In Search Of Patterns Within HBO Boxing Ratings

For a sport nicknamed “the sweet science,” there’s very little scientific method applied to examining it. So over the last couple days I put on a lab coat and some goggles, and I decided to try and get as scientific as I could.

The occasion for breaking out the beakers is the very important moment in HBO’s boxing history: the departure after 11 years at the helm of HBO Sports prez Ross Greenburg, who had his share of critics, to say the least.

His departure has rightfully prompted folk to look at his record and what he did wrong. (I think there’s been less of an effort to determine what he did right.) The decline of HBO’s boxing ratings has been square in the crosshairs. The reason for the decline in those ratings has been blamed on a variety of decisions at the network, and dovetails nicely with some running topics of discussion we have had around these parts for well-nigh years.

So I decided to take a look at HBO’s boxing ratings to discern some patterns. Specifically, I looked at any fight since 2009 that was reported to receive more than 1 million viewers. What traits did they share, I wondered?

And I put chalk to chalkboard as best as was possible in a variety of categories that have been cited as what makes a fight garner a lot of viewers. Did the fight feature the best vs. the best? Was it perceived to have action fight potential? Was there some ethnic or regional element the fighters brought to the ring? How many tickets did it sell? Who was the promoter? Were there any other elements that might have helped the ratings, besides those?

I’ll share the full results at the end of the post, but I was surprised by some of them — like which fighters appeared in the highest-rated shows most frequently, which promoters were most frequently tied to higher ratings, and a couple pure head-scratchers that showed the ratings game has elements of mystery to it that not even science can solve.

But maybe, just maybe, there are lessons to be learned here for whoever takes over for Greenburg.


Ratings: I limited my study to two and a half years, because frankly, that’s plenty. I chose the highest ratings over the period covered; I’m not saying the ratings were high, per se, out of that context — just highEST. I went with ratings that were reported out there by the folk who often track such things, but I can’t promise that these figures are accurate. The Boxing Truth had done a lot of work over the years gathering ratings figures, for instance, only to recently reveal that there had been some confusion about some of those figures. And sometimes, there might have been issues of apples to oranges. These two links compiled the majority of those figures, which jived with figures I saw elsewhere. Why did I choose to study higher ratings? Because I wanted to see the common elements of success. Maybe some day I’ll do the same thing with fights that had low ratings, to find common elements of failure.

Best vs. best: If the two fighters were ranked in the top 10 by Ring Magazine at the time, I went with it. You can question, reasonably, whether I should have picked top 5, or some other measure. But my thinking is that if you are a top 10 fighter in your division according to the best institutional rankings there are, you’re fairly elite.

Action fight potential: This is the most subjective of the categories — I really just went by what I recollected about the consensus from fight fans here, on Twitter on boxing message boards and so forth.

Ethnic/regional angle: Although this is fairly subjective, too. If there was a good argument that a fighter’s country of origin or race helped draw ratings, I included it. This is a fairly controversial category, but I’ll explain more at the end why.

Attendance: There is often a big gap between reported ticket sales and actual ticket sales. For instance, there was a Joseph Agbeko fight not long ago that had an announced audience of more than 11,000, but fewer than 1,000 tickets were actually sold. After surveying everyone on Twitter about what number would say to them that a fight was a big-selling event, I was given the figure 8,000 over and over again, so I went with it. But I couldn’t go in to every announced attendance figure and scour it for an accurate ticket sales figure. Where there was a known big gap between attendance and sales, I tried to note it. Where I had trouble tracking down figures, I got several assists from the right honorable gentleman David P. Greisman. But sometimes, I was simply unable to find a figure anywhere.

Promoter: Lots of events were listed as being “presented by promoter X in association with promoter Y.” I listed both, but for practical purposes, I know that many of those events have a lead promoter and that’s what matters most. If some boxer in the fight had his own promotional company and it was a co-promoter, I left it off. It wasn’t statistically relevant, anyway.

Wild cards: “Wild card, bitches!” Just a catch-all.

Where the category could be answered with a “yes,” I underlined it. So that you understand what I mean, let’s just take the first fight on the list. Was Shane Mosley-Antonio Margarito the best vs. the best? Yes, because they were both in the top 10 at welterweight at the time. The purpose of underlining is to mark where a category might have made a difference in any given fight, and then, at the end, we add ’em all up.

Is that all clear? Cool. Then get your goggles on.

The Study


Shane Mosley-Antonio Margarito 1.9 million

Best vs. best: These were two top-3 welterweights at the time, although many thought it was a mismatch in Margarito’s favor. Action fight potential: Both men had a big rep for bringing the heat. Ethnic/regional angle: Margarito had become the biggest Mexican star in the sport the year before. Attendance: 20,820. Promoter: Joint Top Rank-Golden Boy. Wild cards: None.

Nate Campbell-Ali Funeka 1.2 million

Best vs. best: Yes, but barely. Per Ring at the close of 2008, Campbell was considered the #1 lightweight, and Funeka was rated #9 but a total mystery after one real eye-catching win. Action fight potential: Yeah, but who knew about it? Campbell was known for being in fun fights, sure, but still had a low profile, while one could track down grainy clips of Funeka’s awesome Zahir Raheem performance if one tried hard enough. If nobody knew it might have action potential, then it probably wasn’t a factor in the ratings. Ethnic/regional angle: Quite the opposite. Black American fighters have trouble winning over their people these days in boxing. Funeka was from South Africa, with no real fan base to speak of in the United States. Attendance: Couldn’t find a figure, but ticket sales were well-known to be slow and the crowd was sparse. Promoter: Don King. Wild cards: Sergio Martinez-Kermit Cintron and Alfredo Angulo-Cosme Rivera were on the undercard, but it’s hard to imagine them helping much. Maybe the ratings were assisted by the controversy over Campbell coming in overweight, or Campbell’s spunky personality? This might be the biggest head-scratcher on this entire list.

Juan Manuel Marquez-Juan Diaz I 1.6 million

Best vs. best: Heck yeah. Marquez was the legit champion at lightweight, and Diaz was the #1 contender. Action fight potential: Heck yeah. Marquez and Diaz were well-established action heroes by the time of this fight. Ethnic/regional angle: Pretty hot. Marquez, a Mexican, taunted Diaz, a Mexican-American. Attendance: 14,571. Promoter: Golden Boy. Wild cards: I don’t think anyone had high expectations for Chris John-Rocky Juarez, even though it turned out terrific, so no.

James Kirkland-Joel Julio 1.4 million

Best vs. best: No. This was a hot prospect taking on a busted one. Action fight potential: Very high. Kirkland had become known as one of boxing’s most sizzling action stars already, while Julio built his name on the power he showed early in his career. Ethnic/regional angle: To my knowledge, neither black guys nor Colombians have massive boxing fan appeal. Attendance: 6,765. Promoter: Golden Boy. Wild cards: Victor Ortiz fought Mike Arnaoutis on the undercard. Ortiz very well could have helped, given how often he appears on this list and a decent record of selling tickets.

Paul Williams-Winky Wright 1.5 million

Best vs. best: There’s no straight answer, but by default it’s “no.” Williams had been developing some pound-for-pound plaudits, but Wright had been out of the ring so long nobody was sure whether he himself maintained his pound-for-pound credentials. Action fight potential: Williams was known for action, but Wright was known for the exact opposite. It was expected to be an awkward contest. Ethnic/regional angle: Wright had a little bit of crossover in the hip-hop world, so, maybe. But probably not. Attendance: 5,425, although there’s strong evidence of a ton of giveaways, since there were reports of 2,000 tickets sold as of late in the fight week. Promoter: Golden Boy, Goossen Tutor. Wild cards: There was a time when Chris Arreola was more of a draw than he is now, so let’s assume his bout with Jameel McCline helped somewhat.

Miguel Cotto-Joshua Clottey 1.7 million

Best vs. best: Two top-5 welters does the trick. Action fight potential: Cotto + action = no doubt; Clottey = a little. Ethnic/regional angle: Nobody for the past few years had mobilized Puerto Rican fans quite like Cotto. Clottey mobilized zero Ghanaians.  Attendance: 17,734. Promoter: Top Rank. Wild cards: None.

Marcos Maidana-Victor Ortiz 1.1 million

Best vs. best: Ortiz was still a prospect, albeit an advanced one, while Maidana was coming off a close loss to Andriy Kotelnik, so, nah. Action fight potential: I’d say it’s just this side of the “yes” ledger. Ortiz was speedy and powerful, while Maidana was just powerful, and had not yet become the action star he is now. Ethnic/regional angle: Ortiz was poised to take over as the top Mexican-American fighter. Maidana didn’t bring a bit of his South American audience, I’m guessing. Attendance*: 8,600 is the most commonly-cited figure, but one credible report said it was 6,330. Thus, the asterisk. Promoter: Golden Boy. Wild cards: Ortiz’ back story and personality was a big part of the way he was marketed. We won’t mention this again, but assume its ongoing importance.

Juan Diaz-Paulie Malignaggi I 1.1 million

Best vs. best: I’m gonna give this one a very weak “yes” despite meeting my criteria; coming in, Diaz was still a top-5 lightweight and Malignaggi was top-5 at junior welter. In actuality, I really doubt anyone thought of this as a “best vs. best” match-up. Diaz was coming off another loss and moving up in weight, while Malignaggi was recovering from a loss to Ricky Hatton. Action fight potential: We all knew Diaz usually brought it, and that Malignaggi had on sparse occasions, but I don’t think anyone expected much of a donnybrook. We got one anyway, but it was bonus. Ethnic/regional angle: Yeah, on Diaz, per above. Unless you think Italian-Americans go gangbusters for Paulie, and I do know a couple who do. Attendance: Approximately 7,000. Promoter: Golden Boy. Wild cards: The only thing I can think of here is that Diaz’ college boy routine and Malignaggi’s big mouth routine sold this fight to the general public, because otherwise this wasn’t a card I heard hardcore fans getting excited about. I doubt Robert Guerrero-Malcolm Klassen or Daniel Jacobs-Ishe Smith did much for the card, either.

Vitali Klitschko-Chris Arreola 2.1 million

Best vs. best: Coming in, Klitschko was the #1 contender at heavyweight and Arreola was ranked #6. Action fight potential: Whether Arreola was an action hero or not was irrelevant. Very few people thought this fight would be exciting, because a Klitschko brother was in it. The best people could hope for was “more exciting than most Klitschko fights.” Ethnic/regional angle: Arreola had gotten some love as a viable Mexican heavyweight, and don’t underestimate the Klitschkos’ appeal with Russian/Soviet Union descendents based in the United States; when I attended Wladimir Klitschko-Sultan Ibragimov, the air was thick with accents. Attendance: 13,549. Promoter: K2, Goossen Tutor. Wild cards: There’s a really strong chance this fight got a boost from being paired with the replay of Floyd Mayweather, Jr.-Marquez. And Arreola’s vivacious personality. And it was a credible American heavyweight challenging the two-headed Klitschkos that ruled the division. And also, that the numbers might be wrong, for reasons beyond those I stated in the “methodology” section. Two million-plus is just ridiculously high compared to most of the rest of these cards and I’m not sure I trust the figure.


Sergio Martinez-Kelly Pavlik 1.2 million

Best vs. best: Pavlk was still middleweight king and Martinez was viewed as the top junior middleweight, so yes. Action fight potential: I’m going to give it a very weak “yes,” because while both men had been in some top-notch wars, the prevalent thinking that I recall is that this would be a game of cat and mouse. Ethnic/regional angle: It always feels weird to say about Pavlik, but as a white guy of any quality, I think it’s probably inevitable that it helped his fan appeal with whities. Attendance: 6,179. Promoter: Top Rank, DiBella Entertainment. Wild cards: Martinez had a little buzz coming off his Fight of the Year-style battle with Williams. Lucian Bute-Edison Miranda probably didn’t bring much hto the table.

Paul Williams-Kermit Cintron 1.2 million

Best vs. best: Williams — #2 at middleweight. Cintron — #3 at junior middleweight. Action fight potential: Questionable. Williams, as mentioned above, was sure-fire action, but Cintron was less clear. Ethnic/regional angle: Not really, since Cintron has never really connected with Puerto Rican fans. Attendance: It boasted 3,653, but about 1,400 of those were not paid. Promoter: Goossen Tutor, DiBella Entertainment. Wild cards: There’s little doubt Williams-Cintron benefited from the replay of Mayweather-Mosley. Also, Williams had a little buzz coming off his Fight of the Year-style battle with Martinez.

Amir Khan-Paulie Malignaggi 1.2 million

Best vs. best: Both were top 10 at junior welter. Action fight potential: None whatsoever. Ethnic/regional angle: There were a few noisy Brits in attendance, but no, not really. Attendance: 4,412. Promoter: Golden Boy, DiBella Entertainment. Wild cards: Victor Ortiz-Nate Campbell was on the undercard, and I think the frequency of Ortiz’ appearances here is not a coincidence.

Miguel Cotto-Yuri Foreman 1.6 million

Best vs. best: Foreman was a top-10 junior middleweight, Cotto a top-10 welterweight. I’m going to say, “yes, barely.” Action fight potential: This is another one of those bouts where one guy had action credentials and the other didn’t, and the guy without action credentials was expected to de-action things more than the guy with action credentials was expected to action them up. Ethnic/regional angle: Yeah, both ways. Cotto brought the PR fans. Foreman had proven a smash with Jewish fans. Attendance: 19,000-20,000; Top Rank’s Bob Arum claimed pre-sale numbers of 30,000, but said a good deal fewer actually arrived to watch. Promoter: Top Rank. Wild cards: The use of Yankee Stadium for the fight was no doubt a nice angle for selling it. Vanes Martirosyan-Joe Greene was inconsequential.

Devon Alexander-Andriy Kotelnik 1.2 million

Best vs. best: Kotelnik had once inhabited the junior welterweight top 10, but by this point had dropped out due to inactivity, so, no. Action fight potential: I don’t remember anybody suggesting there was very much. Ethnic/regional angle: Can’t say there was, really. Attendance: 9,117. Promoter: Don King. Wild cards: Alexander had gotten himself a feature on the front page of the New York Times the week of the fight. That surely offered a nice little boost. Tavoris Cloud-Glen Johnson was a bit of an anticipated fight on the undercard, so maybe that contributed.

Jean Pascal-Chad Dawson 1.1 million

Best vs. best: By definition, it was, since it was the two best men in the division filling a vacancy for the lineal Ring Magazine belt. Action fight potential: Dawson had been in one humdinger, against Glen Johnson, but was largely viewed as boring. Pascal had been in a few very good ones, but I can’t recall much of anyone arguing this would be an action fight. Ethnic/regional angle: Pascal is of Haitian heritage and fights out of Canada, but I can’t see how either of those things would have driven ratings in the United States. Attendance: 8,122. Promoter: Groupe Yvon Michel, Gary Shaw. Wild cards: I don’t think so, but I’ll throw this out there. A number of people who appear on this list more than once are people whom HBO had given a pretty hard push. I think there’s a chance that Dawson’s fight with Pascal benefited from all the pushing of Dawson HBO did. Familiarity can breed contempt, sure, but familiarity — something as simple as the name recognition that comes with being on television a lot — also might be helpful.

Sergio Martinez-Paul Williams II 1.3 million

Best vs. best: Unquestionably so; not only was Martinez the champ in the division, both men were arguably top-5 pound-for-pound. Action fight potential: Since their first fight was a Fight of the Year candidate if not THE Fight of the Year, yes, you could say that. Ethnic/regional angle: None.
Attendance: Announced as 5,500, but I was there and I think it was a good deal less than that. Promoter: Goossen Tutor, DiBella Entertainment. Wild cards: Martinez-Williams II got paired with Pacquiao-Margarito, which is to say, indeed.

Amir Khan-Marcos Maidana 1.1 million

Best vs. best: Two of the top four junior welterweights, at the time when the division was arguably the best in the sport? Yes. Action fight potential: This one’s pretty borderline, but I’m going to say “no.” Again, Maidana had action hero cred, but this was expected to fight where Maidana chased Khan and Khan tried to stay on his feet while pecking his way to victory. It had potential for drama, more than it did for action. It turned out better than that, of course, but this is about “potential.” Ethnic/regional angle: Nah. Attendance: 4,632. Promoter: Golden Boy. Wild cards: It was paired with Ortiz-Lamont Peterson, and it’s remarkable how much Ortiz turns up on all these highly-rated shows.


Timothy Bradley-Devon Alexander 1.3 million

Best vs. best: This is arguably the only thing Bradley-Alexander had going for it. They were two of the top three junior welterweights, a really hot division. Action fight potential: Very little to none. I had hopes, but they were foolish hopes. Ethnic/regional angle: If any fight would have gotten black American fans interested this would’ve been the one, but there’s no evidence out there that they went nuts over it. Attendance: 6,247, although most think the fight brought in closer to between 4,000 and 5,000. Promoter: Gary Shaw, Don King, Thompson. Wild cards: HBO put massive marketing muscle behind this fight. It had to have helped.

Nonito Donaire-Fernando Montiel 1 million

Best vs. best: Indubitably. Two top-20 pound-for-pounders, both in one of boxing’s best divisions, bantamweight. Action fight potential: Pretty high; one-punch knockouts were not out of the question with these two powerful speedsters. Ethnic/regional angle: Philippines, Mexico, yes. Attendance: 4,805. Promoter: Top Rank. Wild cards: Mike Jones-Jesus Soto Karass II might have moved the needle slightly, as a do-over of a very good fight, and also since Karass was a minor cult favorite with the Mexican fans. Considering this fight just got over the hurdle, that’s enough.

Victor Ortiz-Andre Berto 1.5 million

Best vs. best: Ortiz was a top-10 junior welter and Berto a top-5 welter, so, yeah, a little bit. Action fight potential: Ortiz and Berto had both been in one really stirring fight apiece, but Berto’s spoiling tactics against Juan Urango and Ortiz’ decision to circle and box more post-Maidana left expectations low. That it turned out so good was a surprise. Ethnic/regional angle: See Ortiz entries above. Attendance: 2,491. Promoter: DiBella Entertainment, Golden Boy. Wild cards: The card came on a free preview weekend for HBO, so that gave it a real lift.

Bernard Hopkins-Jean Pascal II 1.8 million

Best vs. best: No question. Pascal was the legit light heavyweight champ and Hopkins arguably deserved the belt from their first meeting. Action fight potential: This one’s right on the line. We’ll give it a weak “no.” The first fight was “better than expected,” but I don’t think anyone really expected a Fight of the Year candidate or anything close to it out of the rematch. Ethnic/regional angle: Again, unless Pascal’s Haitian background helped, I doubt it. Hopkins has proven he can connect with black American fans, but never has done so in any overwhelming way. Attendance: 17,560. Promoter: Groupe Yvon Michel, Golden Boy. Wild cards: Hopkins’ quest to become the oldest boxing champion ever really was a big attraction. So was all the hilarious and mean trash-talk between these two.

Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr.-Sebastian Zbik 1.5 million

Best vs. best: No, and arguably the least so of any on this list. Action fight potential: Chavez’ action hero record was mixed. Zbik’s action hero record was non-existent. A weak “no.” Ethnic/regional angle: Untold amounts, at least on the Chavez side of the equation, as one of the two most popular Mexican fighters going these days. Attendance: Approximately 7,000. Promoter: Top Rank. Wild cards: I don’t see Mikey Garcia-Rafael Guzman as a major factor in this one.

Saul Alvarez-Ryan Rhodes 1.6 million

Best vs. best: Two top-10 junior middleweights, even if Alvarez was only barely, so, yeah. Action fight potential: Pretty good. Alvarez is often described as fun to watch, and Rhodes was in a Fight of the Year-style candidate not long before. Ethnic/regional angle: Alvarez is the only contender to Chavez for the hearts of Mexican fans. Rhodes didn’t appear to draw many British fans. Attendance: Approximately 12,000. Promoter: Golden Boy. Wild cards: No way Adrien Broner-Jason Litzau did much for this card.


Best vs. best: This is the category that came up most frequently, in 18 of the fights overall. It was enough to make me question if I set the bar too low. But like I said, if you’re in the top 10 in your division, you’re pretty elite. There were a couple fights that just barely snuck in there, like Campbell-Funeka and Alvarez-Rhodes, but there also were some fights where the inactivity of one of the fighters was the only reason it didn’t get the underlined treatment, like Williams-Wright and Alexander-Kotelnik.

I do think it’s fair to say that, even if I had used a lower bar, this is an important measure that would have gotten a lot of “yes” dings. You can get by with not being the best if you’re a hot prospect (Ortiz), a fighter with a reputation for being exciting (Kirkland) or having a famous last name (Chavez, Jr), or several of those things. But a best-vs.-best match-up can save a fight that has little else going for it, like Bradley-Alexander.

Action fight potential: This came up in nine of the fights. There were plenty of fights that were right on the borderline, so maybe you would’ve changed some of the “yes”es I have to “no”s, and vice versa.

You might wonder why I picked “action fights” rather than “action fighters.” This was an attempt by me to weave into this “fights vs. fighters” debate. Some say it’s not the fighters that HBO should be hyping, but the fights themselves. I say both can be paths to ratings success. I think this study backs me up, although I didn’t go in with that intent.

Ethnic/regional angle: Eleven appearances, mostly involving Mexican or Puerto Rican fighters, with the occasional Filipino or Ukrainian jammed in there. When criticizing HBO’s efforts to recruit black fans by spotlighting black American fighters, some have questioned whether fans watch fighters based on their ethnicity. This question baffles me. Of course they do. Go to any fight featuring a Polish fighter; go to any fight featuring a Latino fighter; hell, go to a Zsolt Erdei fight, where you’ll find a ton of loud Hungarians. There is no question that those people are there to support those fighters out of ethnic allegiance. Just look at the flags. Listen to the chants. Hell, just look at the audience — you’ll find a lot of white dudes at a fight between a Mexican and a Puerto Rican, but mainly you’ll find Mexicans and Puerto Ricans. Can an Erdei fan appreciate someone like Andy Lee, an Irishman who has a tendency to be in action fights? Sure, but I can tell you that when they were on the same card I attended this year, the Erdei fans left the moment Erdei’s fight was over.

Furthermore, it’s not because every one of these ethnic fighters is appealing for some other reason. Sure, Cotto is an action fighter, besides being Puerto Rican. But Ivan Calderon, a Puerto Rican, was for the bulk of his career anything but an action fighter — he ran away from his opponent and pot-shotted him with his feather fists. The people shouting “ole!” at the Calderon fights are probably Puerto Rican, I’m guessing. Not that Calderon does big ratings anywhere, but his fan base is very heavily Puerto Rican, such as it is. Yes, sometimes one’s mere ethnicity can boost ratings and ticket sales.

What’s interesting to me is that I have no anecdotal evidence that being a black American helped any of these fights in a significant way, ratings-wise. I’ve been to any number of fights featuring black fighters, and the crowd was never disproportionately black, the way it was, say, disproportionately Polish in fights featuring Polish fighters. The closest was a Bernard Hopkins fight in Philly I attended where the crowd was disproportionately black, but that fight didn’t sell all that many tickets or do any signficant ratings, and Hopkins’ ratings have been erratic over his career. I don’t have black friends and acquaintances asking me about black fighters the way I do Puerto Rican friends and acquaintances asking me about Puerto Rican fighters. For whatever reason, it looks to me as though black fans are not backing black fighters the way some other ethnic groups support their fighters.

I’m not saying that boxing fans exclusively root for ethnicity alone. Clearly from the study, black fighters are capable of doing ratings, even if there’s no evidence black fans are disproportionately responsible for those ratings.

Attendance: This also came up 10 times, but with an asterisk for Maidana-Ortiz. Common sense dictates that a fight that sells a lot of tickets would do big ratings. And the fights that did the biggest ratings — 2.1, 1.9, 1.8, 1.7 and 1.6 million — had the biggest crowds, too. A couple fights that didn’t have the biggest crowds got close — a 1.6, a 1.5 million — but at the top of the top, there’s big overlap.

But after that, it’s a real crap shoot. I was really surprised to find out that Williams-Wright drew 1.5 million viewers, because it was a ticketselling debacle, one of the most notorious in recent years. The fact of the matter is that there are very few big U.S. ticketsellers, as Paul Magno pointed out in this thoughtful piece. Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather are upper crust, but they are only fighting on pay-per-view. After that, who is there? Chavez does big ticket sales in Mexico, but his 7,000 tickets in the Zbik fight wasn’t much bigger than Kirkland-Julio.

Promoter: Golden Boy appears the most, nine times as a lead promoter, or co-lead promoter (for Margarito-Mosley and maybe Williams-Wright). They appeared in what I believe is a supporting role on one two other occasions, Pascal-Hopkins II and Ortiz-Berto. On one level, this makes sense, because they have had more guaranteed dates than all the other promoters. But on another, it’s a little surprising. The predominant view of HBO is that the Golden Boy deal has been an albatross. But if that promoter is giving you a lot of shows that do good ratings, maybe it hasn’t been so bad. I’m still opposed to exclusive deals with promoters, because they hurt in a lot of other ways. But this was a revalation to me, how well Golden Boy has done this often.

Top Rank appears six times. Maybe they’d appear more if they got more dates. Top Rank has a reputation for knowing how to draw fans, and I think this figure is a touch inconclusive toward bolstering that rep, but it helps more than it hurts. Maybe the fairest way of assessing this question about Golden Boy and Top Rank would be to look at what percentages of a promoters’ shows do bigger ratings.

Goossen Tutor came up twice as lead promoter and twice in supporting roles. DiBella shows up four times in a supporting role, once in the lead. Don King appears three times, two if you don’t count Bradley-Alexander, but King gets the fewest HBO dates of any major promoter. Gary Shaw is a guy who gets his fighters on HBO a lot, but he only appears twice, once as a lead or co-lead and once in a supporting role. Some smaller promoters appear less than these dudes. I’m not sure what that says about each of those promoters.

Wild cards: Clearly, it helps to piggyback on a pay-per-view replay, or appear on a free preview weekend. Clearly, it helps to have a personality or story that people have heard and find compelling. When people like you, they’ll watch you regardless of who you’re fighting, whether your fighting style is appealing or much else; it’s hard to explain the prominence of Ortiz on this list exclusively based on how good he is, or how exciting he is, or the caliber of his opposition because while he’s both good and exciting, he’s neither the best nor the most exciting — and some of the opponents he fought that are mentioned above came under heavy criticism. I think some of it has to be Ortiz’ story and personality. And it obviously helps to have Ortiz on your undercard — in fact, he appears more than any other fighter on this list, if you combine undercard and main event appearances. (Williams appears as a headliner most, three times, although the piggybacking helped. After that, a number of fighters appeared twice: Diaz, Pascal, Martinez, Cotto, Ortiz, Alexander, Maidana, Malignaggi and Khan. Some of those guys, I didn’t expect to see. Of those men, Williams, Alexander and Khan have been accused of being overpaid by HBO. But if you think people should be paid related to the ratings they deliver, maybe it’s not so crazy. I still think it’s a LITTLE crazy, but maybe less than I did before.)

After that, it’s an assortment of odds and ends in the wild card category.

I welcome any disputin’ of these inputs and conclusions. I welcome the questioning of my methods, too. The main thing is that I’m trying to do here is to get people to look at this stuff in a systematic way before drawing their conclusions. Feel free to do you own tally using all these figures and categories. And by the way, I’m not of the view that immediate ratings are all that should matter when assessing how well HBO is doing with boxing programming. There are some fights that might do lower ratings but could help establish a star, for instance. Maybe sometimes a short-term sacrifice in ratings could result in a long-term gain.

And if anybody can explain why Campbell-Funeka and Diaz-Malignaggi I did those kind of ratings, I’m dying to hear it.

About Tim Starks

Tim is the founder of The Queensberry Rules and co-founder of The Transnational Boxing Rankings Board ( He lives in Washington, D.C. He has written for the Guardian, Economist, New Republic, Chicago Tribune and more.