By Keith Idec
Even in direct competition with a pay-per-view extravaganza, boxing fans tuned in to watch Miguel Cotto’s return to the ring.
According to ratings released Tuesday by Nielsen Media Research, HBO’s broadcast of Cotto’s victory over Yoshihiro Kamegai drew a peak audience of 805,000 viewers on Saturday night. An average audience of 730,000 watched Cotto’s 12-round, unanimous-decision win.
The Cotto-Kamegai match ended before Floyd Mayweather Jr.’s technical knockout of Conor McGregor began because pay-per-view ordering glitches caused the start of Mayweather-McGregor to be delayed by about a half hour.
Cable and satellite customers in certain parts of the United States had difficulty ordering the Showtime Pay-Per-View broadcast that featured Mayweather-McGregor. Mayweather acknowledged after his victory that he and McGregor remained in their dressing rooms until the potentially costly issue was resolved.
Mayweather-McGregor was expected to negatively impact Cotto-Kamegai ratings because at least portions of the fights were expected to air simultaneously.
The Cotto-Kamegai bout ended at approximately 11:45 p.m. ET/8:45 p.m. PT at StubHub Center in Carson, California, about 20 minutes before the delayed start of Mayweather-McGregor at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
Puerto Rico’s Cotto, 36, fought for the first time since losing a unanimous decision to Mexican superstar Canelo Alvarez in November 2015 at Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas. Cotto (41-5, 33 KOs) won the vacant WBO super welterweight title by out-boxing Japan’s Kamegai (27-4-2, 24 KOs) in their 12-round championship match (120-108, 119-109, 118-110).
HBO’s telecast began Saturday night with Rey Vargas’ victory over Ronny Rios in a 12-round, super bantamweight bout. Vargas-Rios was watched by a peak audience of 687,000 viewers and attracted an average viewership of 524,000.
Mexico’s Vargas (30-0, 22 KOs) out-pointed Rios (28-2, 12 KOs), of Santa Ana, California, by scores of 118-110, 118-110 and 115-113 to retain his WBC 122-pound championship.
The Vargas-Rios telecast also directly competed with part of the Mayweather-McGregor undercard.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.