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Should Networks be Shamed for Hyping Fighters like Roman Gonzalez?

By Amir Mustafaa: After Roman ‘Chocolatito’ Gonzalez got viciously knocked out last Saturday, fans have been quick to call him a hype job created by HBO. Do these fans have a point? After all, how could a former number one pound for pound fighter get knocked out by an unknown fighter like Srisaket Sor Rungvisai?

Rungvisai is a solid fighter, but should he be able to knock out a fighter that networks like HBO and ESPN touted as the number one pound for pound boxer only a year ago? HBO, Ring Magazine, Showtime, and ESPN have been known to hype boxers who may or may not deserve it, but in my controversial opinion, these companies should not be shamed for doing this. The fans are to blame for the way these networks promote fighters.

There’s no secret that there are two separate groups of fans in the boxing community. The first group thinks HBO, ESPN, Showtime, and Ring Magazine should stop pushing fighters like Adrien Broner or Roman Gonzalez to the front while leaving great fighters like Andre Ward and Guillermo Rigondeaux behind. The second group doesn’t care what fighter gets pushed to the front of the pack. They enjoy the excitement of a Gennady Golovkin knockout, the matrix style of Vasyl Lomachenko, or the flashiness of Broner. Boxing fans in the first group will call the fans in the second group “casuals” who believe the hype of every fighter HBO or ESPN creates, but can we really blame these companies for trying to create hype around fighters? In a world where the biggest fight of the year involved someone who never boxed before, companies like HBO, ESPN, and Showtime are desperate to build the next superstar who can bring in incredible amounts of money like Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao did years ago.

People in group one will say that the big networks don’t push the right fighters like Andre Ward or Rigondeaux, but the reality is that some fighters sell better than others. Rigondeaux may be more skilled and accomplished than Lomachenko or Gonzalez, but a Lomachenko or Gonzalez fight will always sell more tickets and bring in more viewers. It’s unfortunate that a great fighter like Rigondeaux will never get the respect he deserves, but the networks can only push fighters who are in demand among fans.

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It’s easy to sit behind a keyboard and say Rigondeaux is treated unfairly, but where were these people when fans were literally leaving the arena during the Rigondeaux vs. Joseph Agbeko fight a few years ago? Why didn’t these boxing purists tune in when Rigondeaux delivered only 550,000 average viewers when he fought Agbeko? If fans put as much energy into watching Rigondeaux as they do with shaming HBO, he would be a superstar in boxing. The point I’m trying to make is that you can’t blame HBO for pushing Roman Gonzalez when he consistently brought in more viewers for the lower divisions than a more skilled fighter like Rigondeaux.

I never thought Roman Gonzalez deserved to be ranked the number one pound for pound boxer, but I admire what he brought to the sport. His purpose was to bring attention to the smaller weight divisions, and he did that in spades. A super flyweight topping the pound for pound list and bringing strong ratings to HBO would’ve been unthinkable a few years ago, but Roman Gonzalez made it happen. Before you bash Roman Gonzalez and call him a hype job, remember that he, with the help of HBO, brought attention to a weight division most people didn’t care about. With that information, is creating a hype job all that bad when you’re catching the attention of boxing fans?

Before we call out the big networks for hyping certain fighters, let’s remember that most of the power lies with the fans. The reason Roman Gonzalez accelerated to the top was the fact that we decided to tune into his fights. The reason Rigondeaux or Andre Ward will never get the respect they deserve was the fact that we decided not to tune into their fights or shell out money for their pay-per-views. If you don’t want top pound for pound fighters getting knocked out, then tune into fighters you think deserve to be ranked higher. Either do something about it or sit back and enjoy the excitement these “hype jobs” bring to the sport.

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