WHATEVER you may think of Anthony Joshua’s performance against Jermaine Franklin at the weekend – and there have been a wide variety of takes on it – the Brit can surely mark it down as job done. He won comfortably and, in the later rounds, seemed to be regaining some of the confidence and doggedness he’s been apparently lacking in recent years. And that seemed to be the goal: get back to winning ways and begin the process of rebuilding under new trainer Derrick James.
The objectives of broadcaster DAZN also appeared to be alarmingly transparent: hype Joshua up at every opportunity and shove their upcoming schedule as far down viewers’ throats as possible. The amount of promotion DAZN did of their own programming during this show was staggering.
And they gave themselves plenty of opportunity to do it – the undercard was sparse and there was a lot of dead time in between fights. Some of that was filled by Laura Woods getting the views of Tony Bellew and Dillian Whyte, but even that got stretched thin and by the time the main event rolled around it was clear they had run out of things to say about it. Outside of that, the rest of the time in between fights was dedicated to promoting everything DAZN, whether it was rather bland interviews with fighters at ringside or advertisements plugging DAZN Boxing merchandise.
At one point, there was just a segment with Eddie Hearn in the ring rattling off every upcoming show on DAZN’s schedule (though he did forget to mention Gervonta Davis vs Ryan Garcia, the most interesting fight on their current slate) and rather enthusiastically claiming that no other broadcaster comes close. DAZN, at least in the UK, does currently have a healthier schedule than other broadcasters, though that isn’t a particularly high bar at the moment. Globally, ESPN has an argument for the better schedule with fights like Stephen Fulton-Naoya Inoue and Devin Haney-Vasiliy Lomachenko on the horizon.
The point is, boxing fans aren’t paying and tuning in to be told what’s coming up. They’re paying to watch fights. Preferably good ones. On the one hand, this was an Anthony Joshua card and so it makes sense for DAZN to try and capitalise on the expected larger-than-usual audience and drum up more subscriptions. On the other hand, this was an Anthony Joshua card. This was an opportunity for DAZN to show – not tell – those more casual viewers what they can expect with a subscription and they blew it.
There were constant advert breaks, filled to the brim with gambling ads, and viewers on social media were pleading with DAZN to broadcast some sort of action – even classic fights from the archives – during the dead air on this card. That does not exactly scream “value for money.”
When the fights on the card were taking place, DAZN’s coverage was generally very good. Mike Costello and Andy Lee on commentary are a terrific pairing. When Howard Foster stopped the fight between Fabio Wardley and Michael Coffie ludicrously early, both the DAZN commentary and punditry teams did not shy away from it and called out the poor decision.
Costello and Lee did come under some fire online for their commentary during the main event with viewers claiming they were too biased toward Joshua. It is true that they were perhaps a bit too flattering of his work, though they did also highlight some of the mistakes he was making. Lee often spoke of how “flat-footed” he was being and how at times he was too “static.” Bellew’s unofficial scorecard of the fight was certainly too skewed in Joshua’s favour but, on the whole, there was nothing egregious in DAZN’s coverage.
In the ring after the fight, Joshua made light of the bizarre post-fight ramble he broke into after his second loss to Usyk and kept things more level-headed this time around. He stated it would be “an honour” to fight for the WBC title Tyson Fury currently holds but interestingly was reluctant to actually mention Fury’s name. In post-fight interviews, however, he did stress how keen he is to fight the ‘Gypsy King’.
It was interesting to read through the various online reports of Joshua’s win on Sunday. Obviously the main takeaway was that he won, but the vast majority of these reports – particularly from national newspapers and websites – focused on the fact that Joshua didn’t stop Franklin. The Telegraph even referred to Joshua as a “lame duck” after his performance.
It’s worth noting that most did expect Joshua to beat Franklin inside the distance, so highlighting his inability to do so in the aftermath is not completely unfair. But the rhetoric around Joshua in the wake of this fight highlights that expectations – and indeed pressure – are still incredibly high.
For years Joshua has been the face of British boxing and has, in many ways, transformed the sport in this country. He has been held to a standard that almost no other fighter has. After losing three of his last five contests heading into this one, you would think that would change but that doesn’t appear to be the case. He is still expected to be this emotionless destroyer, immune to the ups and downs of his blockbuster career.
Lastly, Don McRae – writing for The Guardian – proved once again why he is one of the most lauded sports writers on the planet. After uncovering details about a potential revival of the fight between Chris Eubank Jnr and Conor Benn taking place abroad, in a separate feature McRae took a close look at how promoter Eddie Hearn has dealt with the issue of doping over the past few years. It is, frankly, a necessary read for any serious boxing fan and highlights several glaring issues within the sport.
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