Friday, May 10, 2019

Thoughts On Alvarez-Jacobs And What Comes Next

The Middleweight unification bout between Saul “Canelo” Alvarez and Daniel Jacobs was much-anticipated. Anticipated because like most “Big” or “Mega” fights, this unification fight pitted two of the best fighters not only in their division, but in the entire sport against each other with both putting their respective claims to a world championship, in this case the World Middleweight championship on the line. A fight like this also had something unique going for it that in a way set it apart from other battles like this throughout the history of the sport. Instead of an encounter like this being sold on a pay-per-view basis as many similar bouts over the last thirty years have been, this unification bout was the first “Major” fight to be offered exclusively on an Over The Top (OTT) digital streaming network platform.

As readers might recall, this observer penned a column that was released here at The Boxing Truth® back in December 2015 titled “Is It Time For “Big Time”Boxing To Go Over The Top?” A column that discussed the rise of OTT digital distribution and the rise of streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime Video to name a few. The primary intention of that column now going on four years ago was to illustrate the potential the growing OTT realm had for the sport of Boxing and the sports genre as a whole. In the years since I wrote that column, a regular theme here on the website has been the continued growth of streaming platforms and how the sport should gradually shift toward the future and away from the traditional “Pay-Per-View” medium, which yours truly has called an overpriced and undervalued model.  While I don’t want to go into every aspect that I covered in that column, I did conclude the column by saying “Even though seeing Boxing’s next “Big” or “Super” fight offered on an OTT basis to consumers may appear to be wishful thinking in the eyes of some, as the trend of “Cord-Cutting” continues to grow one can only imagine the potential audience that Boxing’s next marquee event could be missing out on. It is something that the powers that be in the sport should consider.”

As most Boxing fans know, the growth of streaming as a preferred choice of consumers has only continued to grow in the  years since I wrote that column. Boxing fans are also likely aware that the year 2018 saw a major shift in terms of the broadcast options that are available to consumers, which will over time have a significant impact on the pay-per-view medium. The advent of digital sports subscription-based streaming networks ESPN+ and DAZN.

Two digital streaming network platforms that have served as game changers for Boxing as well as all of sports. Although readers who regularly read the work of this observer are likely aware of the coverage I have provided regarding both networks, for the purposes of this column, we will be focusing on DAZN.

DAZN, (Pronounced DA-Zone) which initially launched internationally in 2016, officially entered the U.S. market in September of last year. In the time since their entrance into the U.S. market, DAZN has quickly become one of Boxing’s major players and has served as a viable competitor to traditional cable/satellite networks as well as the pay-per-view medium. Despite providing great value staging multiple cards per month all included with a DAZN subscription with multiple promoters and their respective stables to Boxing fans, there remains a segment of fan that remains skeptical to the changing times. One complaint yours truly has heard on more than one occasion has been a perceived lack of cards deemed pay-per-view level or “PPV quality” for short. While I as I have said in the past disagree with this, the first event for DAZN that most would call pay-per-view due to the anticipation of the event took place on May 4th  at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, NV as Saul “Canelo” Alvarez met Daniel Jacobs. Two world champions putting their respective crowns on the line to further unify the 160lb. Middleweight division.

While this fight also pitted two of the best fighters in the world against each other, this also was an interesting clash of styles between two boxer/punchers. In previewing this fight, I stated that it was crucial in my mind that Jacobs impose his will on Alvarez early in the fight given his naturally bigger size. Although Jacobs did not implement this strategy, it was not surprising to see a tactical fight fought between the two fighters.

While I do not want to give the reader a long drawn out round by round analysis of this fight as it might be too complex for some, this was what one would think of when they think of a close battle between two highly skilled boxers. As is often the case when it comes to close fights as this observer has said frequently over the years, it will often come down to what a judge prefers in their own individual criteria based on clean punching, effective aggression, ring generalship, and defense. It can however, be a challenge for both those watch a fight as well as those scoring a fight to determine who got the better of the action particularly in rounds where both fighters are able to have periods of success. Rounds that are commonly referred to within the sport as “Swing Rounds” where what can determine who wins a round could come down to a moment, a notable punch, and can have varying opinions as to who got the upper hand.

The challenge in this fight was in part to distinguish a fighter’s overall activity from what may have been more effective. From my perspective it appeared while Jacobs was the more active of the two in spots, it was Alvarez who seemed to land the harder punches throughout the fight. This resulted in my scoring several close rounds that were on the table in Alvarez’ favor. It did not however, take away Jacobs’ ability to be dangerous and effective in spots including nailing Alvarez with a flush left hook to the jaw in the ninth round that was attention-grabbing. Quite frankly the type of left hook that Jacobs was able to land would have knocked many Middleweights down if not have been a fight ender for some.

Although Jacobs landed the punch of the fight in my eyes, Alvarez showed he had the ability to take it and this in addition to Jacobs not seeming to land more telling blows consistently led to him losing this fight in my opinion as I ended up scoring the fight 117-111 or nine rounds to three in favor of Alvarez. Two of three official judges scored the fight 115-113 or seven rounds to five in Alvarez’ favor, while the third judge scored it 116-112 or eight rounds to four making Alvarez the winner by unanimous decision at the end of the twelve round world championship unification bout.

What can be a misunderstanding about a scorecard that gives the impression of a lopsided fight in the eyes of some, such as my 117-111 score of this fight, is it can give the wrong impression as to how competitive and close a fight can be round by round. Speaking only for myself, if two of those close “Swing Rounds” that I ended up scoring for Alvarez particularly in the first half of the fight had been scored the other way, I would have arrived with a 115-113 (7-5) scorecard at the end of the fight. In short, Daniel Jacobs simply left too many rounds on the table to win this fight, in my opinion.

As for what comes next for both Alvarez and Jacobs, there are some interesting possibilities that could be open to both. For the former IBF Middleweight world champion Daniel Jacobs, I believe it is logical to think that he will now attempt to move up to the 168lb. Super-Middleweight division where he will likely be in the discussion for some lucrative fights against some of the top fighters the division has to offer. Who Jacobs might face first as a Super-Middleweight is anyone’s guess, but I would like to see him face someone who is viewed as a fringe contender to test the waters at the higher weight before setting his sights on challenging for a world title in a second weight class.

For Saul Alvarez, all attention will now be focused on the June 8th bout between former longtime Middleweight world champion Gennady Golovkin and undefeated contender Steve Rolls, which will take place at Madison Square Garden in New York, NY. If Golovkin is successful against Rolls, the logical next step would be a third encounter between Golovkin and Alvarez.

While Alvarez himself could move up again in weight to the Super-Middleweight division or, look to a fight with undefeated WBO Middleweight world champion Demetrius Andrade, in a fight that would be for the Undisputed Middleweight world championship, there is likely more demand for a third fight with Gennady Golovkin at the present time. More demand after two highly competitive fights that are still the subject of debate as to who won those battles among Boxing fans, but more specifically demand from a different entity.

This brings us back to DAZN. DAZN has invested significantly in Boxing, but a challenge that the network will face as a subscription-based digital network that is aiming to end the pay-per-view model in the sport is to continue to look to put on fights that will be in demand. While this is a subject that can change frequently depending on one’s perspective, the network has been wise to invest in several promoters in the sport and to not for lack of a better term put all their eggs in one basket. Among the fighters that have signed with DAZN in addition to Alvarez is Gennady Golovkin.

As most Boxing fans know, the first two bouts between Alvarez and Golovkin were each main events on pay-per-view cards broadcast under the now inactive HBO Pay-Per-View banner with each card being sold to the public for $70. With both fighters now fighting under the DAZN banner and with unfinished business between the two to be resolved, it makes all the sense in the world that the network would want to stage a third fight as not only a major event for its network platform, but for it to be used as a way to further drive home the value of the subscription-based model as compared to the pay-per-view model.

One of the major news stories to come out in the days following Alvarez’ victory over Daniel Jacobs was the announcement from DAZN that 1.2 million subscribers viewed the event. When one factors in that traditional pay-per-view numbers have generally declined with few exceptions in the last decade, this is an indication that the sport is moving in the right direction by adapting a reasonable cost subscription-based direct to consumer option compared to the model of pay-per-view. If a third encounter between Alvarez and Golovkin is not in the works for later this year, of course assuming Golovkin gets by Steve Rolls, there is one alternative that I believe will satisfy Boxing fans if a third fight is not made until some time in 2020.

Demetrius Andrade, the undefeated WBO champion is currently rumored to defend his crown in the summer. Although yours truly doesn’t necessarily like to gossip on rumors, if Andrade does indeed defend his portion of the World Middleweight championship in the summer and is successful, and if Golovkin is successful against Steve Rolls, a viable option could be for Andrade to face Golovkin later this year with the winner facing Alvarez for the Undisputed Middleweight crown in 2020. While there obviously is no guarantee that Golovkin will defeat Rolls then go on to face and defeat Andrade, if such a scenario were to happen and ultimately result in another chapter in the Alvarez-Golovkin rivalry, it would make the third encounter even bigger as it would be a “Winner Take All” scenario where one world champion would finally be determined.

Such a scenario would also be in place for Andrade if he were to face and defeat Golovkin. For a fighter who up until recent times had had difficulty fighting frequently, this would pretty much resemble a winning lottery ticket for Andrade to go from being sporadically active, to becoming a world champion, to getting an opportunity to potentially face two of the top stars in the sport as a world champion.

How this will all play out remains to be seen. If however, all of this can take place in a relatively reasonable timeframe on DAZN’s platform and in the process also provide further exposure to rising prospects also competing on these cards, the real winners will continue to be DAZN subscribers and the sport in the long-term. Even though there were reports that some experienced problems streaming the Alvarez-Jacobs card, overall it was a win for the network and a significant sign of continued building momentum. If the network can set an example of continuing to put on solid cards for its subscribers, continue to look to put on fights where there is significant interest, and to be more specific do so in s reasonable timeframe, a frequent issue throughout the history of the sport when rival promoters and networks have been involved in staging major fights, it will force other networks and platforms to raise their game to put on the best fights and cards possible.

If it all results in the Boxing fan no longer being asked to pay an inflated fee for one Boxing card where said fan is only offered a portion of a full card for the price, it will be an even bigger win for the sport.

“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”

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