Guillermo Rigondeaux and the Truth about HBO
Editorial By James Lopez, RCM LA Boxing Correspondent
Guillermo Rigondeux regarded as one of the best pound for pound boxers in the world today, has been heavily criticized by the media. After Rigondeaux dominated Nonito Donaire who was widely regarded as the 3rd best fighter in the world at the time, Bob Arum issued a statement saying HBO executives want to vomit every time they hear Rigondeaux’s name. This created a chain reaction of negative press towards Rigondeaux, but let’s analyzes the facts.
T.V. Ratings and Promotion issues
After Guillermo Rigondeaux dominated Nonito Donaire, he stopped being promoted. HBO and Top Rank constantly bashed Rigondeaux’s fighting style and labeled him as boring. Its one thing to not be promoted, it’s another thing to be demoted. On December 12, 2013 Rigondeaux headlined an HBO card against Joseph Agbeko. That same day Showtime was airing the heavily promoted bout Paulie Malignaggi vs Zab Judah at the Barclay Center. Here are the television ratings of all the bouts that took place that night.
Highest to Lowest
Kirkland-Tapia, HBO, 718,000
Paulie Malignaggi – Zab Judah, Showtime, 640,000
Rigondeaux- Agbeko, HBO, 550,000
Devon Alexander- Shawn Porter, Showtime, 515,000
Sako Bika- Anthony Dirrell, Showtime, 446,000
Erislandy Lara- Austin Trout, Showtime, 429,000
Matthew Macklin-Lamar Russ, HBO, 401,000
Here are the reasons why Rigondeaux’s critiques are bogus.
1.) No one wants to see Rigondeaux fight.
-Apparently more people chose to watch Rigondeaux’s bout with Agbeko than :
Devon Alexander vs Shawn Porter, Sako Bika vs Anthony Dirrell, Erislandy vs Trout, and Matthew Macklin vs Lamar Russ.
2.) Even Rigondeaux’s undercard of Kirland vs Tapia did better numbers.
-Can’t knock Rigondeaux when that bout did better numbers than Showtime’s main event Paulie Malignaggi vs Zab Judah and the rest of the fights that were aired that night.
3.) Rigondeaux’s ratings were much lower than the average headliner on HBO. In 2013 the top 25 rated fights had a range of 1.0 million to 1.6 million views.
-The reason why Rigondeaux’s ratings were so low were due to the fact it was on the same night as a big Showtime card. When these networks go head to head their ratings drop significantly.
-Mikey Garcia vs Juan Carlos Burgos did 770,000 views when it went against the other main event Lamont Peterson vs Jerry Jean on the opposing network. That’s a significant decrease than Mikey Garcia vs Juan Manuel Lopez which did 1.3 million views. That’s 530,000 less views for Garcia which is close to the total amount Lamont Peterson and Jerry Jean had at 390,000 views.
-Sakio Bika vs Nikola Sjekloca did 1.0 million views. When Sakio Bika vs Anthony Dirrell fought at the same time the opposing network aired a fight, Bika did 446,000 views. That’s a loss of 554,000 views.
-It’s evident when these two opposing networks (HBO and Showtime) go head to head they lose a significant amount of viewers for their fight which explains Rigondeaux’s 550,000 views. During Rigondeaux’s bout 640,000 boxing fans were watching Paulie Malignaggi vs Zab Judah. If Rigondeaux vs Agbeko aired on a night where the opposing network was not showing any boxing events, the numbers would have increased substantially. If Sakio Bika can increase his numbers by 554,000 views when aired alone, Rigondeaux’s bout should be able to do the same. This would increase Rigondeaux vs Agbeko ratings over 1.0 million.
– Given these numbers it’s evident that about 1.0 million boxing fans are willing to watch any big headlining event on Showtime and HBO. When splitting these numbers these ratings drop to almost half. There is no reason why Rigondeaux the best boxer in the world can’t surpass Bika’s view count of 1.0 million, regardless of what the media tries to say.
-Rigondeaux vs Agbeko came close to Paulie Malignaggi vs Zab Judah even though Rigondeaux’s bout was constantly demoted by his promoter and Paulie’s was constantly being promoted. Makes one wonder what Rigondeaux can do if he was actually promoted.
4.) Before the Rigondeaux vs Agbeko fight a lot of fans exited the arena
– The reason for this was due to the fact they were fighting in Glen Tapia’s hometown in New Jersey. The crowd was there to see the co-main event Tapia vs Kirkland not Rigondeaux vs Agbeko. If Terrence Crawford vs Yuriorkis Gamboa was the co-main event in Omaha, Nebraska and the place is sold out with Crawford’s friends, family, and native fans and Crawford suffers a brutal knockout in the 5th round, would the crowd continue to stay for the main event of Carl Froch vs George Groves? Who knows but probably not, yet Froch and Groves can draw 80,000 fans if at the right location.
– If Rigondeaux fought in Miami, Florida the arena would probably sell out with an enormous amount of Cuban fanatics cheering for their hometown hero Guillermo Rigondeaux. Andre Ward seems to fight only in his hometown and draws a huge crowd. If Ward can use the same tactic and be successful why won’t promoters use the same method for Rigondeaux. A good crowd along with a good amount of views means a successful fight.
Jim Lampley and the boxer
Jim Lampley has heavily criticized Rigondeaux for having a boring defensive style. He claims no one wants to see him for that very reason, but yet Mayweather has a similar style and is the highest paid athlete in the world. The difference is marketability not necessarily the style. To the surprise of Jim Lampley there are a lot of boxing fans who can enjoy watching toe to toe brawls as well as two highly skilled boxers trying to outwit each other. Even Max Kellerman appeared on “The Fight Game” (Jim Lampley’s own show) to discuss how Rigondeaux is a brilliant fighter and should be ranked the 3rd best fighter in the world. Lampley’s own argument is, “fans booed, writers expressed their disapproval of his style, even his own promoter pointed out it will be difficult to make fights with him, are you sure want to make him the 3rd best fighter in the world.” Max Kellerman responded, “No he’s made himself the 3rd best fighter in the world.” Kellerman also went on to say, “The people who I grew up watching fights with are compelled to watch Rigondeaux fight because he is the best in the world at what he does.” This shows that Lampley is trying to take his own opinion and make it seem as everyone else has the same thought process, but even his own HBO coworker doesn’t agree with him.
As stated before, Rigondeaux has a similar style to Mayweather but it’s just the marketability that doesn’t allow him to become more of a household name. This is what HBO wants the public perception to be, but Rigondeaux is a very marketable fighter outside the ring. One can just visit youtube and type in Rigondeaux rapping, and see videos of him actually rapping in Spanish. He has also been brought out on stage in the middle of the concert by Daddy Yankee to be acknowledged as one of the best pound for pound fighters in the world. The same thing occurred during a Willy Chirino, another Hispanic musician who brought out Rigondeaux in the middle of the concert to tell everyone how he is the best fighter in the world. Rigondeaux also has an amazing back story with winning two Olympic gold medals and leaving everything behind in Cuba to support his family by rising through the professional ranks. It seems very easy to promote such a fighter. Not saying he will be the biggest PPV star, but he is indeed marketable, especially giving the fact other marquee names are at or around his weight division such as Leo Santa Cruz. This would be a big fight that can be made if Rigondeaux switches over to Golden Boy Promotions if not he can also face Vasyl Lomachenko for a big fight on HBO. Rigondeaux has already shown interest through social media and said he would gladly face these fighters if given the opportunity.
Hypocrisy from Jim Lampley
When Guillermo Rigondeaux faced Teon Kennedy and won, Jim Lampley said, “I am reminded of the night when Floyd Mayweather knocked down Diego Corrales.” He also commented shortly after Rigondeaux’s win “ Tremendous TKO by Guillermo Rigondeaux. I’m convinced, I’m buying, I want to see him whenever I can. Brilliantly done.”
When Rigondeaux was getting ready to face Nonito Donaire, Jim Lampley continued to praise the fight. Lampley stated, “People have been anticipating this fight ever since Donaire moved up to the 122lb division.” As the fight took place Lampley continued to praise Rigondeaux by giving acknowledgement of his outstanding amateur pedigree and stating commentaries such as, “beautiful footwork by Rigondeaux to set up his left hand.” Lampley also does not mind the punch output during the fight because he stated, “Two counter punchers who aren’t being too active and waiting for their moment but those moments are exciting enough and intense enough where there is still drama.” Now keep in mind, this is the same bout Rigondeaux got heavy criticism for, but Lampley praised him the entire fight. It’s not till the negative press issued by HBO and Top Rank where Lampley constantly bashed Rigondeaux.
Before the bout Rigondeaux vs Agbeko even began, Lampley continued to criticize Rigondeaux as he walked in towards the ring. Clearly Lampley is extremely bipolar or is just an extremely loyal HBO employee. What makes one scratch his head is just a fight ago Harold Letterman stated during the Donaire vs Rigondeaux bout, “Rigondeaux is getting off first and is the only one punching” then Lampley follows with his own quote saying, “ I don’t believe Nonito Donaire fully understood what he was up against tonight.” Lampley continues to criticize Donaire during the late stage of the bout, but never criticizes Donaire after the fight, just Rigondeaux. This is just insane.
Some of the major media members have criticized Rigondeaux’s style as being boring and unmarketable. Some media members as well as Bob Arum have suggested for Rigondeaux to seek out a more fan friendly style. This basically means they want Rigondeaux to take more blows to the head and take away the skill set that has enabled him to accomplish the things he has been able to achieve today such as two Olympic gold medals and being recognized as one of the best boxers in the world as of right now. There is absolutely no reason why he should change his style. It is up to the media and the promoters to promote a great fighter not demote him. Rigondeaux should get the same praise from the media as other defensive fighters get for their defensive abilities such as Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Andre Ward.
It’s very easy to criticize a fighter from outside the ring to take more risks because the only people with their lives on the line are the two combatants. It just takes one punch to knock someone out thus derailing his career and affecting his salary for the next couple of years. People need to understand these fighters put their health and careers on the line every time they step into the ring. This is a dangerous sport where concussions, broken bones, and even deaths can occur. Rigondeaux being one of the best pound for pound fighters in the world today deserves respect. The vast media should be promoting his greatness and trying to enhance the sport whenever possible. There are a lot of fans who have shown appreciation for Rigondeaux’s skill level, it’s just some media outlets that make it seem as if nobody does. But the facts do not lie. One can just visit any boxing gym and ask around if they are compelled to watch Rigondeaux fight and there will always be people who will say yes.
HBO not airing Rigondeaux
This will be Rigondeaux’s last bout under Top Rank Promotions. HBO has decided not to air one of the top pound for pound fighters. They decided to headline Zou Shiming on his first bout which is scheduled for 10 rounds for the first time in his career. On the undercard Gilbert “Zurdo” Ramirez will be fighting. Does HBO actually buy into the idea that people are more compelled to watch Gilbert “Zurdo” Ramirez than Guillermo Rigondeaux? If so, this is the most idiotic move by HBO in quite some time. They know exactly what they are doing. They are trying to shun Rigondeaux for unknown reasons, one can only speculate. It’s not because Rigondeaux can’t generate ratings or doesn’t have a fan base because that would be absolutely false. Most observers point to the fact Rigondeaux beat Donaire one of HBO’s biggest attractions at the time so easily, they decided to send Rigondeaux into exile. Only HBO knows the real reason to why they are doing this.
Guillermo Rigondeaux will look to put on a masterful performance this Saturday on July 19, 2014 in Macau China. Tune in at Solo Boxeo Tecate on UNIMAS, beginning at 11:00pm. ET/PT.
The statistical data for this article were derived from multiple sources. The top 25 most viewed fights in the year 2013 were provided by the Nielson Ratings posted by Yahoo Sport’s Kevin Iole. Boxing Scene’s Jake Donavon provided the ratings for both the HBO and Showtime boxing events on December 7 in the year 2013. And any other ratings presented were extracted by Badlefthook.com