The premium cable boxing battle of 2013 is over, more or less, with just one more Showtime card remaining (Broner-Maidana this Saturday night), and nothing left for HBO. The networks did largely avoid going head-to-head on Saturday nights in 2013, but sometimes it can't be helped. This past weekend, the final head-to-head battle took place, and HBO narrowly won in average viewers, but the discussion is bigger than that, and specifics are needed.
Jake Donovan broke down the numbers at BoxingScene.com, so let's sort of analyze what we've got here.
HBO Boxing After Dark
- Average Viewers: 518,000
- Matthew Macklin vs Lamar Russ: 401,000
- James Kirkland vs Glen Tapia: 718,000
- Guillermo Rigondeaux vs Joseph Agbeko: 550,000
Showtime Championship Boxing
- Average Viewers: 489,000
- Sakio Bika vs Anthony Dirrell: 446,000
- Erislandy Lara vs Austin Trout: 429,000
- Devon Alexander vs Shawn Porter: 515,000
- Zab Judah vs Paulie Malignaggi: 640,000
A couple of really important notes.
These shows basically gutted the audience numbers for both sides, but if you combine the two averages, you're at 1.007 million, which is still pretty low, honestly, but not terribly far off the average HBO numbers these days (and HBO is still consistently the higher-rated network for boxing, though it's Showtime making strides; really, more people are watching boxing right now, or at least more people are watching boxing that isn't on HBO).
Rigondeaux-Agbeko was the lowest-rated Boxing After Dark main event in the 17-year history of the series. This isn't all that surprising, since we know that Rigondeaux is a terrific fighter but simply not a star. Fans in Atlantic City left before and during that fight, and in noticeable large numbers. There is no arguing that unless you are a true purist -- which is fine, but with that comes accepting your status as the minority when it comes to anything, not just boxing -- the bout was exceedingly boring. It was barely tolerable even for folks who have a strong stomach for a dull fight, since many fights are dull. And if you ask me, the blame goes more to Joseph Agbeko than it does Rigondeaux artistically, since Agbeko did absolutely nothing out there. That wasn't Rigondeaux's fault.
There is some debate about what HBO should do with Rigondeaux now, but to me the answer seems fairly simple. Either he fights on undercards and accepts that that's just the way it is, or he doesn't get televised, unless you can get him fights with guys who are the real A-side in terms of the interest, if not the talent. Joseph Agbeko's a good fighter, but has no fan base. He didn't help this at all, and it's not like it was a mystery going into this fight. We knew very well already that Rigondeaux cannot carry a main event without significant help. Even those defending Rigondeaux would have had to admit that.
Mostly, I'd say this all played out about as anyone could have guessed it would have. The two sides split, they came up more or less even, and Rigondeaux's big stinkeroo ratings performance was, in the end, still the third-highest of seven televised bouts. When you consider that none of these numbers are impressive, it's hard for me to zero in on Rigondeaux as some big failure by his lonesome.