Dan Rafael: HBO

HBO and Showtime cards hurt each other

December, 17, 2014
Dec 17
So who won the battle of the two fight cards on Saturday in Las Vegas -- HBO’s tripleheader at the Cosmopolitan headlined by the Timothy Bradley Jr.-Diego Chaves draw (terrible decision) or Showtime’s quadrupleheader at the MGM Grand headlined by Amir Khan’s brilliant near-shutout performance of Devon Alexander?

Based on the viewership figures, it seems to me that it is basically a draw. While both did OK neither set the world on fire in their respective viewership universe. It is my opinion that the fact that most of the shows went head-to-head hurt both of them.

The main events, both in the welterweight division, were essentially on opposite each other and, according to Nielsen Media Research, Bradley-Chaves averaged 966,000 viewers for the live, first-time airing, peaking at 1.087 million. Bradley-Chaves was the 15th most-watched fight on American television this year. HBO has televised the top 13 and 14 of the top 15 while the only Showtime fight in the top 15 is No. 14, Danny Garcia-Mauricio Herrera from March.

Keeping in mind, of course, that HBO is in several million more homes than Showtime, it is no surprise that Bradley-Chaves had more viewers than Khan-Alexander, which averaged 762,000 viewers and peaked at 887,000. But Khan-Alexander’s average placed it sixth out of Showtime’s 13 “Showtime Championship Boxing” telecasts this year. Not bad, but not great. Without Bradley-Chaves on opposite it, it seems logical to think Khan-Alexander would have drawn far more viewers given the name recognition of both fighters.

The HBO opener, junior welterweight Jose Benavidez Jr.’s absolute gift decision against Herrera, averaged 807,000 viewers, peaking at 905,000. The co-feature, Andy Lee’s big sixth-round knockout of Matt Korobov to win a middleweight title averaged 787,000 viewers and peaked at 849,000 viewers.

Over on Showtime, the co-feature of welterweight Keith Thurman’s shutout of Leonard Bundu averaged 650,000 viewers, featherweight Abner Mares’s fifth-round stoppage of Jose Ramirez averaged 566,000 viewers and junior middleweight Jermall Charlo’s third-round knockout of Lenny Bottai averaged 451,000 viewers.

So both cards saw their audiences grow throughout the night -- a good thing -- but neither drew numbers all that great.

Showtime was pleased that the overall viewership for the four-fight event was on par with its “Showtime Championship Boxing” average for 2014.

HBO is pleased that it had a 44 percent viewership advantage for its event over Showtime’s for the night, even if the Bradley-Chaves main event was down about 13 percent from the average for HBO’s “World Championship Boxing” main events in 2014.

In the end fans got a good night of fights but would have been better served it seems had the cards not competed head to head in a sport that is already too marginalized to have major events against one another.

Hopkins-Kovalev a viewership hit

November, 11, 2014
Nov 11

Despite starting at about midnight on the East Coast, Saturday night’s light heavyweight title unification fight between Bernard Hopkins, one of boxing’s most well-known fighters, and Sergey Kovalev, one of the sport’s fastest rising stars, still delivered a strong viewership number.

The bout averaged 1.328 million viewers for HBO’s live first-time airing, according to Nielsen Media Research.

That has to be music to the executives' ears, as it ranks as the second-most viewed fight in the United States in 2014, with little remaining on the schedule that would appear capable of threatening the mark. Only the rematch between super middleweights Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. and Bryan Vera had more viewers, averaging 1.390 for the fight on March 1.

Hopkins-Kovalev peaked at 1.397 million viewers, who saw Kovalev score a first-round knockdown and win a shutout decision against the 49-year-old legend to unify three 175-pound title belts.

The fight made a big leap from an audience tuned in for the opening bout of the telecast, a welterweight scrap between Sadam Ali and Luis Carlos Abregu, which averaged 882,000 viewers. Ali won by ninth-round knockout.

HBO has televised the top 13 most-watched fights of the year in the United States.
Demetrius Andrade, Brian Rose Ed Diller/Star BoxingJunior middleweight contender Demetrius Andrade, right, will have his next fight on Showtime.
Goodbye, HBO. Hello, Showtime.

Junior middleweight Demetrius Andrade, one of the most talented young titleholders in boxing, is making the move from one network to the other, according to sources with knowledge of the deal.

It is unclear if the agreement is for multiple fights, but Andrade’s move comes just a couple of weeks after junior middleweight star Canelo Alvarez traded in his Showtime gear for an exclusive deal with HBO.

Andrade (21-0, 14 KOs) will make his second title defense on Showtime on a date to be determined in December -- either the 6th or 13th -- and likely will face one of the Charlo twins, Jermall or Jermell, both 154-pound contenders. Which brother will get the shot has apparently not been determined.

Andrade, 26, of Providence, Rhode Island, has had his last two fights on HBO, winning his world title against Vanes Martirosyan in November and making his first defense in June, a seventh-round knockout of mandatory challenger Brian Rose, a fight in which Andrade looked spectacular against an overmatched opponent.

But with Andrade’s co-promoters Artie Pelullo and Joe DeGuardia -- neither of whom wanted to talk about the Showtime move -- unable to get anywhere on a fall date for Andrade on HBO (meaning a major difference of opinion on the money), they negotiated the deal with Showtime. HBO holds matching rights to Andrade’s next bout, but it has not pressed the issue and seemingly will allow Andrade to walk across the street without interfering.

Initially, the promoters and HBO explored the possibility of Andrade facing Matt Korobov for a vacant middleweight belt on the Dec. 13 Timothy Bradley Jr.-Diego Chaves undercard in Las Vegas. HBO liked the idea of Andrade moving up in weight to join the fray at 160 pounds, where it does a lot of fights. But when the money couldn’t be agreed on, Andrade’s camp decided he would remain at 154 pounds for the time being. With no significant fight in that weight class to be made, HBO’s interest waned. While HBO probably would have found a spot for him, even at junior middleweight, it was not in the same ballpark on the money.

HBO and Showtime both declined to comment.

Provodnikov has date, needs foe

October, 1, 2014
Oct 1
Bradley, ProvodnikovKevork Djansezian/Getty ImagesRuslan Provodnikov, right, is headed back to Russia for his next bout.
Banner Promotions boss Artie Pelullo spent much of last week in Russia working out arrangements for the return of former junior welterweight titlist Ruslan Provodnikov, the “Siberian Rocky,” who has not fought in his home country since 2011.

Pelullo is back in the U.S. and told ESPN.com that Provodnikov will face an opponent to be determined on Nov. 28 in Moscow. The overseas fight was made necessary because of HBO’s unwillingness to give a fall date to Provodnikov, who has drawn some of the network’s highest viewership figures for boxing in his recent fights, which are typically action-packed.

Instead, HBO offered an undercard slot on a non-Banner card -- Nov. 8 on the Bernard Hopkins-Sergey Kovalev show -- for very short money. Provodnikov and Pelullo said no thanks.

Provodnikov lost his belt via disputed split decision to Chris Algieri, who got knocked down twice in the first round, on June 14 in the fourth-most viewed fight of the year in the United States so far. For his return fight, Provodnikov wanted to fight at junior welterweight, but Pelullo said the upcoming bout would be a welterweight fight.

“All of the opponents we’re looking to get, none of them can make 140 pounds, and this is not a world title fight, so Ruslan will probably fight between 145 and 147,” Pelullo said. “Right now the opponent is up in the air, but we are talking to three or four guys. I can tell you who turned the fight down for very good money.”

Pelullo said Mauricio Herrera, who handed Provodnikov (23-3, 16 KOs) his first loss in 2011 and in March lost a controversial decision challenging champion Danny Garcia, and former world titleholder Zab Judah rejected offers for the fight.

“I offered them both $400,000, five airline tickets, hotel rooms for 10 days, everything they needed, and then I went to $500,000,” Pelullo said. “They both turned down a half million dollars. I started at $400,000 and then I went to $500,000 and then I said no more. I also said I would put in the contract that there would be neutral officials since the fight would be in Ruslan’s home country.”

Pelullo initially talked to HBO about matching Provodnikov with several of Top Rank’s prominent fighters, including titleholder Jessie Vargas, Brandon Rios and former titleholder Timothy Bradley Jr. in a rematch of the 2013 fight of the year. But Top Rank declined to seriously discuss any of those bouts.

No word yet on whether there will be American television for Provodnikov’s fight.

Oscar opens up about Canelo deal

September, 29, 2014
Sep 29
Golden Boy Promotions president Oscar De La Hoya said the main reason Mexican superstar Saul "Canelo" Alvarez opted to return to HBO when he signed an exclusive multifight agreement with the network last week -- and dumped Showtime, his TV home for the past five fights, in the process -- was because he wanted to be with HBO.

Alvarez, a former unified junior middleweight titleholder, received a handsome offer to remain with Showtime but "Canelo didn't want to hear it. He wanted to be with HBO," De La Hoya told ESPN.com on Sunday night. "The big problem I had was Canelo wants to fight on Cinco de Mayo weekend and he wants Sept. 16 [weekend]. Those are the big Mexican holidays, and he doesn't want to be second to nobody.

"I was stuck between a rock and hard place. Saul wanted to go with HBO, and HBO really wanted him. When you have a 24-year-old fighter who knows that he is the next superstar and has it in his head that he wants to go to HBO, it's a difficult position for me to be in because, obviously, we do a lot fights on Showtime."

Pound-for-pound king Floyd Mayweather Jr., whose win against Alvarez in September 2013 set numerous all-time boxing revenue records, is in the midst of a six-fight contract with Showtime and is its priority, not Alvarez. And Mayweather has been fighting on the May and September pay-per-view dates, even when he is not facing a Mexican opponent. Alvarez wants to fight on those dates, and HBO plans to help De La Hoya make that happen.

"I have to do what Canelo asks me to do," De La Hoya said. "I'm not going to jeopardize my relationship with Canelo. The biggest factor for him was being second to nobody. So that's what I did -- I made the deal with HBO, where he won't be second. You're dealing with someone who is 24 years old. He's a superstar in Mexico and realizes his potential in the States. He has another 10 years to go, and he wants to capitalize as much as he can."

When the deal was finalized, Showtime Sports chief Stephen Espinoza lashed out in several interviews, saying De La Hoya was "deceitful" and had reneged on a verbal agreement to sign Alvarez with Showtime.

De La Hoya said that is "100 percent not true, but I'm gonna take the high road and not even go there because, obviously, the ultimate decision was leaving it up to my fighter, and the ultimate decision was made to go to HBO. HBO came with a huge offer, but the deciding factor wasn't the huge offer. It was in Saul's head that he wanted to be with HBO."

Although HBO and Golden Boy did not make the terms of the deal public, sources told ESPN.com it's a three-year deal that calls for at least one live HBO fight per year, with the others ticketed for HBO PPV.

Alvarez is supposed to open the deal Dec. 6 on regular HBO at a location to be determined, perhaps Houston. No opponent is signed, and, although former welterweight titlist Joshua Clottey has been linked to the fight, De La Hoya said Alvarez could face brawler James Kirkland, who recently turned down a fight with Gabriel Rosado for Nov. 8 on HBO's Bernard Hopkins-Sergey Kovalev telecast.

"Absolutely, it's a possibility. Maybe Kirkland," De La Hoya said.

De La Hoya was due to be in New York by Monday night and said he planned to meet with Alvarez and HBO this week to talk about the particulars of the December fight.

De La Hoya added that he hopes the Alvarez deal with HBO won't negatively impact his dealings with Espinoza and Showtime, which has been the exclusive home to Golden Boy's major fights since HBO booted the company off the network 18 months ago -- before ironing things out in the past few weeks.

"I have Leo Santa Cruz signed to Golden Boy, I have Deontay Wilder signed to Golden Boy, I have 'Kid Chocolate' [Peter Quillin] signed to Golden Boy. We have business to do," De La Hoya said, naming three boxers who have been regulars on Showtime. "But I didn't have those fighters calling me every day saying they wanted to be with HBO, so we have business to do and fights to make. This is nothing personal.

"When I said I wanted to work with every promoter and deal with all the networks and make good fights, I think this is another indication that I am dead serious."

Lawsuit vs. Canelo headed to mediation

September, 24, 2014
Sep 24
The big news of the week as it relates to Canelo Alvarez and Golden Boy Promotions is that they are headed back to HBO after Alvarez signed a multifight contract this week for the network to once again televise his bouts on both the regular network as well as HBO PPV.

Alvarez had been fighting on rival Showtime for the past two years in the wake of a falling out between HBO and Golden Boy, one that stemmed, in large part, from HBO opting for the Sergio Martinez-Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. fight on HBO PPV in September 2012 (on Mexican Independence Day weekend) instead of supporting an Alvarez fight.

Getting less publicity than Alvarez’s new deal, however, is the ongoing lawsuit filed by All-Star Boxing promoter Felix “Tuto” Zabala Jr. against Alvarez and Golden Boy.

The crux of the suit, filed in Miami-Dade circuit court in Florida in early 2011, is that Zabala contends that he signed Alvarez to a four-year promotional deal in 2008 and that Golden Boy interfered and stole the fighter. Zabala is seeking millions in punitive damages.

These kinds of cases typically move at a snail’s pace, but there has been some movement in the Alvarez one. The sides are scheduled to meet for mediation in Miami on Friday. If there is no resolution via mediation, a trial is scheduled to begin on Dec. 8, two days after Alvarez is tentatively scheduled for the first fight of his HBO deal.

Canelo headed back to HBO?

August, 29, 2014
Aug 29
Alvarez/LaraJosh Hedges/Getty ImagesCanelo Alvarez could make HBO his next home in November or December.

In late 2013, when Richard Schaefer still ran Golden Boy Promotions, he and Canelo Alvarez announced that Alvarez would fight three times on Showtime PPV this year: March 8, July 26 and Nov. 22.

Indeed, Alvarez knocked out Alfredo Angulo on March 8 and then outpointed Erislandy Lara, albeit on July 12. Both were on Showtime PPV and both did solid numbers -- a little over 300,000 buys -- considering Alvarez had never before headlined a pay-per-view as the A side of the promotion.

But fight No. 3 of this year? Well let’s just say things aren’t what they were a year ago.

Schaefer resigned as Golden Boy CEO, Oscar De La Hoya has taken the day-to-day reins of the company and he is also quietly trying to repair the company’s fractured relationship with HBO, the network that basically put Golden Boy in business and the network on which De La Hoya became a mega PPV star. It is also the network that grew so tired of dealing with Schaefer and adviser Al Haymon, who controlled many of the fighters on Golden Boy’s cards, that HBO banished Golden Boy fighters from the network.

Canelo isn't going to go pay-per-view. We don't want to saturate the market. He's willing to go live on either Showtime or HBO. We'll see. Maybe another network. He has no contract with any network.

-- Golden Boy vice president Eric Gomez
And although Showtime has been the exclusive home for Golden Boy’s biggest cards since, behind the scenes there are issues, namely that many of those cards Golden Boy puts on are controlled by Haymon, and De La Hoya isn’t happy about it. Why else do you think we saw the Danny Garcia-Rod Salka/Lamont Peterson-Edgar Santana mess?

Most of Haymon’s fighters who regularly appear on Showtime are not under contract to Golden Boy, even though GB promotes the cards. This was one of the issues that came between De La Hoya and Schaefer.

There was a recent thaw in the Golden Boy/HBO relationship a few weeks ago when it made a deal to televise the Nov. 8 light heavyweight unification fight between Bernard Hopkins, who is with Golden Boy, and Sergey Kovalev, whom HBO has under contract.

As it relates to Alvarez, he is under contract to Golden Boy and not involved with Haymon. And he got his start on premium cable on HBO and, this is most significant, his biggest fight looms with middleweight champion Miguel Cotto, who is aligned with HBO, which plans to carry Cotto's Dec. 13 title defense against an opponent to be determined on HBO PPV.

Alvarez met in recent days with Golden Boy executives to talk about his next fight and I am telling you there is a good chance that it winds up on regular HBO (and not Showtime or Showtime PPV). That would be a big deal and would likely deliver a huge viewership number for HBO.

“We had a very good meeting with Canelo and we’re talking with him about opponents,” Golden Boy vice president Eric Gomez told ESPN.com on Friday. “We’re actually waiting for the date. He gave us a couple of dates and we’re looking into everything. But he wants to fight late November or early December. We have to work on it.”

The opponent is not set, but it is no secret that Alvarez could face big banger James Kirkland, whose last fight was on HBO (a knockout last December against Glen Tapia in a wild brawl).

Then Gomez caught me by surprise when he added, “Canelo isn’t going to go pay-per-view. We don’t want to saturate the market. He’s willing to go live on either Showtime or HBO. We’ll see. Maybe another network. He has no contract with any network. We’re working on things.”


That is the first time in a lonnngggg time that anyone in a position of authority has specifically stated that Alvarez was a television free agent and, further, used the H-word (HBO) in relation to his future.

It leads me to believe, without question, that Alvarez is likely headed back to HBO for his next fight. I believe it would be part of a deal that would also lock Alvarez into HBO for multiple fights, including a potential spring or summer 2015 showdown with Cotto for the middleweight title.

Let’s look at the late November and early December schedule, which means Nov. 15, Nov. 22, Nov. 28, Dec. 6 or Dec. 13.

Nov. 22 is out because that is Manny Pacquiao’s HBO PPV date with Chris Algieri. Nov. 28 is out because that is already ticketed for Terence Crawford’s next lightweight title defense on HBO. Dec. 13 is out because that is Cotto’s HBO PPV date.

That tells me that if Alvarez returns to HBO, it means a fight on either Nov. 15, which would be a huge telecast on which to promote Pacquiao’s PPV, or Dec. 6, which would be a great way to promote Cotto’s PPV the following week and remind people that wins by Alvarez and Cotto could lead to the super fight after that.

Now that Top Rank, Cotto’s promoter, and Golden Boy, Alvarez’s promoter, say they are ready, willing and able to make fights together, a Cotto-Alvarez fight could get done on HBO PPV without the involvement of Haymon, whom Top Rank does not work with.

All of this is not to say that Showtime couldn’t make a big offer to keep Alvarez for his next fight, but if I were a betting man here’s my take: Alvarez returns to HBO for a fight on Nov. 15 or Dec. 6 with the big payoff coming in May (Cinco de Mayo weekend) or June (Puerto Rican Day Parade weekend) for the biggest fight in boxing this side of Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Manny Pacquiao.

Check back with me in a few months to see how well my crystal ball works.
Daniel JacobsDavid Doonan/Hoganphotos/Golden Boy PromotionsDaniel Jacobs would welcome the opportunity to fight middleweight sensation Gennady Golovkin.

Middleweight contender Daniel Jacobs faces serious business when he meets Jarrod Fletcher of Australia for a vacant belt Saturday night (Showtime, 9 ET/PT) at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, Jacobs’ hometown.

While winning the title would mean a lot to both Jacobs and Fletcher, the fact is they are vying for the WBA’s second-tier "regular" title, because the WBA absurdly has sometimes handed out as many as four titles in the same weight class and often doles out at least two.

Everyone knows that Gennady Golovkin holds the organization's top title and that he is probably also the best middleweight in the world.

So, naturally, Jacobs (27-1, 24 KOs) was asked for his views on an eventual fight with GGG, a growing attraction in New York, should he beat Fletcher for the JV title.

Jacobs said he would welcome the fight, although given the politics it's a tough one to make because Golovkin is under contract to HBO and Jacobs has been fighting on Showtime and is with adviser Al Haymon, whose fighters are not welcome on HBO at this point.

But we can still talk about it right?

"I think it will be huge," Jacobs said. "It's an opportunity that I would love to have to fight him. I also think that he's already a superstar and I think I want to have the opportunity to be a superstar myself. So, I think that if I can maybe get a couple of fights, maybe [fellow New Yorker and titleholder] Peter Quillin or someone like that and then go up to Golovkin, that's something that I would look forward to doing.

"But initially, right after the win, I mean, I'm not really in control of who I fight. But if I had it my way I would probably get me a couple of fights just to solidify that spot and to secure my name and be considered a superstar in the division and a big play in the division as well, so we can go ahead and make the fight."

Two weeks ago, Golovkin (30-0, 27 KOs) retained his title for the 11th time as he destroyed former titlist Daniel Geale in the third round at New York’s Madison Square Garden. Jacobs said he saw the fight and was impressed by GGG but believes he is beatable.

"I think his performance was great. I think what everyone else thinks," he said. "I think that the hype is real only in the sense that he's doing what he's supposed to do. Whether or not I believe in the hype, that's a different story. I see flaws in his game, but his power is tremendous and Mike Tyson used to say you can have all the game plan in the world until you get hit and that changes your whole perspective.

"You definitely have to be aware of his power, but I do see a whole lot of flaws in his game as far as his defense and his ability to move his feet and [his] being flat-footed. So, if there is a possibility that we can fight, I'll look forward to it."
Guillermo Rigondeaux and Sod KokietgymChris Farina/Top RankJunior featherweight Guillermo Rigondeaux is calling out Leo Santa Cruz.

Unified junior featherweight champion Guillermo Rigondeaux was ordered to begin negotiations with mandatory challenger Chris Avalos on Friday.

The sides have 30 days to make a deal, otherwise a purse bid will be ordered. Either camp can also decline to negotiate and ask for an immediate purse bid. The minimum offer is $100,000.

Rigondeaux (14-0, 9 KOs), a two-time Cuban Olympic gold medalist, is coming off a first-round knockout of Sod Kokietgym in Macau on July 19 in his fifth title defense, which was embarrassingly relegated to UniMas’ weekly boxing show because HBO, which aired fights from the card on HBO2, declined to show Rigondeaux because of how boring his fights usually are.

The fight was the last on Rigondeaux’s promotional contract with Top Rank, although his deal with co-promoter Caribe Promotions is ongoing. Top Rank has said it has no intention of re-signing Rigondeaux to a contract with the same high-minimum purses as the one he just completed. But Avalos (24-2, 18 KOs) is with Top Rank, so Rigondeaux possibly could do another fight with the company, although it's unlikely that HBO would pick it up.

But rather than face Avalos, Rigondeaux would prefer a higher-profile unification fight with Leo Santa Cruz, the brawler who throws 100-plus punches a round and has been a staple on Showtime.

“I'm Super Champion WBA/WBO/The Ring 122lb and challenge u @leosantacruz2 to see who's the King,” Rigondeaux tweeted a few days ago.

That tweet may have been in response to Santa Cruz (27-0-1, 15 KOs), who a few days earlier tweeted at Rigondeaux about his interest in a unification fight.

“We train 100 percent in the gym to give the fans great fights,” Santa Cruz tweeted. “We are ready to fight @RigoElChacal305 any time any place. We aren’t afraid to fight anybody. I love all my fans. Thank you for the support.”

NEW YORK -- Middleweight titlist Gennady Golovkin took care of business inside the ring when he knocked out Daniel Geale in the third round of a dominant performance to retain his title for the 11th time (and score his 17th consecutive stoppage) on Saturday night at Madison Square Garden.

The day before the fight, Golovkin took care of his business outside of the ring when he signed a multi-fight contract extension with HBO, K2 Promotions managing director Tom Loeffler told ESPN.com following the fight.

“We are looking forward to continuing our long-term relationship with HBO,” Loeffler said. “They've invested a lot in Gennady, and we feel they are the best television partner we could have to help take his career to the next level.”

The deal calls for a minimum of four fights, although the Geale bout was the first one under the contract. The agreement also has provisions for overseas fights and potential pay-per-view fights, meaning there could be far more than four bouts. The bottom line is that all of Golovkin’s fights, wherever they may take place, will be on HBO or HBO PPV for the foreseeable future.

The fight with Geale was supposed to be the final bout of Golovkin’s previous agreement with HBO, but the terms for Saturday’s fight were renegotiated, and the old deal was ripped up and replaced by the new deal.

Since making his HBO debut in September 2012, Golovkin’s star has steadily risen, as have his viewership figures, which are among the network’s best for boxing. Golovkin (30-0, 27 KOs) has fought five of his last seven fights on HBO, with his two overseas fights in Monaco not being on the network, which took some criticism for not showing his February fight with Osumanu Adama. That won’t happen again under this agreement.

HBO declined to comment on Golovkin’s contract, saying it won’t talk about its multi-fight agreements -- the same stance it took when it declined to discuss the exclusive deals it has recently made with Manny Pacquiao and Sergey Kovalev.

Golovkin is expected back in the ring for one more fight this year, likely in October or November.

Crawford-Gamboa ratings a hit

July, 1, 2014
Jul 1
Lightweight titleholder Terence Crawford's exciting ninth-round knockout of Yuriorkis Gamboa in his first defense on Saturday night was a fight of the year candidate. It was also the second-most viewed fight of the year so far on American television, according to Nielsen Media Research, further enhancing Crawford's emerging star status.

Not only did Crawford draw a raucous crowd of 10,943 (and an approximate $500,000 live gate), the fight, Crawford's first pro fight in his hometown of Omaha, Nebraska (and the first world title fight there in 42 years), attracted an average audience of 1.208 million viewers to HBO for the live, first-time airing. The fight peaked at 1.286 million viewers.

By comparison, Crawford-Gamboa nearly doubled the audience of the previous week's Showtime main event between Robert Guerrero and Yoshihiro Kamegai, another all-action fight, which averaged 614,000 viewers.

The only fight this year to have had more viewers than Crawford-Gamboa was the super middleweight rematch between Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. and Bryan Vera, which averaged 1.39 million viewers for their HBO fight on March 1 in San Antonio. HBO has televised the top eight most-viewed fights this year. Crawford was fighting on HBO for the third time, but in his first main event.

The less-than-compelling co-feature between middleweights Matt Korobov and Jose Uzcategui, both in their first HBO fights, averaged 929,000 viewers and peaked at 1.066 million.

Also of note, even though there was a free HBO preview this past weekend, those viewers do not count in Nielsen's viewership figures, which means even more people surely saw the fight.
Chris Algieri's stirring and controversial split-decision victory against Ruslan Provodnikov on Saturday night at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, drew a strong audience, perhaps making it more likely we will see a rematch later this year.

According to Nielsen Media Research, the bout was the third-most viewed on cable so far in 2014. The live, first-time airing averaged 1.046 million viewers to HBO, ranking only behind two other HBO-televised fights, Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.-Bryan Vera II and Juan Manuel Marquez-Mike Alvarado. Algieri-Provodnikov peaked at 1.110 million viewers.

The top seven cable fights in 2014 have all been on HBO.

Provodnikov and his trainer, Hall of Famer Freddie Roach, both said after the fight that they are interested in a rematch of a fight that many thought Provodnikov (who scored two knockdowns in the first round and badly damaged Algieri's right eye) won.

Artie Pelullo told ESPN.com that there is a rematch clause in the contract that is at his "sole discretion" and that he and Provodnikov will talk about what they want to do. Based on the viewership figures and the bout's entertainment value, HBO figures to be interested.

The overall HBO telecast averaged 954,000 viewers, making it the network's most-watched edition of "Boxing After Dark" so far this year.

Demetrius Andrade's seventh-round knockout of Brian Rose to retain a junior middleweight title averaged 882,000 viewers.

The telecast opened with a replay of the previous week's Miguel Cotto-Sergio Martinez middleweight championship fight on HBO PPV. The replay averaged 970,000 viewers and peaked at 1.126 million.

Quillin caught up in cold war

April, 22, 2014
Apr 22
Peter QuillinGeoff Burke/USA TODAY SportsWithout impressing fight fans, Peter Quillin, right, won an unanimous decision against Lukas Konecky.
WASHINGTON -- Since “Kid Chocolate” Peter Quillin won his middleweight world title in October 2012, dropping Hassan N’Dam six times and winning a decision in an exciting fight, his opponents in three defenses have not exactly inspired much excitement.

Quillin has won the fights easily, by knockout against Fernando Guerrero and Gabriel Rosado and a near-shutout decision against outclassed Lukas Konecny in a tedious fight that drew heavy booing from the crowd Saturday night at the DC Armory.

If there is any fighter who is a clear victim of the frigid political landscape in boxing with HBO having banished Golden Boy Promotions and Al Haymon fighters from the network, it’s Quillin, who is on Showtime, which has almost nobody of significance for him to fight barring Floyd Mayweather Jr. or Canelo Alvarez perhaps looking to move up to middleweight to challenge for his title.

Meanwhile, HBO has contracts with middleweight champion Sergio Martinez and fellow titleholder Gennady Golovkin, the two best fighters in the division.

Those two are clearly the most interesting potential opponents for Quillin, but when sitting down with reporters at ringside after the card Saturday night, he said he would not let the lack of those fights get to him.

“Golden Boy will try to get whatever opponent they can for me," Quillin said. "I’m an American champion. A lot of those other guys, they come to our country to fight over here to fight in our homeland, and I’ve always said I was hoping to fight Sergio Martinez, Gennady Golovkin, all these different guys, but it’s not really my fault, the political thing going on. All I have to do is keeping doing me.

“We over here on this network [Showtime] looking for guys for me. I got 31 professional fights. At this point, I can’t worry about who I am gonna fight. I only worry about staying ready and being in shape. I’m gonna take one week off, and then I’ll be back in the gym.”

Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer said he is open to making a fight with any of the top guys, even if it means having Quillin on HBO, where he appeared before the network kicked Golden Boy to the curb.

“If Golovkin wants to have a fight with Peter, then what they should do is that they should make us an offer,” Schaefer said. “That would be a start.”

With Martinez scheduled to fight Miguel Cotto on June 7 and Golovkin seemingly headed for a July showdown with Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. at super middleweight (as long as Chavez can iron out his deal with Top Rank, which has been difficult), that leaves Quillin (31-0, 22 KOs) with few choices.

The most probable opponent is Golden Boy and Haymon stablemate Daniel Jacobs, 27, who lives in Brooklyn, N.Y., as does the 30-year-old Quillin.

“Danny would like the fight, the Barclays Center would like the fight, and Peter is the kind of guy who fights anyone as long he gets properly compensated and it’s a challenge,” Schaefer said. “That’s definitely a possibility. But if [K2 Promotions and HBO] want to do a fight with Golovkin, let’s do it.”

Jacobs (27-1, 24 KOs) was ringside for Quillin’s fight Saturday. He called it while filling in for regular Showtime analyst Paulie Malignaggi, who was on the card getting knocked out by welterweight titlist Shawn Porter.

“If it's Danny Jacobs and they want to make a fight right there in Brooklyn, well, I live right up the street from the Barclays Center,” Quillin said. “It won't take me long to get there. I'll drive my Corvette and drop the top on it when I go.

“I think Danny is special. Danny had his shot to glory when he fought for the same belt [I have] against Dmitry Pirog [in 2010], and Danny had his time to shine. Now it’s my time to shine. The spotlight is on me. My job is not worry about the guy who is trying to get that spotlight.”

Jacobs was a big favorite against Pirog but got knocked out in the fifth round in their bout for the vacant belt that Quillin eventually won against N’Dam.

Quillin suggested that Jacobs doesn’t deserve the shot at him and should fight Curtis Stevens, another Brooklyn middleweight contender, for the right to get the title shot.

Either way, Quillin’s dance card looks to be a bit barren for the time being.

Kovalev-Agnew tops 1M viewers

April, 2, 2014
Apr 2
Light heavyweight titlist Sergey Kovalev is as exciting as any fighter out there these days. He’s a knockout machine, so even though Cedric Agnew, Kovalev’s opponent last Saturday night, was totally obscure, not very accomplished as a professional and something like a 38-to-1 underdog, people still tuned in for Kovalev’s first HBO main event.

According to Nielsen Media Research, the live first airing of the fight drew 1.006 million viewers, who saw Kovalev dominate and score three knockdowns en route to a seventh-round knockout.

The audience peaked at 1.048 million viewers, which I view as pretty darn good, especially when you consider that the vast majority of the attention of the sports world was on the NCAA tournament, and the HBO card, which was horrible on paper, did not get all that much publicity.

Kovalev’s main event showed a significant increase on the 742,000 viewers who tuned in for the desultory welterweight fight between Thomas Dulorme and Karim Mayfield that opened the show.

Now just imagine what kind of numbers Kovalev could do if he had an elite opponent? Paging super middleweight champion Andre Ward.

Froch-Groves II to air on HBO

February, 28, 2014
Feb 28
When super middleweight titlist Carl Froch and British countryman George Groves met on Nov. 23, HBO had hoped to televise the fight from Manchester, England.

However, that was the same day that Manny Pacquiao was facing Brandon Rios on HBO PPV in Macau, meaning HBO had to pass on the fight.

[+] EnlargeFroch-Groves
Scott Heavey/Getty ImagesCarl Froch got off the canvas to score a controversial stoppage over George Groves during their first fight last November.
As it turned out, Froch (32-2, 23 KOs), trailing on all three scorecards, got a ninth-round knockout victory against Groves (19-1, 15 KOs) when referee Howard John Foster made one of the most controversial stoppages in recent boxing history in what otherwise was a highly entertaining battle.

Foster's stoppage was so egregious that when Groves protested to the IBF, which sanctioned the bout for one of Froch's titles, the organization ordered an immediate rematch and called Foster's action "inappropriate conduct."

So when the rematch was made for May 31 -- site in the United Kingdom to be determined -- the question was would HBO televise the fight in the U.S. the second time around?

We got the answer on Friday and it was a good one -- yes. HBO said it finalized a deal with promoter Eddie Hearn for the American broadcast rights to the bout and will air the fight live in the afternoon.

"Carl Froch vs. George Groves is an exciting rematch that boxing fans around the globe are going to enjoy," HBO Sports president Ken Hershman said in a statement given to ESPN.com. "We are delighted that HBO is going to be able to televise the fight live in the United States. This shapes up as an important fight in the super middleweight division."

Hearn told ESPN.com he was happy to get the deal done after being unable to do so for the first fight.

"I'm over the moon to agree a deal with HBO to televise this fight," Hearn said. "This fight is one of, if not the biggest fight in British boxing history and it's great news for U.S. fight fans they will get the chance to see it live on HBO. If you need a trailer, then watch the first one."

The fight is Sky Sports pay-per-view event in the U.K.