Crossover boxing is here to stay, at least for one prominent player.
Earlier this week, DAZN, the sports streaming platform, announced a five-year deal with Misfits Boxing, the promotional company headed by prominent social media figure KSI, who was one of the first YouTubers to try his hand at professional fisticuffs.
DAZN arguably kickstarted the recent fad of YouTubers donning gloves in 2019, when it presided over a contest between KSI and fellow YouTube star Logan Paul. Supporters say "YouTuber Boxing" helps attract new eyeballs for an ailing sport, while critics point out the potential risks in sanctioning fights between inexperienced competitors.
Joe Markowski, an executive vice president at DAZN, hopes their collaboration with KSI and Misfits will become a reliable key component of their overall subscription business, from darts to women’s soccer. DAZN’s involvement in combat sports stems primarily from its partnerships with Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom and Oscar De La Hoya’s Golden Boy.
“I think it’s fantastic and I’m really excited that we’ve been able to get a long-term commitment to it,” Markowski told BBC 5 Live Boxing. “We’ve been in this space since 2019 and I always felt like DAZN gave birth to this level of crossover boxing because we had the first mega event in this space with Logan Paul against KSI. It was great. Then we had the first Jake Paul professional fight, I think, in February of 2020, at Super Bowl weekend in Miami. And of course, Covid disrupted the sports industry hugely and that was one of the projects that got on the backburner a little bit for us.
“But we always knew that we wanted to come back in a more meaningful way to this space and we maintained relationships with all the key players accordingly. And those relationships have paid off because we’re now in a five-year relationship with what we think is the most professional operation in this space in Misfits. We are delighted with the partnership with Wasserman Boxing and the Sauerland brothers. We are delighted with the involvement, and it is really a learning involvement, of KSI. He’s obviously a marketing wizard and very committed crossover boxing participant and fan and we’ve got many opportunities over the next five years to build this thing into something really interesting. It’s a really relatively clean slate."
DAZN's deal with Misfits arrives as it has largely pivoted away from its efforts to gain control of the American boxing market, a venture many have regarded as a failure, including its former chief, John Skipper, who once characterized the company's aggressive expansion into boxing in the US as a "miscalculation."
DAZN, which continues to see high costs outpace revenue, apparently sees lucrative potential in crossover boxing.
“We want to learn from lots of different sports properties, entertainment properties," Markowski said. "We want to learn from their core business on YouTube and on social media, and so it’s a sort of blank canvas that we can build into a really powerful, positive contribution to the DAZN business, so I’m really excited about it.”
DAZN will stream a crossover event this Saturday in London headlined by a cruiserweight fight between KSI and FaZe Temperrr. KSI was originally scheduled to face mixed-martial-artist Dillon Danis but Danis pulled out of the bout.