The month of May in the sport of Boxing will kick off with the return of Undisputed Super-Middleweight world champion Saul “Canelo” Alvarez as he will return to seek a second world championship in the 175lb. Light-Heavyweight division as he will face undefeated WBA world champion Dmitry Bivol on Saturday, May 7th at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, NV. A bout that can be seen on digital subscription-based sports streaming network DAZN globally, but will be offered by DAZN on a pay-per-view basis in North America.
As much as this observer wants to simply discuss what is an interesting fight that has implications that may play out later this year for Alvarez, it would be outright dishonest of me to say that this fight has not been overshadowed to a degree by the network’s decision to use this fight to test a pay-per-view model that DAZN has proven over the past four years since it’s inception here in the United States to be of a better value than the model, which yours truly has frequently called an overpriced and undervalued one. Unfortunately, due to both the ongoing global COVID-19 epidemic as well as perhaps needing a negotiation ploy, DAZN now finds itself testing a model that many have voiced opposition to including many DAZN subscribers. Whether the vocal backlash that has followed since this fight was announced will translate into a significant revolt from subscribers in North America remains to be seen.
While longtime readers know my stance regarding the pay-per-view model and should know that I do disagree with the network’s move to implement such a model even on what they insist will be a sporadic basis, it does not change my point of view that the network since it’s entry into the United States has been a valuable commodity for the sport of Boxing and has proven along with ESPN+, the digital subscription-based streaming network from cable network ESPN, which does compete in the streaming space with DAZN, that a subscription-based model can work and does provide a greater value as compared to pay-per-view. Having said that, it is also known that the model is used as a way of luring fighters with the promise of earning significantly more than just their agreed upon purse for bouts. More often than not, the returns for such pay-per-view cards do not earn the type of revenues that is sought by promoters, fighters, and networks that put the events on due largely to lack of value as well as increased fees for such events that frankly has been out of control here in the United States for several years predating DAZN’s inception into the market.
Although I could write a book on the pitfalls of the pay-per-view model, the fight itself deserves the majority of the attention here. Saul “Canelo” Alvarez in recent times has been focused on making history in his career. The last year of that career saw him begin and finish the process of fully unifying the 168lb. Super-Middleweight division in the span of one year. Something, which for a variety of reasons is practically unheard of in the present era. In his last bout, Alvarez stopped previously undefeated IBF world champion Caleb Plant to complete the unification process in eleven rounds in November of last year.
Now, Alvarez sets his sights on a return to the 175lb. Light-Heavyweight division where he briefly held the WBO world championship after knocking out longtime division cornerstone Sergey Kovalev in 2019. While Alvarez did have some difficulty with the bigger Kovalev throughout, he eventually did catch up with him and knocked him out in eleven rounds. Though his tenure in the division was brief, Alvarez did show he could knock out a naturally bigger opponent in Kovalev, who is known for his punching power. This time, Alvarez will be facing a fighter in Dmitry Bivol, who is unbeaten in nineteen professional fights and closer to his prime than was Kovalev at the time Alvarez fought him.
Several years ago when I first observed Dmitry Bivol, I did see some similarities between him and fighters like Kovalev and longtime Alvarez rival Gennady Golovkin in that he was able to build a reputation on being able to score quick and often head-turning knockouts. In recent years however, Bivol has evolved into more of a technical boxer/puncher having not scored a knockout since stopping Sullivan Barrera in March 2018. Bivol has nevertheless continued to be dominant against the opposition that has been placed before him in the years since as it has been rare to see him lose a round during the course of a fight. Bivol will come into this fight off of a successful title defense in December of last year when he scored a twelve round unanimous decision over Umar Salamov in his native Russia.
While the evolution of Bivol’s skillset should be viewed as something that will allow him to extend his career long-term, the challenge for the champion coming into what will be his ninth title defense against the most high-profile opponent he has faced in the biggest fight of his career will be whether he can impose his will on Alvarez early. Alvarez’ recent bouts have all come against fighters who had natural size and theoretical physical strength advantages over him. Despite this, fighters such as Kovalev, Callum Smith, and Caleb Plant all failed to make the fight be fought on their terms and Alvarez was able to subsequently have his way with all of them.
Although at this point in his career Alvarez is more interested in bouts that will serve as helping secure his legacy, by moving back up in weight, he will be facing a fighter who is also naturally bigger, but it will be up to Bivol to drive that point home and force Alvarez to fight him on his terms. While it is fair to ask whether Alvarez moving up and down in weight depending on what opportunities are available to him will eventually catch up with him as it has to other fighters, for now, the key for opponents like Bivol will be to prevent him from getting into a rhythm and dictating how the fight is fought. Dmitry Bivol has proven in his recent fights to be a highly skilled boxer, but I feel that if he is to be successful in this fight he needs to establish that he is the harder puncher in addition to the crucial point of dictating the combat and not allowing Alvarez to be for lack of a better term, in the driver’s seat as this fight progresses.
In terms of what is at stake for Alvarez beyond the opportunity to become a two-time Light-Heavyweight world champion is a third encounter with Gennady Golovkin the current unified IBF/IBO/WBA Middleweight world champion, who Alvarez fought two memorable battles against in 2017 and 2018, with a draw being rendered in the first fight and a highly controversial decision victory for Alvarez in the rematch. Golovkin did his part to set up a potential third encounter with Alvarez by stopping WBA world champion Ryota Murata in Japan in April. While the possibility of a third encounter still happening later this year should not be dismissed even if Alvarez were to lose to Bivol, Golovkin will obviously be an interested spectator as this fight takes place.
As for the decision by DAZN to test the waters of pay-per-view for this fight in North America, it remains to be seen whether it will be one that will be beneficial to the network in the long-term. It should be noted the difficulty the network has experienced with their pay-per-view ordering system as this fight approaches. In the interest of full disclosure with the reader, as someone who covers the sport remotely due to physical limitations and inability to travel, much like the average consumer, I do rely on whatever is available in order to do what I do. In anticipation of potential problems seeing as this is DAZN’s first attempt using a pay-per-view model, I have spent the better part of three weeks trying to get an order processed for this bout through DAZN’s website, Roku and Apple TV apps so I can cover the bout with no success. In the days prior to writing this column, I made one final attempt at ordering the bout and was able to do so through DAZN’s mobile app. While I am still unsure as to whether my order was processed as I write this column, I felt it would be responsible for me to at least mention the difficulty I have had trying to order the Bivol-Alvarez event as to hopefully inform readers of potential issues they might incur using DAZN’s new ordering system for these sporadic events.
The potential issues for DAZN in terms of their ordering system aside, the decision to test out pay-per-view aside, the fight between Dmitry Bivol and Saul Alvarez does figure to be an interesting and perhaps tactical battle once the two world champions get in the ring to do battle. Whether or not Alvarez moving up and down in weight depending on opportunity ends up working against him in this fight also remains to be seen. With a potential mega third encounter with Gennady Golovkin looming, we will see if Dmitry Bivol can spoil those plans.
“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”
Bivol vs. Alvarez takes place on Saturday, May 7th at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, NV. The bout can be seen in the United States and Canada on DAZN Pay-Per-View through the DAZN streaming app for $59.99 for current subscribers, $79.99 for new subscribers and will also be available via traditional cable/satellite providers with a one month subscription to DAZN included with purchase. The DAZN streaming app is available on mobile, tablet, and connected streaming devices, platforms, and Smart TVs. Outside of North America, the bout will be available as part of an existing DAZN subscription excluding Mexico and Latin American Countries. The card will begin at 3:15PM ET/12:15PM PT with the DAZN Boxing Show, which will feature preliminary bouts. The Main card will begin at 8PM ET/5PM PT (*U.S. Times Only). For more information about DAZN including schedules, list of compatible streaming devices/platforms/Smart TVs, availability around the world, local start times in your area, and to order and subscribe please visit: www.DAZN.com.
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