MUCH is often made of the fluctuating popularity of boxing. Some still compare this modern era with the 1960s and 70s, when the sport was one of the most-watched and most talked about in the world. Others point to the eye watering sums of money current boxers command as evidence of boxing’s prevailing relevance. While it would be foolish to think boxing is anywhere near the cultural standing it once held, there are undoubtedly positive signs emerging almost on a weekly basis now. Streaming service DAZN – which has not had the easiest of rides since bursting onto the scene a few years ago with a daunting war chest – this past week released viewing figures for the recent Katie Taylor vs Amanda Serrano superfight.
The two women apparently drew in 1.5 million viewers, a new record for a female boxing match. Those viewers came from over 170 different territories across the world and the DAZN app was the highest grossing sports app globally on Apple and Google over that weekend.
DAZN, like most streaming services, rarely releases viewing figures and when it does so it’s only for events that have been an undeniable success, such as this one. So it’s hard to properly contextualise these figures.
That being said, this is a definite win for boxing. DAZN is still establishing itself as a major player in the sports broadcasting landscape. Women’s boxing is also still very much in its growth phase.
So for an emerging branch of the sport to perform so well on a relatively new platform speaks volumes. The likes of Taylor and Serrano, and indeed all those involved in staging the event, have made an impact on the sport that will be felt for years to come.
ESPN also pulled some encouraging viewing figures over that same weekend. Shakur Stevenson’s dominant win over Oscar Valdez had an average audience of 1,353,000, according to Nielsen Media Research. That figure does not include those who watched the fight on ESPN+, as ESPN does not release viewing figures from its streaming platform to Nielsen.
The broadcast peaked at 1,440,000. Of course ESPN is the largest sports broadcaster in the US, which goes some way to explaining these numbers, and also suggests that the fight could have attracted an even larger audience.
Neither Stevenson nor Valdez are established stars yet, though. That is now likely to change for the former given how good he looked and how bright his future seems. So to pull in an audience of this size is undoubtedly a step in the right direction for the young talent.
This past weekend DAZN aired Dmitry Bivol’s upset win over Canelo Alvarez, the sport’s biggest star. Given that, even on paper, this was one of Canelo’s toughest tests there was a relatively small amount of promotion before the fight.
We may never know if that had an impact on how many tuned in. It’s also worth noting that this was Canelo fighting on Cinco de Mayo weekend; an occurrence that doesn’t need much hype. It will always draw huge crowds.
The commentary was also frustrating, which is becoming a concerning trend on DAZN’s US broadcasts. Todd Grisham led the commentary team but provided little insight into the fight. Mike Costello, who heads up DAZN’s major UK broadcasts, always does an excellent job of calling the action in detail and leaving room for his colleagues to add expert insight.
For Canelo-Bivol, DAZN had Sergio Mora and Daniel Jacobs on hand as colour commentators while Chris Mannix would chime in between rounds. Despite being the only man to have actually fought Canelo out of this team, Jacobs was called upon disappointingly little.
The team were quite fair in the assessment of the fight though. They praised Bivol’s work and noted how frustrated Canelo seemed at times. Mannix’s scorecard was also aligned with how the fight actually played out, something that can’t always be said.
What was interesting was how Canelo spoke about his immediate future during the post-fight press conference. He remained relatively classy in defeat, offering no excuses though claiming that he felt he deserved the decision.
He also insisted he will invoke his rematch clause with Bivol, however would not confirm that he’ll pursue that fight as his next one. The plan, were he to have beaten Bivol, was for Canelo to then have a third fight with Gennadiy Golovkin in September.
So he could still move into a trilogy bout with “GGG” next, which comes with potential risks and benefits. There is, of course, the substantial financial rewards that would come with a Golovkin fight and a win would also set Canelo back on the right course. However he would also be coming back down in weight from 175lbs.
Returning to the topic of Taylor-Serrano, promoter Eddie Hearn spoke to various reporters during the week about the possibility of a rematch. There have been very real discussions about staging a second bout between the two at Croke Park, the iconic stadium in Dublin.
This is yet further evidence of the enormous impact Taylor is having on the sport of boxing. Bringing a big fight night to Croke Park is something not even Conor McGregor has been able to do.
However, Hearn did also mention the possibility of Taylor taking part in crossover boxing fights with prominent MMA fighters like Cris ‘Cyborg’ Justino and Holly Holm. The Serrano rematch would surely generate more interest and, therefore, money. Let’s hope so, anyway.
The BBC often comes under fire for not providing boxing with the coverage it perhaps deserves, though this past week there was an interesting feature on their site which went behind the scenes of Tommy Frank’s recent British title defence against Craig Derbyshire.
It’s a relatively short piece but it’s good to see more in-depth coverage of much smaller shows on a major platform like BBC Sport.
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