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Signs of Summer

by M.G. Siegler


Three Heavyweights and the Boxing Revolution

Kelefa Sanneh on the current state of boxing:

But then things got complicated, as things in boxing so often do. Last year, Joshua, who had previously competed on Showtime, moved to DAZN. In February, Fury signed up with Top Rank, which means he now fights on ESPN. And in March, Wilder rejected an offer from DAZN—reportedly more than a hundred million dollars for three fights—in order to stick with Showtime. The outcome was perfectly predictable, and perfectly absurd: the top three heavyweights are now affiliated with three different broadcast platforms. Each platform, having invested in its heavyweight, has an incentive to keep him away from the competition. (No executive wants to see one of his biggest stars competing on a rival network.) So all three are fighting, but they are not fighting each other. On June 1st, on DAZN, Joshua faces Andy Ruiz, Jr., a competent contender. And on June 15th, on ESPN+, an online-only network, Tyson Fury faces an obscure German contender named Tom Schwarz. The Wilder-Fury rematch has been postponed indefinitely.

Interesting that while for years, there was ridiculous fragmentation of the titles in boxing because of the politics behind all the various boxing federations, which all had their own belts. And in this new world order, well past boxing's prime, we still have said fragmentation, but it's driven by the various networks and streaming players (to be fair, a lot of it was always driven by the television rights, but crazy that this is getting worse).

It's little wonder the HBO got out of this business last year, especially when you consider this:

Such bouts sometimes attracted as much as one-third of HBO’s domestic subscriber base, which was roughly 15 million people at the time. Now that base is roughly 40 million, but according to Nielsen, HBO boxing telecasts in 2018 averaged about 820,000 viewers, or about 2 percent of the total audience.


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