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Boxing Variety Showcased at Madison Square Garden in DAZN’s Debut

Benjamin Block

December 16, 2018

The weather conditions that settled over Madison Square Garden Saturday night toggled between an uneventful calm and an eventful unrest, which seemed to perfectly underscore the boxing action that transpired inside the world’s most famous arena.

Sustained moments of tepid action by veteran brawler Mauricio Herrera, bookended by the ferocity of rising star Ryan Garcia and technician-like power and speed by the brilliance of Canelo Alvarez, largely summed up the evening. 

While most boxing cards strive to emulate this sort of variety, Saturday was made even more special because everything that unfolded did so on the debut of DAZN — the newest streaming service to join a recent trend in how boxing is being broadcast.

Along with the end of the 45-year run of HBO Boxing, no longer are the days when fight fans will be asked to fork over upwards of $80 or more just to watch a big contest. The roll out of DAZN’s promotion asks fans to pay $9.99 a month in exchange for ongoing combat sports entertainment. 

At the helm of this monumental shift in boxing consumption is Golden Boy Promotions Chairman and CEO, Oscar De La Hoya. And if this may seem ironic to you, that’s because it is. 

De La Hoya is someone who built his hall-of-fame boxing career by headlining on HBO pay-per-view cards, but the fighter-turned-promoter didn’t hesitate or mince words when he spoke Thursday at a press conference.

“Pay Per View is dead. I’m actually happy to announce that Pay Per View is dead,” De La Hoya emphasized with deliberation. 

The details of Golden Boy’s deal with DAZN have not been disclosed, however, the contract that De La Hoya facilitated for his superstar fighter Alarez have been: five years, 11-fight deal worth a minimum of $365 million. 

When you consider that Alvarez’s deal makes him the highest paid athlete in sports history, and throw in how the first of his 11 bouts under the DAZN banner was also his first-ever fight at Madison Square Garden, Saturday night was a success for all involved.

And on this evening of firsts, Canelo assaulted Rocky Fielding with punishing blows and well-placed kidney shots, resulting in a third-round technical knockout to the delight of 20,112 in attendance.

Alvarez — fighting up in weight class at 168 pounds — captured the WBA super middleweight title, making it the third time that he’s won a belt in a different weight division.

Several fights earlier on the Canelo-Rocky undercard was Golden Boy upstart, Garcia. Rumored to be equally famous for his Instagram following as he is for his unblemished record in the ring (16-0, 13 KOs heading into Saturday’s fight), Garcia wowed the predominantly Mexican crowd, securing his 17th win by way of his 14th knockout, as he got past a pesky Braulio Rodriguez.

Garcia, also making his Garden debut, punctuated his win with an inspired message, specifically tailored to the Mexican fans in attendance and watching on DAZN.

“I may not speak Spanish, but I got the Mexican blood in me and that’s all that matters. Viva Mexico! Let’s go!” he screamed to the shrieking fans.

Garcia, who is drawing comparisons to De La Hoya from many in the boxing community because of his good looks and meteoric rise, is expected to fight for a world championship in 2019.

Herrera, conversely, who followed Garcia in the ring, showed that he was just trying to keep his name in lights.  Arguably, the 38-year-old’s career arc came in 2014 when he defeated Johan Perez for the WBA interim light welterweight title four months after he lost a highly controversial decision to Danny Garcia for the WBC, WBA (Super) and The Ring light welterweight titles.

As Herrera explained from his hotel a few blocks from the Garden — which seemed like a few miles away from the press conference staging in the bowels of the arena — he was resigned to the thought that it simply felt good to be back fighting after a nearly 17-month hiatus.

“I just wanted to kind of soak it all in. I was taking my time in the fight at times, not throwing anything, but just trying to get really… I think at this stage in my career you learn every fight. And this fight I finally got to be really comfortable in the ring. Even though it wasn’t a spectacular fight and all that action, I got to be a little bit at peace in the ring and felt comfortable. But I knew the layoff was hurting because I couldn’t… I was hesitating to throw shots and felt actually really strong, like, ‘man I can really hurt this guy’ but it just wouldn’t let through.” 

People ask me all the time what it is about boxing that I like, and I often search for the words to explain why it is so exciting and interesting to me. However, nights like Saturday, I think, help bring into focus what I sometimes struggle to articulate.

Three fighters on the same card, all at very different stages of their careers, with different goals and takeaways, sharing in one of the oldest and simplest acts of fighting for oneself. 

That’s what I saw exemplified Saturday night.

But, since this is not always the case when boxing cards are pieced together, I think DAZN might be onto something with their model of an inexpensive monthly subscription as a way to both popularize boxing, but also offset its constant struggle to capture and hold onto mainstream interest.

listen: Buster Douglas & espn's jeremy schaap and Ben Houser

December 9, 2018

 Former heavyweight champion of the world James "Buster" Douglas joined me to relive his upset over Mike Tyson in 1990. ESPN Emmy award winning filmmakers Jeremy Schaap and Ben Houser also came on to discuss their interest in Douglas and shared passion for finally telling his story.

listen: Longtime boxing and baseball journalist Rich mancuso

December 1, 2018

Rich Manucso joined me on the eve of the Deontay Wilder-Tyson Fury heavyweight championship fight to talk boxing, but we also discussed everything Mets and Yankees before the two New York ball clubs approached the baseball winter meetings.

Listen: Yankees WFAN beat reporter sweeny Murti

September 23, 2018

In this episode, Sweeny and I talk about the ups and downs the Yankees have had this season, and preview potential playoff scenarios. I hope you enjoy the episode, and as always, please review and subscribe to my podcast.

1/23/18: The Hard Truth

In my experience as a member of the media — albeit only six years — it’s discouraging that the journalism landscape has become overrun with slideshow “articles” and “top-10 reasons why...” pieces.

In spite of this reality, as a storyteller, I am very fortunate to have met Influential people in media and editors at highly-visible publications (all will remain nameless). However, virtually every one of them has confessed some version of the following to me:

To paraphrase...“You can be the most amazing writer, and secure the best interviews, but if you don’t have a huge social media following, none of it matters.”

While I always get different answers about what constitutes a “huge” following, I constantly wonder — is this true?

Have the values of hiring editors and PR hustlers disintegrated so much that their idea of what readers want to consume is solely based on a writer’s following, shallow content and a “click bait” headline?

Perhaps nobody cares about a good story anymore. But I do. And I know that puts me in the minority.

Yet, I don’t ignore the social media aspect of journalism, I just refuse to trade in quality writing for cookie-cutter articles with the purpose of creating pseudo controversy.

I’ll leave you with this.

Ever wonder why you can remember events in history, but not always the dates? Simple. Because our brains process stories better than facts.

So if you’re looking for a great storyteller, contact me!


1/14/18: What's your story of success? HINT...It's not hard work and talent alone

Everybody has a story. And I've poured thousands of hours into drawing such stories out of my clients and subjects. The one constant they all have in common?  Hard work and talent often has very little to do with who they are and where they are today.

I recently heard two examples that reinforced this to me, which I thought I'd share with you. 

One came in the form of a question issued by President Obama

The other was a statement made by WFAN Sports Radio's Steve Somers

President Obama — informally sitting opposite David Letterman on the comedian's new Netflix show — pressed the former Late Night host about whether he'd ever asked himself, "Man, am I lucky?"  Adding context to the question, the President explained how he's heard countless people attribute their success to hard work and talent, but that he always found that reasoning to be a bit hollow. And I agree. Many people work tirelessly and are talented, but never make it. What the president was trying to draw out of Letterman was whether he felt that an element of chance/serendipity was involved in his success. And Letterman told a story that illustrated how he has been nothing but lucky his whole life, which he preceded by telling the President that this was the biggest thing he is struggling with in his life right now. It was a profound example of how luck and circumstance can shape someone. More importantly, I learned more about Letterman in that moment than I had reading or listening to interviews he gave about his professional successes the past thirty years.

Steve Somers — the longest tenured radio host on New York's famed WFAN Sports Radio station — is known to listeners simply as, "The Schmooze." He often drips with wit, uncanny metaphors, wildly funny misdirections and satire. Somers is the voice of the people, in this writer's humble opinion. Well, one night a young caller identified himself as an aspiring sports journalist, and sought the Schmooze's advice about how to make it. Somers offered a lot of thoughtful positive reinforcement, and urged the young man to not let all the "no's" he'd inevitably hear along the way break his spirit. And what began as advice for this young man, turned into a story of Somers' personal journey. Then he said something that resonated with me. "I’ve been in work signing an autograph and out of work signing an unemployment check."  That singular statement made me think about President Obama's theory — there has to be an element of chance involved in a person's success. It just can't solely be hard work and talent. It just can't be.

So, what's your story? 

Ready to dive deeper than just plain old examples of hard work and talent? 

Contact me!