Pairing Canelo Alvarez and LeBron James for the creation of the DAZN docuseries “40 Days” has raised the profile of the new streaming service and established a formula for content that officials are bullish on.
“As a fighter, it pleases me, motivates me and encourages me, because it will put more eyes on us,” Alvarez said. “As fighters, we should all appreciate that.”
DAZN Group executive chairman John Skipper and executive vice president of content Jamie Horowitz, formerly of ESPN and Fox, respectively, merged the styles of HBO’s former fight-preview series “24/7” and ESPN’s wider-ranging “30 for 30,” which uses award-winning filmmakers, in developing the documentary series “40 Days,” which will devote episodes to various boxing matches and starts with a co-production with James and business partner Maverick Carter’s Uninterrupted media company focusing on Alvarez-Jacobs.
“This is representative of what we’ll do with all of our signature fights,” Horowitz said of the celebrity-driven project, which will continue this year with episodes preceding the U.S. debut of three-belt heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua on June 1, the DAZN debut of Gennady Golovkin on June 8 and Alvarez’s planned September bout, which James and Carter will again produce.
DAZN’s vision, as the bouts progress, is to align the fighters with celebrity influencers linked to production companies. The influencers must be boxing fans, Horowitz said, and DAZN has reviewed celebrity guest lists and footage from major fights to ensure that’s the case.
James and Carter have been constant ringside observers at major fights when it doesn’t conflict with the three-time NBA champion’s basketball schedule.
Carter said James is drawn to boxing by its “mano-a-mano” nature.
“You’re squaring off with one other person, and once you’re in that ring, there’s no hiding,” Carter explained. “You survive or quit. And that level of strength, endurance, focus and mind-set is admired by every single athlete.
“This is the purest, most difficult, most amazing sport to see. No substitutes. You’re singularly focused on one man. That focus is not found in other sports. And the stakes of boxing — one mistake in football is an interception, and one in basketball is a turnover — but a mistake in boxing can be a knockout and you have to go to the hospital. The attention to detail is not seen in any other sport.”
In the debut episode, Uninterrupted producers sought to show Alvarez as more than an athlete by going to Guadalajara, Mexico, to visit the first gym Alvarez trained in and showing him belting out a Mexican song with trainer Eddy Reynoso on a flight from New York to Mexico during a promotional tour.
“We got great stuff from Canelo, and that’s to the credit of the team — for what we do,” Carter said. “We were able to see him as a person and find him in his comfort zone, and when you get him there, he’s a very intriguing and compelling human being.
“Every athlete is bigger — and cares about more things — than their single sport. We want to continue empowering athletes, telling amazing stories and empower viewers, so that they absolutely get a feel and understand what these athletes have been through, and feel something, too.”
Although the three-division champion’s boxing skill and standing as Mexico’s most popular fighter has made Alvarez one of the sport’s leading draws, his hesitancy to speak publicly in English has limited a complete breakthrough.
In its second episode, however, “40 Days” captures Alvarez speaking English in pre- and post-fight meetings with stablemate and prospect Ryan Garcia at a bout in Indio last month.
“Two fighters just talking about the art of boxing,” Horowitz said. “Canelo shows him how to finish somebody, and it’s a beautiful little moment.”
Jacobs is seen in his Brooklyn neighborhood of Brownsville walking through the streets in a Yankees cap, reminiscing with old friends at a barber shop and recounting the paralysis he suffered in 2011 because of a cancerous tumor that wrapped around his spine.
“They did a really good job. There was no bias in how they portrayed me. It represented me well,” Jacobs said.
At one point in the first episode, Jacobs acknowledges that he’s found contentment in surviving cancer to become a middleweight champion — “my life had purpose,” he says — but he also reveals dark thoughts that invade a fighter’s mind.
“I want to embarrass him. I want to hurt Canelo. My job is to do as much damage as I can,” he admits. “This is why people love the sport of boxing.”
With the Lakers on vacation, James has pointed his 42 million Twitter followers to the “40 Days” series.
“The intersection of a global superstar like Canelo with a global superstar like LeBron — that’s interesting to people,” Horowitz said.
DAZN executives are hopeful the streaming service, available at $19.99 per month or $99 with an annual pass, will surpass 1 million subscribers following the Golovkin bout. Joshua’s and Jacobs’ promoter Eddie Hearn emphasized at Wednesday’s news conference that Alvarez-Jacobs is the “pivotal” event for that mission.
Live fights and other sporting events have the potential to drive DAZN’s business, but content like “40 Days” and the potential for future talk shows will build those audiences and retain subscribers. The “40 Days” model is expected to influence future DAZN docuseries as it pursues rights deals in other North American sports.
Next up for “40 Days” is building a bond between Joshua and the American sports fan base before his first fight on U.S. soil, against former title challenger Andy Ruiz of Imperial, Calif., at New York’s Madison Square Garden.
“Content can be a helpful way to introduce Anthony to boxing fans in the U.S. who may not be intimately familiar with him, and pairing Anthony with a U.S.-based influencer can super-charge that process,” Horowitz said. “Anyone who’s met Anthony quickly gets not only how strong and talented he is, but how charming he is.”