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Boxing on CBS has a decline in ratings this week

By Jeremy Wall

It was a busy weekend for boxing. There were three fights Saturday night, including one by PBC on NBC. PBC then returned on Sunday afternoon for a show on CBS headlined by Rances Barthelemy (23-0, 13KO) beating Antonio DeMarco (31-5-1, 23KO) by unanimous decision after ten rounds at super lightweight. The card also featured a prelim match between Sammy Vasquez (18-0, 13KO) and Wale Omotoso (25-1, 21KO) at welterweight, which Vasquez won by unanimous decision. The show took place at the MGM Grand, the same venue as the previous night’s PBC card. 

The 28-year-old Barthelemy is a Cuban ex-pat who entered his fight against DeMarco with an unblemished record. He was coming off a TKO win in March over journeyman Angino Perez and is a former IBF Super Featherweight champion who vacated the title when he moved up to lightweight beginning with his fight against Perez. His bout with DeMarco on CBS was easily the highest profile fight of Barthelemy’s career.

Barthelemy won every round and knocked DeMarco down with a left to the head in the fourth round. DeMarco looked lethargic and had a bad night, which was a terrible time to have a bad night because the fight being on CBS made it the highest profile fight of DeMarco’s career, too. DeMarco, 29, is known as an action fighter who has been in a lot of battles, here he looked shot.

“Right now I just want to go home to my family. I don’t know what’s next. I’m going to think hard about whether to retire or continue fighting,” DeMarco said after the fight.

Barthelemy took the tactic of changing stances throughout the fight, which seemed to throw DeMarco off. Barthelemy also employed an unusual stance, keeping his hands low and almost sliding in sideways to land power shots against DeMarco. Barthelemy’s tactics looked puzzling, particularly to DeMarco, who showed little ability to defend against Barthelemy’s unorthodox attacks.

To make an impression on Sunday afternoon network television, though, a fighter really needs to score an exciting finish. Barthelemy was unable to do that. Although Barthelemy decisively won the fight, DeMarco was never in danger of being finished with the exception of the fourth round knockdown. The fight felt low key compared to the frenzy of boxing the night before and was a bit of an anticlimactic ending to a busy boxing weekend.

Scores were 99-89, 99-89 and 99-89.

“I want Omar Figueroa next. It would be like a modern day version of Diego Corrales versus Jose Luis Castillo,” Barthelemy said after beating DeMarco. Corrales-Castillo was an exciting lightweight fight from 2006. Omar Figueora appeared on CBS in May. He beat Ricky Burns in a sloppy Cinco de Mayo fight in Hidalgo, close to Figueora’s hometown of Weslaco.

Matching Barthelemy with Figueora would be a logical match, since both are coming off recent wins on CBS afternoon broadcasts of PBC. Figueora would also be a good test for Barthelemy at super lightweight, as Barthelemy hasn’t really faced any good fighters at that weight yet.

In the prelim, Sammy Vasquez remained undefeated by defeating Wale Omotoso by unanimous decision. Scores were 98-92, 98-92 and 98-92. Vasquez got a babyface video package before the fight which talked about his service in Iraq.

“With everyone watching on CBS this was an incredible opportunity for me and my career. I want to thank all the fans that watched for helping me grow my fan base,” said Vasquez, who is articulate and likeable, but lacking in charisma.

Vasquez dominated Omotoso with power shots early in the fight, but faded a bit as the bout wore on. Omotos made a minor comeback late in the fight, gleaning some rounds from Vasquez, but it wasn’t enough to steal the decision back. Vasquez out-punched Omotoso by 162 to 134.

Floyd Mayweather was in the front row again for these fights, just as he was for the PBC show the night before at the MGM Grand. He looked comfortable playing the role of PBC’s Dana White.

What PBC really needs, however, is a Joe Silva.

PBC also has the worst post-fight interviews in boxing, where nothing of substance is asked and nothing of substance is said.

They do have a few potential stars, though. Deontay Wilder made an appearance on the NBC broadcast of the Broner-Porter bout the night before. He was asked if his next fight in September (probably his mandatory against Alexander Povetkin) would take place on Showtime or NBC. Wilder couldn’t say. I hope it’s NBC because they need to get him off Showtime and build his reputation on network television.

The CBS broadcast used much of its ad time to hype the return of Julio Cesar Chavez Jr on Showtime in a few weeks. CBS and Showtime are owned by the same company. Many of Showtime’s boxing broadcasts in the past relied on Golden Boy as promoter, and Golden Boy used to rely on Al Haymon to supply fighters. Haymon took his stable of fighters away from Golden Boy to form PBC this year, which meant Golden Boy can’t provide as many good fights to Showtime.

The idea with the CBS broadcast from the network perspective seems to be to use the free network boxing to hype the Showtime boxing, in order to increase Showtime’s subscriber base. The problem is that, aside from the Wilder-Stiverne title match in January, the fights on Showtime haven’t been any good, and are downright lousy compared to what HBO is offering. They even did a sit-down interview with Chavez Jr that aired during Sunday’s CBS broadcast. Junior is a total mush head whose entire career is based on having the same name as the Mexican legend.

So, Showtime has problems because they can’t provide the same quality of fights as HBO. That makes HBO the obvious choice for the boxing fan who is unable or unwilling to pay for both channels. But having CBS to hype Showtime helps. Showtime just needs fights worth hyping, which they probably aren’t going to get because those fights are taking place on NBC, ESPN, and Spike.

The show drew a 0.8 overnight rating on CBS. That is the worst rating for an afternoon PBC show yet. This is down from the first two CBS afternoon shows from April 4th (1.1) and May 9th (0.9). So, PBC is steadily trending downward on CBS. It was also down from the June 6th NBC afternoon show, which drew a 0.95, and down from the May 23rd afternoon show on NBC, which drew a 0.85.

I think it was the lack of names on this card, the staggering amount of boxing over the weekend, and the fact that this was a Sunday afternoon show and the previous CBS shows being on Saturday afternoons that led to the ratings decline.

PBC faces many, many obstacles, and one of them is creating new stars. I think their strategy of creating stars by blanketing mainstream media with PBC brand boxing is a mediocre strategy because they end up promoting fights that people don’t really care about. These fights might feature potential stars that PBC is trying to get over with casual fans, but it is difficult to get casual fans to notice unknown fighters when they are only beating other unknown fighters. Just having fights on network television is not going to create stars. There has to be something else to spark serious interest in PBC to make the experiment work, and whatever that something else is, PBC hasn’t found it yet.