights.
Notably it does look like it's not just the present tied up with TBS and Fuji TV but also the future with TBS having a working relationship with Watanabe, who promote prospects like Ginjiro Shigeoka and Seiya Tsutsumi as well as up coming world title challenger Masataka Taniguchi, whilst Fuji's deal with Ohashi Gym is likely to see Fuji having exclusivity on Satoshi Shimizu and Taku Kuwahara, among others.
The only real outlier to this is Tomoki Kameda, who does have a streaming deal, albeit with Abema TV, who have shown his last few fights for free. They appear to be working strongly with Kyoei and the Koki Kameda TFC series of shows, so Kameda is also off the table, at least for now.
Unlike in the US Japanese fight fans aren't accustomed to paying for boxing, especially not for their top guys. They also see their fighters fighting on free TV in front of a multi-million people audiences, with their profiles becoming huge as a result
Saying that however they have had the ability to pay for some boxing, with Boxingraise offering some VOD and live domestic action, G+ being a premium service that shows a monthly live domestic card and WOWOW showing some international content, but on the whole it's rare to see boxing on pay TV in Japan. Even services that did once offer paid options, such as GAORA and Sky A+ have now all but stopped their boxing content. GAORA hasn't shown anything in years and we believe the last Sky A+ boxing card featured Naoko Fujioka against Shindo Go.
If we do look at the available pay options for Japanese fans they cater to 2 different markets.
Boxingraise is outlier in a lot to how boxing content works in Japan, with it being a combination of a streaming and Video on Demand service. It is run by Dangan, who promote a number of shows every month, and is available online. It is a boxing only service, that typically shows 1 live card a month and adds 4 or 5 new shows on a delay basis, whether it's a classic card or a recent one is dependent on the activity of any given month. At ￥980 it's affordable, but it is boxing only content, and will cater to those who are hardcore fans only. Notable this is actually available outside of Japan though is one that only hardcore fans are ever likely to be interested in.
WOWOW is a general premium service, showing a combination of movies, live content, musical concerts and things like the Oscars. Basically if you get WOWOW you're unlikely to get it mainly for the sport. It has a traditional fan base, having been around since the 1990's and it's boxing content is not significant enough to get the channel just for boxing. Think of it as the Japanese Showtime, without PPV if you will, with plenty of wide ranging contest. In regards to boxing it only shows big US bouts, often on delay. Some fighters are live but usually it's a delay broadcast.
G+ is a more clear premium sports channel, and is a channel that is linked with free TV giant NTV. This is more of your Sky Sports type of thing, showing sport through the day with things like classic wrestling, golf, NASCAR, Boxing, a combination of classic, live and magazine shows. On average they do 1 live boxing card a month, though there is some leeway with that, and it's on a Saturday afternoon/evening, as part of their long established Dynamic Glove series. To add the channel on to a typical satellite package is ￥900, though of course you will need a satellite package to begin with.
When DAZN launched in Japan it's main rival likely was SKY A+ and G+, both of which are premium sports channels. As mentioned SKY A+ no longer seems to show boxing, or haven't done for a while, but as a general sports channel it is DAZN's rival.
When DAZN launched in Japan it did so at a price point of ￥1750. Yet for a boxing fan, who already has a CS Satelite set up, that's not significantly cheaper than paying for G+ and Boxingraise, and getting a couple of live domestic cards, some archive stuff and getting the other benefits that come with G+.
The pricing for SKY A+ is a bit more complicated than for DAZN or G+, due to it's tiers, but on the whole it does cost more than DAZN. It offers multiple channels, through the TV with multiple services on some of it's packages. With it not showing boxing however it's difficult to really talk about them as competition here, as in for this particular market, but they are certainly rivals in terms of general sports content. What DAZN is likely to do is to make SKY A+ cut their pricing and perhaps even force them to offer more versatility to their services, just to compete with what DAZN are offering. However that seems like it will just benefit consumers more than anything, at least in the short term.
The big issue that DAZN is facing when breaking into the Japanese market, for boxing, is that it lacks live content in prime time. We suspect that we'll see Matchroom and Goldenboy using more Japanese challengers, to try help their broadcast partner's Japanese arm. What DAZN needs to make it in Japanese boxing market is a deal with a domestic promoter, at least one. Unfortunately for them it's hard to see where they go in regards to inking with a top promoter but there are options out there.
A starting point could be World of Sport Boxing, who promote Takeshi Inoue, Japanese Middleweight champion Kazuto Takesako and a couple of promising prospects. Along with Shinsei Gym, who promote Etsuko Tada, Reiya Konishi, Shun Kubo and Yuki Yamauchi, though they have had a working relationship with Fuji TV in recent times. As well as the likes of Yokohama Hikari and Ichi Riki, who have worked together a lot recently. Between them they have not only Ryohei Takahashi but also Akihiro Kondo, Ryo Akaho and Keita Kurihara. It's also worth noting that Naoko Fujioka has worked on the same shows as the Ichi Riki and Yokohama Hikari fighters in recent times, which would give them a chance to continue that relationship
If DAZN could link with those promoters they wouldn't have male world champions, but they would have 2 female world champions, a regular and steady stream of live shows in and around prime time, with the potential to build the names of fighters who could fight for world titles. For example Inoue is likely to get another shot down the line, Konishi is set to get a second world title fight, Kubo is world ranked and a former world champion, Kondo is set for a world title eliminator, and the prospects that they would tie up would give them a longer term plan. It would also allow DAZN's international arms a chance to showcase Japanese fighters before they get big fights, meaning that the likes of Takahashi and Inoue would have been more well known before making their US debuts recently.
Will DAZN link up with Japanese promoters?
There hasn't been much rumour about it, but we wouldn't be surprised if it happens in the future. It does make sense from a boxing point of view, and would be beneficial to the fighters, the promoters and DAZN as a whole, not just the Japanese arm, allowing them more content for their various international services, and help entice Japanese fight fans to buy into the service.
Thinking Out East
With this site being pretty successful so far we've decided to open up about our own views and start what could be considered effectively an editorial style opinion column dubbed "Thinking Out East" (T.O.E).