Hey, Max Kellerman: Guillermo Rigondeaux is all yours. I’ll take James Kirkland and Glen Tapia any day

Kevin Iole
Boxing Experts Blog

The television ratings dropped massively from the co-main event to the main event. Fans streamed out of their seats by the time the second round of the main event had ended.

Media lambasted the fight. Industry people called it unwatchable.

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And so, for a second, pretend that you're Peter Nelson, HBO Sports' estimable director of programming, and imagine that you have to figure out what to do with Guillermo Rigondeaux. That's a tougher task than was given Sisyphus, in mythology the king who was given the task of rolling a giant boulder up a hill only to watch it come rolling back down again.

The two-time Olympic gold medalist is, without question, one of the sport's most technically gifted boxers. Rigondeaux, though, is all defense in a sport in which offensive prowess is revered. He takes few chances, even when he has someone in front of him like Joseph Agbeko, who literally did nothing offensively in their bout.

Agbeko rarely came close to hitting Rigondeaux, but Rigondeaux's brilliant defensive skills weren't put to a strenuous test. That's because Agbeko threw very few punches, averaging just over 29 per round. He averaged four landed per round. According to CompuBox, Agbeko had averaged 77 thrown punches a round going into the match.

But even against a guy who was offering little, Rigondeaux didn't go in for the kill and finish Agbeko in a move that would have pleased those who remained in their seats. It seemed that Rigondeaux had plenty of opportunities to do so, but he chose instead to stay in his defensive cocoon.

HBO's Max Kellerman told viewers before the fight that they're wrong for not appreciating Rigondeaux's skills. Kellerman, though, is wrong because he failed to view it from an overall standpoint. The scoring criteria favors offense. Judges are taught to score a bout based on clean punches landed, effective aggressiveness, ring generalship and defense.

There is an emphasis placed on clean punches landed, and when a fighter scores a knockdown or does extensive damage, he is awarded an additional point. That's the indicator that offense is more significant in boxing than defense, though clearly defense plays a part in the sport.

The fight on HBO before the main event was James Kirkland against Glen Tapia. It was a wild match that ended when Kirkland was battering Tapia in the corner in the sixth round. That fight averaged 718,000 viewers. It was the highest-rated bout of the seven shown on HBO (three) and Showtime (four) on Saturday.

That almost never happens that the co-main event out rates the main event.

But here are the seven bouts from Saturday and what their average viewership was:

  • Kirkland-Tapia, HBO, 718,000

  • Zab Judah-Paulie Malignaggi, 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

The Rigondeaux-Agbeko fight lost 23.4 percent of its audience and was out-rated by Judah-Malignaggi, which aired at almost exactly the same time.

Clearly, fans are even more less interested in Rigondeaux then they were in April, when he routed Nonito Donaire.

Rigondeaux has the ability to be a much better overall fighter. His former trainer, Ronnie Shields, said Rigondeaux punched extremely hard when he held the pads for him. When Rigondeaux was knocked down by Donaire, he stepped up his own offense a bit and prevented a late Donaire rally by whacking Donaire with hard shots. Yet, he refused to do that for most of the fight, preferring to play it safe.

It's not as if the guy doesn't have the ability. He chooses not to fight in a more exciting way. Before the bout, he was mocking Mexican fighters for their aggressive style in which they are hit more often.

But those Mexican fighters also rank among the sport's most popular.

Rigondeaux wants a big fight. But he can't sell tickets. Fans who did show up at Boardwalk Hall were so disgusted by his fight or so disinterested that they streamed out, and the arena was largely empty after the second round. He is not a TV draw. He won't move weight classes to facilitate a big fight with someone in a division above him. And he doesn't speak English, so he is incommunicative with the American media.

Yet, he wants to be paid and treated like a star.

Max Kellerman can have him.

Give me lesser skilled, but more highly talented fighters like Kirkland and Tapia any day of the week.

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