By Jake Donovan
HBO’s month-long absence from the sport was well preserved for its strong 4th quarter lineup. In back-to-back weekends, the network posted the two highest-rated live cable-televised boxing shows for 2013.
Miguel Cotto’s 3rd round stoppage win over Delvin Rodriguez this past Saturday in Orlando, Florida played to the tune of 1.555 million viewers, the most viewed live cable boxing telecast of the year according to Nielsen Media Research. The mark eclipses that of the previous season high, set just seven days prior when Julio Cesar Chavez Jr’s disputed decision win over Bryan Vera drew 1.416 million viewers.
Both events carried a similar theme – the ring return of popular boxing figures following a lengthy layoff. Unlike Chavez Jr’s ratings pull—which played in front of a half-empty venue following a year-long absence due to a suspension, injuries and poor training habits—Cotto was a smash hit on the tube as well as the box office, with upwards of 11,000 crammed into the Amway Center for his first career fight in Orlando.
Cotto’s ring return came after a 10-month hiatus, also serving as his first live appearance on HBO’s flagship station since June 2010, when he stopped Yuri Foreman in nine rounds to win a 154 lb. belt. His points loss to Austin Trout last December aired live on Showtime, giving the network its highest-rated boxing telecast for 2012.
The win over Rodriguez helped the Puerto Rican superstar snap a two-fight losing streak as he advanced his ring record to 38-4 (31KO). His post-fight announcement of all future fights being negotiated through Top Rank suggests that the rest of his career will play out on HBO or its pay-per-view arm.
Saturday's broadcast also featured lightweight prospect-turned-contender Terence Crawford in a 10-round points win over Andriy Klimov, as well as same-day replay of Wladimir Klitschko's 12-round decision over Alexander Povetkin in their heavyweight championship, which aired live on HBO earlier in the day.
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.