The move to DAZN is a major coup for the streaming service and lucrative for Joshua
Two-time heavyweight world champion Anthony Joshua will confirm this week that he is cutting ties with Sky Sports after nine years as a pay-per-view star with the broadcaster and will switch allegiance to sports streaming service DAZN, the new and increasingly influential player in the digital era in the sports entertainment market.
There are huge riches ahead, and ambitious plans for fights around the world, including in Africa. Joshua’s first assignment under the new DAZN deal is an attempt to win back the IBF, WBA and WBO belts from his nemesis Oleksandr Usyk, who befuddled the champion with his boxing skills in London last September to usurp the heavyweight titles.
The two heavyweights will meet for the sequel in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia on either August 13 or 20, sharing a pot of over £100 million. The date and venue, again, will be made official this week. It will be a pay-per-view event for UK viewers on the DAZN platform owned by the billionaire businessman Sir Len Blavatnik.
Telegraph Sport understands that Joshua’s deal with DAZN is a multi-year, multi-fight deal – with the requirement of two fights a year – with DAZN looking to build the biggest contests around the British heavyweight, who holds the ambition both to come back against Usyk, and build a lasting legacy in the sport. Telegraph Sport also understands that the deal with DAZN is huge, a 9-figure US dollar deal, with upside and puts his earning capacity over the next three to five years potentially running into hundreds of millions of dollars.
DAZN has already entered into such a partnership with Mexican boxing star Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez. But Joshua, still viewed as a huge marketing and promotional brand by DAZN, must get back to winning ways. Usyk, stylistically represents an awkward and challenging task, the most difficult opponent in boxing’s blue riband division apart from Tyson Fury, the WBC heavyweight champion, but DAZN has full faith in Joshua’s following and his reach, that even were he to lose to the Ukrainian in the Middle East in two months’ time, there are fights out there which can still garner an audience to pay per view events, and to draw in subscribers.
Why have DAZN and Joshua aligned now? Joshua’s deal with Sky was up, and the fighter – originally from the Finchley amateur boxing club – has both mainstream appeal, and the public curious to witness whether there is a huge comeback story to follow. DAZN, which is becoming a growing force not just in boxing, but in football, see the drama and theatre of fight sports as a way of drawing the general sports fan to its burgeoning portfolio.
The UK market remains an important capture for that reason, and Joshua, succeed or fail, resonates with British sports fans. Conversely, the departure of Joshua from Sky Sports is a huge loss for the broadcaster. When promoter Eddie Hearn left Sky Sports for DAZN last June, announcing a five-year deal as their exclusive broadcast partner in the UK and Ireland, the writing was on the wall. Hearn and Joshua have very close ties.
At the behest Hearn, Joshua has been promised the riches of both huge paydays and major contests globally, under DAZN which could include fights with Fury, major events in the USA and the homeland of his parents in Nigeria – imagine a fight with Deontay Wilder there – entitled ‘Chaos in Lagos’, perhaps? – as the two knockout merchants go toe to toe on the African continent aping the most watched fight in history ‘The Rumble in the Jungle’ between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman in Zaire, in 1974.
It is part of DAZN’s “guerrilla warfare” tactics on the industry, led by the machiavellian skills of Hearn, who genuinely dares to reach for new frontiers in the sport. Hearn carefully manicured Joshua’s career from amateur stardom to world champion by his sixteenth fight, and in spite of a first defeat against Andy Ruiz in New York – avenged in Saudi Arabia in 2019 – and the defeat against Usyk, there are mega-fights outstanding against Fury, Wilder, Dillian Whyte, Joe Joyce, Daniel Dubois and others in the division.
Underlying the new deal, and the fight with Usyk, Telegraph Sport understands that DAZN will attempt to draw Fury into a contest with Joshua regardless of whether the former Olympic super heavyweight gold medallist from the London Games ten years ago wins – or loses – against Usyk.
Hearn, speaking of Joshua this week, said: “I believe AJ [Joshua] will become champion again. The news on his broadcast deal will be made official next week. He has made his decision. The world and his dog wanted him, he’s one of the biggest stars in the sport. Sky were desperate to keep him. DAZN were desperate to have him. So we had to make the right decision for Anthony on many levels, and we are all comfortable with his final choice.”