By Keith Idec
The ratings reflect how much more competitive the Miguel Cotto-Sadam Ali fight turned out to be than the boxing public’s perception prior to it taking place.
Ali’s upset of Cotto in the Puerto Rican legend’s farewell fight Saturday night drew a peak audience of 1,012,000 viewers and averaged 944,000, according to ratings released Tuesday by Nielsen Media Research. Only one bout broadcast by either HBO or Showtime drew a higher peak audience than Cotto-Ali in 2017.
HBO’s telecast of Terence Crawford’s domination of Felix Diaz peaked at 1,036,000 viewers May 20. Their one-sided main event at Madison Square Garden also lured an average audience of 961,000, slightly higher than Cotto-Ali.
The 37-year-old Cotto (41-6, 33 KOs) went off as an 11-1 favorite over Ali (26-1, 14 KOs) and was widely expected to stop a welterweight contender who moved up to the 154-pound limit for the first time in his eight-year pro career. Brooklyn’s Ali hurt him in the second and fourth rounds, though, before overcoming trouble in the sixth and seventh rounds to win a 12-round unanimous decision and the WBO super welterweight title.
All three judges scored their 12-round fight for the 29-year-old Ali (116-112, 115-113, 115-113).
Ratings for Cotto-Ali represented a second straight strong showing for HBO, despite that the final fight of Cotto’s celebrated career was heavily criticized as a mismatch. The premium-cable channel’s main event the previous Saturday night – Sergey Kovalev’s second-round stoppage of Vyacheslav Shabranskyy in The Theater at Madison Square Garden – was viewed by a peak audience of 900,000 and averaged 869,000 viewers.
The opener of HBO’s broadcast Saturday, Rey Vargas’ 12-round, unanimous-decision defeat of Oscar Negrete, peaked at 788,000 viewers. The average viewership for that bout was 697,000.
Mexico’s Vargas (31-0, 22 KOs) fought through cuts over each eye, both caused by accidental head-butts, to soundly defeat Colombia’s Negrete (17-1, 7 KOs) on all three scorecards. Vargas won by scores of 120-108, 119-109 and 119-109 to retain his WBC super bantamweight championship.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.