The recent career of Saul “Canelo” Alvarez has been marked by a very public split from his longtime promoter Oscar De La Hoya outside of the ring as well as his becoming essentially a free agent while continuing to maintain a relationship with global digital subscription sports streaming network DAZN. Inside the ring however, the last year of Alvarez’ career has seen more frequent activity as well as establishing a working relationship with promoter Eddie Hearn of Matchroom Boxing. A relationship that has seen Alvarez fight three times in under a year in the process winning and successfully unifying three of five Super-Middleweight world championships. While some may not see a fighter fighting three times in one year as being overly significant, it is extremely rare both due to a fighter like Alvarez’ position as an elite level boxer, but also due to the financial incentives that a fighter like Alvarez can earn on a per fight basis to see a fighter in his position compete so frequently.
Although the public business divorce between Alvarez, De La Hoya, and for a brief period DAZN did not do any of the three any benefit, an argument can be made that perhaps Alvarez being essentially a promotional free agent has allowed him to be as active as he wants to be, which may or may not have been what someone in De La Hoya’s position have wanted. Three dominant victories over Callum Smith, Avni Yildirim, and Billy Joe Saunders over the last year have now led to Alvarez attempting to make history as he will meet undefeated IBF Super-Middleweight champion Caleb Plant on November 6th to unify the 168lb. division and determine the first undisputed world champion in Super-Middleweight history.
Unlike Alvarez’ bouts since December 2018 however, this fight will not be broadcast by DAZN around the world, but rather will be broadcast on a medium that Alvarez left when he originally signed with DAZN, pay-per-view as this bout will be broadcast in the United States by Showtime Pay-Per-View and in the United Kingdom on BT Sport Box Office Pay-Per-View. The reason for this whether it is something that will be admitted publicly or not has to do with Caleb Plant’s association with the Premier Boxing Champions (PBC) group of promoters and more specifically his advisor Al Haymon who has an exclusive deal with Showtime and Fox Sports in the United States and BT Sport in the United Kingdom.
Some may recall that negotiations for this bout broke down for a period of time due to what was reported as Alvarez’ refusing to sign a multi-fight agreement to fight under the PBC banner. While this was a temporary break down in negotiation, it did show Alvarez’ desire to make history by choosing to fight on a different platform and for the time being return to an overpriced and outdated model of pay-per-view, despite being in a position where he had more leverage as the marquee attraction, the “A-Side Fighter” for lack of a better term. While this is no disrespect to the undefeated Plant, who will enter this fight having successfully defended his IBF crown three times since winning the title in January 2019, some may question the motives of the PBC or perhaps Haymon by insisting this fight take place on their platform rather than looking out for the best interest of Plant, who one might argue could have made more money by facing Alvarez under the DAZN platform.
Nevertheless, Plant will be making an estimated $10 million for this fight, which is still by far a career high for him. The business elements of the sport, which often does not serve to Boxing’s benefit notwithstanding, Plant does pose an interesting challenge for Alvarez, despite going into this fight as a significant underdog.
Why is the undefeated Plant an underdog? The reason primarily is because, despite being unbeaten in twenty-one professional bouts, he has not fought opposition that is comparable to that of Saul Alvarez. Even though it is indeed true that all a fighter can do is face the opposition that is placed before them, an argument can be made that it is a flaw of the PBC model in that there are times where fighters such as Plant either world champions or top contenders struggle to get the type of marquee fights they deserve due to the PBC’s seeming unwillingness to work with promoters from outside their banner on a regular basis. Their insistence that this fight take place under their banner is perhaps a reflection of that argument.
Caleb Plant however, is an unbeaten fighter who is a boxer/puncher that likes to gradually break his opponents down over the course of a fight. He has also shown the ability to out work his opponents throughout a fight to win convincing decisions. It is indisputable however, that the story of this fight will be whether or not Plant will be able to do either against a fighter of Alvarez’ caliber in what is a significant step up in class of opposition.
What makes Saul Alvarez so dangerous is that he is very compact with his offense, has the ability to hurt an opponent with either hand, and is a world-class counter puncher. Plant does have twelve knockouts in his twenty-one career wins, but is at a significant disadvantage when it comes to overall experience and also experience competing at this level of the sport against Alvarez, who is a veteran of fifty-nine professional bouts and who’s only official loss came against Floyd Mayweather when he was competing as a 154lb. Jr. Middleweight.
Although Plant is the naturally bigger man compared to Alvarez, Alvarez has shown since moving to 168lbs. that he is not only capable of fighting men who are taller, longer, and theoretically stronger than himself, but thus far he has been dominant. A reason for this beyond his aforementioned attributes is he continues to evolve and with each fight has proven to be an increasingly difficult puzzle for opponents to solve. How can Caleb Plant be one of the few fighters to have success against Alvarez and possibly defeat him?
It is crucial that Plant find a way to get Alvarez’ respect early. Despite facing opposition that seemingly have an edge over him physically in several of his recent fights, Saul Alvarez has almost been like a stalker in the sense that he implements a systematic approach in being able to gradually walk his opponents down and being able to at times quickly negate an opponent’s physical advantages. One aspect that can be overshadowed by how well Alvarez is able to execute his offense is he is also very sound in regard to defense in particular his use of head movement. Plant must find a way to nullify Alvarez’ ability to gain control of the tempo of a fight early on. If he does not and allows Alvarez to get into a rhythm, it may prove to be a difficult task for Plant to win a decision particularly because he is not known as a power puncher and even opponents that arguably have a higher profile have found it difficult to win rounds against Alvarez.
Unlike many high-profile unification bouts throughout the sport's history, this fight seems to have more of the business elements that surrounded this fight being made in the minds of many Boxing fans and even some who have painted this as a blow that DAZN will find it hard to come back from. Despite this being for an undisputed world championship and my feeling that the fight should be the focus, I would be lying to the reader if I said I was not curious as to how this fight will do in terms of pay-per-view buys compared to some of Saul Alvarez’ recent fights on a global subscription-based model that is generally of better value to Boxing fans. Even with the likelihood that Alvarez will return to DAZN after this fight due to the financial incentives that are available to him, one would be justified to wonder whether or not there will be some backlash from fans who may not be as eager to shell out $79.99 in the United States for one card when a yearly subscription to DAZN costs the consumer $99 with no pay-per-view add-ons. While the latter has been the subject of much speculation recently, it is revealing that Showtime who has seen the ratings of several of their Boxing broadcasts under perform and has seen several of their pay-per-view events struggle to exceed 200,000 buys at price points similar to this fight that the network currently is planning three pay-per-view events in a 30-day period with Alvarez-Plant being the first of those events.
Of course, if you are competing with a network)/platform that is changing the model and that model seems to be more consumer-friendly than what you’re company is offering, the obvious response would be to attempt to downplay and/or outright insult the competitor if you are in Showtime’s position, which has been the case periodically from those running Showtime Sports with regard to the progress DAZN has made. Obviously, DAZN much like other entities have also seen their share of struggles over the last year due largely to the ongoing global COVID-19 epidemic. This observer will always be honest with his readers and in all truth and honesty, I fail to see how three pay-per-view cards at inflated price points in a 30-day period serves in the interest of the fans that support the sport especially as the COVID-19 crisis remains ongoing. Yours truly has no doubt however, that those at Showtime and perhaps even its parent company ViacomCBS will attempt a public relations spin to make it appear like such practices are beneficial both to the sport itself as well as the fans that support it in good times and bad. If recent history has taught us anything it is that the consumer generally wants more value for their money.
As we have seen, most pay-per-view Boxing cards including the recent third bout between Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder, which tapped out at around 600,000 buys at the same price point as the Alvarez-Plant bout and well short of the one million buys promoters had predicted in order for the event to be profitable, sometimes it does not matter who is on a card or how great a fight might be as Fury-Wilder3 was, if the majority of the public does not see value for their money and more importantly, feels priced out, events like this will ultimately not be successful. It would also be a shame if Alvarez-Plant turns out to be a great fight that only a fraction of a potential audience chooses to tune in to see. No matter what spin a network’s brass or a promoter might attempt, it can simply be described by two words “Bad Business.” For all involved, the network, the promoters, the fans who feel cheated by being asked to pay such expensive fees, but also the fighters who are often lured by the promise of more money via potential pay-per-view revenue that more often than not does not live up to let alone exceed expectations. “Bad Business“ indeed.
In terms of what to expect when Alvarez and Plant meet to fully unify the 168lb. Super-Middleweight division on Saturday night, hopefully we will see a fight that exceeds expectations inside the ring. Despite the business elements of the sport that seem to continue to prove that it refuses to get out of Boxing’s way and present the sport in such a manner that it serves Boxing’s best interest as well as the fans who support it, and not necessarily those who rule on the business end of the sport.
“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”
Alvarez vs. Plant takes place on Saturday, November 6th at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, NV. The bout as well as a three-fight undercard can be seen in the United States on Showtime Pay-Per-View for $79.99. The pay-per-view broadcast will begin at 9PM ET/6PM PT and will be available across cable/satellite telco providers in the United States and Canada as well as through the Showtime app on mobile, tablet, connected streaming devices and Smart TV’s. For more information on how to order via the Showtime app please visit: www.sho.com/PPV.
In the United Kingdom and Ireland, the bout can be seen on BT Sport Box Office Pay-Per-View beginning at Midnight (Sunday, November 7th) for £19.99. For more information and to order please visit: https://www.bt.com/sport/box-office/
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