Despite inroads made by rival Showtime this year, the folks over at HBO Boxing still consider themselves to be the leading television platform for the sport of boxing in the U.S.
It’s hard to argue with them. HBO Boxing delivered 21 of the top 25 bouts to date on cable television in 2013. In fact, the top five audiences for fights on cable television in 2013 were all presented by HBO:
1. Cotto vs. Rodriguez -- 1.6 million viewers (1,706,000 peak viewership)
2. Chavez Jr. vs. Vera -- 1.4 million viewers (1,542,000 peak viewership)
3. Golovkin vs. Stevens – 1.4 million viewers (1,566,000 peak viewership)
4. Broner vs. Rees -- 1.4 million viewers (1,551,000 peak viewership)
5. Stevenson vs. Bellew – 1.3 million viewers (1,358,000 peak viewership)
(Note -- Showtime Sports V.P. Stephen Espinoza announced Broner-Maidana garnered 1.3 million viewers to tie for No. 5 rated cable boxing show this year.)
HBO’s partnership with Top Rank, as well as other first-class promotional entities such as Main Events, K2 and Dibella Entertainment, yielded them a bevvy of boxing superstars to feature on Saturday nights. HBO’s current roster includes Sergio Martinez, Andre Ward, Manny Pacquiao, Gennady Golovkin, Timothy Bradley Jr., Mikey Garcia, Wladimir Klitschko, Juan Manuel Marquez, Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., Miguel Cotto, Carl Froch and Nonito Donaire.
HBO has also become home to an impressive group of newcomers. Fighters who made their HBO debut in 2013 include Sergey Kovalev, Adonis Stevenson, Ruslan Provodnikov and Terence Crawford.
Big Mac award winner for Fighter of the Year, Guillermo Rigondeaux, appeared on HBO twice in 2013.
Moreover, HBO Boxing presented four Fight of the Year candidates in 2013. Bouts like Bradley vs. Provodnikov, Rios vs. Alvarado II, Froch vs. Kessler II and Alvarado vs. Provodnikov kept fans glued to their seats with spills, thrills and riveting action.
And name me a bigger up-and-coming superstar than Gennady Golovkin. The middleweight monster took the boxing world by storm in 2013, and he should only continue to build his brand under HBO’s banner for years to come.
HBO Boxing traveled to four continents in 2013, North America, Europe, South America and Asia, illustrating the sport’s global appeal and reach as well as HBO’s commitment to follow Top Rank headfirst into the global boxing market.
For example, Pacquiao-Rios was fought in Macau, China where local fans of Chinese amateur star Zhou Shiming could see him notch a win on his professional resume firsthand.
The trend should only continue in 2014. Top Rank signed several amateur stars this year including American junior welterweight Jose Ramirez, Mexican featherweight Oscar Valdez, Puerto Rican junior lightweight Felix Verdejo and two-time Ukrainian Olympic champion Vasyl Lomachenko. All of them are shoe-ins to become HBO regulars.
Finally, HBO Sports re-launched its Emmy-Award-winning franchise “Legendary Nights” in 2013. The film aired on Oct. 19 and revisited the classic Arturo Gatti vs. Mickey Ward rivalry. It aired immediately following junior welterweight Ruslan Provodnikov’s thrilling triumph over Mike Alvarado in Denver and was met with fairly universal rave reviews.
So is HBO still top dog among cable TV outlets in the U.S.? And will that continue in 2014? It sure seems so, but with Showtime ever cutting into HBO’s subscriber lead (around 18 million or so more a decade ago to just about 5 million this year) and constantly breathing down the television giant’s neck, expect even more bang for you buck in 2014. That’s good news for fight fans, and something to look forward to as the New Year approaches.