By Jake Donovan
Showtime’s first entry of its 2014 boxing season also served as the first head-to-head clash with rival HBO, as both networks offered championship boxing on its airwaves. The end result was further proof that dueling broadcasts continue to do more harm than good for both networks.
The first conflict of 2014 fittingly came with siginficant shows offered by Top Rank (HBO) and Golden Boy Promotions (Showtime). HBO won the head-to-head battle by nearly a two-to-one margin, though neither network will be caught banging their proverbial chests over the latest numbers.
Following a monstrous year in 2013 that saw Showtime ratings rise by more than 60%, its January 25 doubleheader from Washington D.C. averaged just 390,000 viewers over the course of the evening.
The rating was nearly doubled by HBO’s own doubleheader from New York City, which delivered an average total audience of 777,000 viewers for its 2014 Boxing After Darkpremiere. The tally comes 11% below the series’ 2013 overall average.
Showtime’s offering saw Lamont Peterson score a decisive 12-round points win over Dierry Jean to extend a controversial title reign in the 140 lb. division. The win was Peterson’s first in nearly a year, having suffered a third round knockout at the hands of Lucas Matthysse last May. The bout took place at a catchweight of 141 lb., one pound above the super lightweight limit which allowed the D.C. native to extend his title reign even with the loss.
His bounce back performance versus Jean pulled in an average of 402,000 viewers, the lowest rated bout of either broadcast and actually performing far lower than its own supporting bout.
In the televised co-feature from D.C., Jermell Charlo moved one step closer to contention in the 154 lb. division with a wide points win over Gabriel Rosado, who is now winless in his last four bouts. Their bout averaged 472,000 viewers, with the 10-round bout beginning 45 minutes before HBO’s boxing telecast went live.
HBO saw the return of a favorite son as well as the introduction of a heavyweight on the rise in its twinbill. Unbeaten Mikey Garcia returned to New York one year and one week following his first title win, when he bested Orlando Salido to win the featherweight title.
His January 25 visit to the frigid city saw the 25-year old return as a defending 130 lb. titlist, scoring a wide 12-round points win over Juan Carlos Burgos atop a show that landed square in the middle of Super Bowl coverage in the New York/New Jersey area. The bout averaged 829,000 viewers on the night, peaking at 911,000 viewers, good for the best total of all four major televised bouts between the two shows.
The televised co-feature was by far the most impressive showing among either network, which means a rare treat from the heavyweight division. Bryant Jennings put behind a forgettable 2013 campaign which only saw one fight and win, and a lot of time on the sidelines while changing promoters. Returning to his 2012 form, the Philly native scoring a rousing 10 th round knockout of Artur Szpilka in a battle of unbeaten heavyweights.
The heavyweight bout averaged 811,000 viewers over the course of the 10-round affair, peaking at 907,000 viewers, nearly doubling Showtime’s main event.
All of the aforementioned is compiled from Nielsen Media Research .
Both networks go virtually dark for the month of February in terms of their major series. Showtime Championship Boxing isn’t set to return until March 15, with its schedule affected by the postponement of a planned February 15 rematch between featherweights Jhonny Gonzalez and Abner Mares. Their first fight last August saw Gonzalez score a shocking 1 stround knockout in one of the biggest upsets of 2013.
HBO’s World Championship Boxing series returns March 1, with a televised doubleheader live from San Antonio. Headlining the show is one of the network’s biggest draws, as Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. faces Bryan Vera in a rematch to their controversial bout last September. Chavez Jr.—who came in heavy enough to have to request a compromised weight limit—scored a widely disputed 10-round decision over Vera, in a fight that served as the second highest rated cable televised boxing event of the year.
In the televised co-feature, two-time Olympic Gold medalist Vasyl Lomachenko faces featherweight titlist Orlando Salido. A win would earn Lomachenko (1-0, 1KO) the distinction of claiming a major title in just his second pro fight, quicker than anyone else in boxing history.
The lone offerings from either network between now and then will come in second-tier series; Showtime has a ShoBox event planned for February 2, while HBO’s sister network HBO2 will pick up a same-day tape delay feed of the February 22 card in Macau, headlined by Miguel Vazquez in a lightweight title defense versus unbeaten mandatory challenger Denis Shafikov.
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com, as well as a member of Transnational Boxing Ratings Board, Yahoo Boxing Ratings Panel and the Boxing Writers Association of America. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox