By Jake Donovan
The ratings results for the ring return of Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. suggests that either absence makes the heart grow fonder, or there’s nothing viewing audiences prefer more than a good old-fashioned train wreck.
Chavez Jr’s points win over Brian Vera—marred in controversy both before the fight and once official scorecards were read—generated an average viewership than 1.4 million viewers throughout Saturday’s live broadcast on HBO from Carson, California. The figure makes the event the most watched cable fight of 2013, according to Nielsen Ratings reports.
The event took a major hit during fight week, when it was revealed that Chavez Jr.–who already postponed the bout and had the weight limit moved up–could not make the super middleweight limit. Promoters Bob Arum (Chavez Jr.) and Artie Pellulo (Vera) negotiated a deal that granted Vera a handsome six-figure surplus to allow the fight go on at a maximum pre-fight limit of 173 lb.
Chavez Jr. went on to win a 10-round decision, in a fight that most viewers believed should have either been scored a draw or in favor of Vera, who entered the fight as a massive underdog.
The tally eclipses that of the year’s previous high, which also aired on HBO. Adrien Broner's stoppage win over Gavin Rees–his last bout on the network before defecting to Showtime–averaged 1.398 million viewers over the course of the five rounds of action this past February.
Saturday’s headliner marked Chavez Jr’s first fight since Sept. ’12, when he came within one punch of knocking out lineal middleweight king Sergio Martinez. The unforgettable 12th round was the lone competitive moment in an otherwise landslide decision, resulting in Chavez Jr’s first loss. Adding insult to injury was the result of the post-fight drug test, which revealed traces of marijuana in the second-generation fighter’s system, resulting in a lengthy ban and hefty fine.
Chavez Jr.–Vera was part of a split-site doubleheader. In the opening leg of the telecast, light heavyweight king Adonis Stevenson scored a stoppage over former titlist Tavoris Cloud after seven rounds. Their portion of the show–which aired live from Montreal, Canada–drew 1.177 million viewers, according to Nielsen.
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com, as well as the Records Keeper for the Transnational Boxing Ratings Board and a member of Boxing Writers Association of America.