by Sean Crose
“Guillermo Rigondeaux, the people don’t like his style, and I don’t think that’d be an interesting fight.”
So says Leo Santa Cruz, a fighter no one thinks is good enough to beat Guillermo Rigondeaux.
Welcome to the Kardashian era, an age where even the sport of boxing no longer appreciates true accomplishment.
Santa Cruz, a super bantamweight like Rigo, made his comments to Fight Hub TV. Needless to say, Santa Cruz’ words make him truly representative of this time and place in boxing history. Sadly, this time and place isn’t exactly praiseworthy.
Is it hard to figure out why, though?
Adonis Stevenson, a fighter who – for whatever reason – avoided facing three major opponents this year, is being paid a fortune by Showtime to basically beat people up in public.
Meanwhile, Rigondeaux, one of the top pugilists on earth, has been banished to Asia. His fights are no longer even available to American television viewers.
Is this how the boxing public really wants things to be? The ratings certainly don’t seem to suggest so. According to ESPN.com, Stevenson’s latest beatdown brought in a paltry 323,000 sets of eyeballs to Showtime.
Les Moonves better hope the Homeland series draws subscribers to the pay cable network – because Showtime’s boxing programming couldn’t draw moths to a bonfire right now.
And guess what? That programming doesn’t seem like it’s about to change course all that much anytime soon. Sure, Showtime’s got a decent heavyweight title fight between WBC heavyweight champion Bermane Stiverne and undefeated American challenger Deontay Wilder being broadcast in January, but it’s also featuring Santa Cruz on the undercard.
Think he’ll be fighting anyone decent?
For the record, word is Rigondeaux, who will be fighting in Japan on New Year’s Eve, would be willing to fight again in January if he could get a crack at Santa Cruz. All the best with that, Rigo. You’re just too good to be bothered with.
Seriously, would all the complaints about Rigo being boring matter if he weren’t so dominant? Still, HBO and Top Rank Promotions seemed to have found Rigo to be too “boring” to deal with, too. That’s why the Cuban defector apparently is no longer associated with either entity.
One has to wonder if Rigo’s pay cable numbers were ever as bad as Stevenson’s are right now, though. With that in mind, does anyone think Showtime will be showing Stevenson the door anytime soon?
Here’s the truth – many people legitimately find Rigo to be a boring fighter. Fine. This author doesn’t find him nearly as boring as some, but that’s neither here nor there. No fan should be forced to endure what he or she feels is a boring telecast out of some vague sense of loyalty to the sweet science.
Still, boxing is, believe it or not, a sport. It’s true. Even in this day and age. By shutting Rigo out entirely, networks, promoters and fighters are reducing boxing to a business endeavor, nothing more. There’s a new breed of fan out there who’s fine with that, but – as Stevenson’s numbers show – that breed is distinctly in the minority when it comes to those who regularly watch boxing.
The truth is that the average boxing fan is like the average voter in a democratic society – he or she has the final say. Ask yourself this – how long will Showtime keep tolerating abysmal ratings?
Now ask yourself this – how long will fighters like Santa Cruz keep avoiding true challenges if fans turn on them like they seem to have on Stevenson?
In the end, it’s the people, not the promoters and networks, who call the shots.
It will be hard to do, but I may at least try to get a live – and legal – stream of Rigo’s fight on New Year’s Eve day. I also may well avoid the Leo Santa Cruz portion of Showtime’s next boxing telecast.
Don’t be mistaken, I’ve been on the phone with Santa Cruz and found him to be an exceedingly nice guy. I just like watching boxers who are up for the challenge.