Streaming service DAZN is building a heavyweight team of announcers and ring analysts to call its fights. DAZN is in final negotiations to sign boxing legend Sugar Ray Leonard and veteran boxing announcer Brian Kenny, sources tell Sporting News.
Leonard waged epic ring battles with top opponents such as Roberto Duran, Thomas Hearns and Marvin Hagler. The 1976 Olympic gold medalist was the first boxer to win world titles in five different weight classes. Since hanging up the gloves, he has called boxing for HBO, ESPN, NBC, ABC and Fox.
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Kenny, the former ESPN “SportsCenter” anchor, currently hosts “MLB Now” on MLB Network, where he is well-known for his crusading support of sabermetrics, but he has extensive experience covering the sweet science as a blow-by-blow announcer. He also hosted ESPN Classic’s original series “Ringside.”
Last August, Leonard and Kenny teamed up to analyze boxing champion Floyd Mayweather Jr.’s victory over UFC superstar Conor McGregor in Las Vegas.
DAZN has already added longtime ring announcer Michael Buffer to its stable. Chief executive officer James Rushton announced at the service’s U.S. kickoff event in July that it had reached a deal with Buffer to bring his “Let’s get ready to rumble” call to all fight nights.
A spokesman for DAZN confirmed the over-the-top streaming service is “in the final stages of securing talent” to call the 16 cards where DAZN U.S. has production rights. DAZN’s new announce team will likely debut Sept. 22 at London’s Wembley Stadium, where world heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua will take on challenger Alexander Povetkin.
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The final decisions on talent hiring will be made by John Skipper, the ex-ESPN president who recently joined Perform Group as executive chairman, and Rushton.
Boasting deals with Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom Boxing, mixed martial arts promotion Bellator and the World Boxing Super Series, DAZN will debut in the U.S. on Sept. 10. The service will cost $9.99 per month, with one free month.
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Skipper predicted DAZN’s monthly pricing model will “disrupt” the expensive pay-per-view boxing model that has disappointed U.S. fight fans for decades.
“It is a fabulous economic proposition. Do you want to pay $100 to see a pay-per-view fight, or do you want to get a $100-a-year subscription to a service and get 100 fights and some mixed martial arts and some other content?” Skipper told SN in July . “It’s a great economic proposition. There’s no reason that a million people won’t say ‘Yes’ to that.”
DAZN (pronounced Da Zone) is also talking with Kay Adams of NFL Network’s “Good Morning Football” about a host role, sources said. Ryan Glasspiegel of The Big Lead first reported Adams’ talks with DAZN.
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