Eddie Hearn and Matchroom’s “game changing” move to DAZN from Sky Sports was hardly unexpected to any fans paying much attention. This week, though, when the promotional outfit and the online broadcaster announced the new fight week/ night presenting and commentary team, it was both surprising and pleasing. So much so it was even met with adulation on Twitter, which is a cruel mistress more often than not.
I first met Chris Lloyd while working for Hellraiser Boxing with Mickey Helliet. Chris was on commentary for a few shows we did, and I would do the post fight interviews. Since then Chris’s devotion to his work has seen him go on to, with all due respect, bigger things than York Hall Southern Area fights and this week he was confirmed as part of the new DAZN set up along with his sidekick, former IBF World Middleweight Champion, Darren Barker.
Chris describes himself, probably rather understatedly, as “extremely happy” at this new move for him. When I ask what he’d consider the biggest moment of his career, there is no hesitation, “being announced as part of the DAZN team. I felt like my efforts over the last 10 years have been vindicated. Calling Inoue versus Donaire comes a close second, it was a commentator’s dream!”
The classic, brilliant Inoue battle with Donaire was a treat, and as someone who does some commentary too (mainly thanks to Lloyd’s help) I would have been shocked if Chris hadn’t mentioned that experience. I was a little giddy with joy for him watching it and just a little jealous too, I’m not ashamed to admit. Only a bit.
Having done pretty much every presenting and punditry position for fight shows, Chris admits his “strength – and preference – is commentary.” This might come as a surprise to viewers who enjoy his bromance and screen chemistry while presenting with Barker, someone he describes as “such a great friend… I’m the calm one and he’s the excitable one, but we laugh non stop. I think that comes across on screen; we try to be informative but have fun with it. When you watch us, you’re just watching two mates who are huge boxing fans, doing the best job in the world.”
This huge new gig has not come from nowhere. For anyone aspiring to work in punditry, presenting or commentary, Chris is brutally honest about how hard it has been for him get to be part of the DAZN movement, admitting it was,
“Harder than expected… Ultimately, there’s no shortcut to gaining the experience you need. You’ve just got to be persistent and do your homework. Preparation is the key. When I sit down at the desk for a broadcast, I need to know more about the fighters and the fights than anyone else watching. There are some very knowledgeable fans out there, they keep you accountable, and it’s them I’m talking too. If you’re light on prep, the fans know.”
Just in case you were wondering what persistence and homework involves, brace yourself for a quick rundown of Lloyd’s boxing CV.
“Over the last decade, I’ve called around 2000 contests, starting at white collar shows, moving through small hall promotions, youth amateur, ABA tournaments, amateur international, 3 seasons of WSB, 2 years travelling Europe for the Sauerlands, then onto Matchrooom’s world feeds, and here we are! I’ve gone through a proper apprenticeship.”
Fresh from an adventure in Mexico for Matchroom and DAZN’s new Latin American arm in unison with Saul “Canelo” Alvarez, where he got to enjoy some stunning views of Mexico City, a huge bath and some seriously lovely looking Tequila, Chris can see where this huge move might benefit both the fans and Matchroom brand.
“With DAZN havin'g global rights in so many territories it offers Matchroom a much broader horizon of fighters to invest in. With Sky the focus was on pushing the best British fighters, but with DAZN the focus can now be on finding and showcasing the best fighters in the world and building stars, regardless of where they’re from.”
British boxing fans have been paying £1.99 a month so far for access to DAZN’s content, and there is plenty of it; I am one of those, signing up for Canelo’s dominant win over Callum Smith last December. My only complaint of the platform is it was too tailored to the American market. While I am not a fan of Adam Smith and Matthew Macklin’s repetitive schtick on commentary, the Yanks do love to talk stats and not read the fight as seen. They don’t tell a story so much as read you the shipping forecast.
The new DAZN line up had me salivating for one, main reason. A reason Chris is also excited for.
“I think there’s a great mix of high profile names who’ll bring eyes to the product, and expert analysts. The centre pin is – of course – Mike Costello. He brings such a wealth of knowledge and the highest level of journalistic integrity. We’ve been blessed to have him call some of the biggest fights in the world on radio, to hear him over moving pictures will be something really special.”
Could. Not. Agree. More. I just hope it isn’t the death of Costello and Bunce’s BBC podcast, my favourite boxing audible. With over a decade seeing the fight game up close, I wonder whether Chris thinks promoting might be something he’d be keen on. It’s a blunt reply.
“No. I have huge respect for them all, but promoting is a hard game, and I’m more than happy with my role in boxing.”
Best of luck to Chris and the whole, new DAZN team. Personally the announcement has made me more excited and keen to keep watching than I was before it. Dedicated but humble, humble, with any luck this could all lead to Lloyd’s ultimate aim,
“To call the biggest fights in the world. I’m nowhere near the finished article and I know that. If my work is good enough, if I earn the trust of the fans and if the powers that be deem I’m the right person, then I’d love to eventually be calling the biggest fights in the world. But only when the time is right, and it isn’t quite yet.”
He’s a long way from York Hall now, stay tuned, Lloyd’s dream come true, could come soon.