By Jake Donovan
With a mouthwatering showdown versus Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez waiting in the wings, Miguel Cotto did his part both in the ring and on the dial. The Puerto Rican superstar enjoyed a triumphant return to New York and regular HBO, as his 4th round knockout of Daniel Geale on June 6 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn pulled in an average of 1.589 million viewers, peaking at 1.621 million viewers.
The total surpassed Cotto’s previous HBO appearance, when his 3rd round stoppage of Delvin Rodriguez in Oct. ’13 played to 1.555 million viewers for the highest rated boxing telecast of 2013. Saturday’s headliner versus Geale is good for the third-highest rated premium cable bout of 2015, with only Alvarez and Wladimir Klitschko enjoying better ratings.
Cotto-Geale served as a standalone bout on HBO, also coming at the tail-end of a hectic day in the sports world. Boxing appeared earlier in the day on NBC, which also provided live coverage of the Belmont Stakes and Game 2 of the National Hockey League (NHL) Stanley Cup.
Given the active sports menu, the HBO telecast didn’t begin until 10:30 p.m. ET, with the opening bell to the middleweight championship not going off until slightly before 11:00 p.m. ET.
The win came exactly 52 weeks following Cotto’s historic World middleweight championship winning effort over Sergio Martinez. The feat—which played to a sold-out arena at Madison Square Garden, but underperformed in the Pay-Per-View market—saw Cotto become the first fighter ever from Puerto Rico to win major titles in four weight classes.
It was also his sixth time playing on the eve of the Puerto Rican Day Parade, with five of the six coming at Madison Square Garden. Cotto didn't enjoy the same luxury this year, instead making his debut at Barclays Center and coming a full week before the parade, although his performance gave plenty of cause for Boricua celebration.
The bout ended a self-imposed year-long layoff following his aforementioned win over Martinez. The extended absence was in large part due to his leaving a showdown with Alvarez on the table.
The two camps had negotiated all through the tail end of 2014 and into the first couple of months earlier this year before Alvarez decided to go in a different direction. The Mexican superstar instead faced James Kirkland, scoring a monster 3rd round knockout in their May 9 bout in Houston, which pulled in north of 2.1 million viewers, the most viewed premium cable bout in nine years.
By the time Alvarez stepped into the ring, Cotto—who earlier in the year signed with Roc Nation Sports—had agreed to terms for a bout with Geale. HBO agreed to pick up the tab, on the condition that Cotto-Alvarez would come next.
Cotto kept the fight alive, having no issues whatsoever with Geale. Their middleweight championship bout—Cotto’s first defense—was criticized going in for the 157 lb. catchweight in place. Geale shriveled down to make weight, only to gain more than 20 lbs. overnight, speaking to the great lengths he went in order to hit the mark.
Meanwhile, Cotto actually weighed in under the JUNIOR middleweight mark, tipping the scales at 153.6 lbs. The size different was apparent once the two took center ring, but didn’t at all factor in the wide difference in talent in Cotto’s favor.
The four-round destruction gives Cotto his third straight knockout since suffering back-to-back losses in 2012. All three fights have come since joining forces with Hall of Fame trainer Freddie Roach in 2013, a move Cotto entirely attributes to his career turnaround.
With Alvarez’ past three bouts taking place at a maximum catchweight of 155 lbs., it is highly likely that their eventual showdown—targeted for the fall and highly likely to headline an HBO Pay-Per-View telecast—will take place closer to the junior middleweight limit than middleweight.
All ratings data provided by
Nielsen Media Research.
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox